This is Why Sugar Scrubs Are the Best Exfoliators for Sensitive Skin

Experts answer all of your questions about these physical exfoliants.

Exfoliation is one of the most important steps in your skincare routine. Exfoliating helps slough away the dead surface skin cells that cause dullness and clogged pores, and it helps unveil a bright and glowing complexion. Removing this dead layer of skin also helps your skin absorb your favorite skincare products better.

Considering how much of a game-changer exfoliating is, we appreciate all of the options available on the market. From chemical exfoliators formulated with active skincare ingredients to physical options such as tools and scrubs, you can find a method that works best for you and your skin type.

One exfoliating product everyone can benefit from using is a sugar scrub. Ahead, we’re answering all of your questions about sugar scrubs, including their benefits, if they’re safe, and how to use them.

What are the benefits of using a sugar scrub?

The benefits of sugar scrubs are plentiful. “Sugar scrubs use sugar granules to help remove dead skin cells to leave the skin feeling softer and smoother while improving overall texture and tone,” says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D. When compared to other exfoliation methods, like chemical exfoliants and salt scrubs, which can irritate some skin types, sugar scrubs offer a gentle alternative, says another New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D. “Sugar scrubs can be a great way to gently physically exfoliate the skin to remove dead skin cells that can build up in the outer-most layer of the skin.” 

They also offer moisturizing benefits, as the formulas typically include moisturizing ingredients. “The sugar is usually combined with emollients, such as mango seed butter, jojoba esters, candelilla wax, oils, and vitamin E to soothe and moisturize the skin and leave a very smooth and refined texture,” says Dr. King. For example, the Sol de Janeiro Bum Bum Body Scrub is made with superfine sugar crystals and coconut oil that gently exfoliate without stripping the skin of moisture. Sugar scrubs won’t burn or sting the skin the way salt can, and sugar is much easier on the plumbing, unlike scrubs that use pumice or shells because it will melt instead of sticking in the bathtub drain, explains Dr. King.


Sol de Janeiro Bum Bum Body Scrub

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Are sugar scrubs safe to use?

Yes, completely! As mentioned, sugar scrubs are a great way to exfoliate as they’re gentle. “Unlike some other scrubs, the particles tend to not be as harsh on the skin, especially when compared to salt granules,” says Dr. Garshick. “Sugar granules tend to be more round and less abrasive.” As long as you use gentle pressure when using sugar scrubs, Dr. Hadley says they are safe to use on your face, body, and lips, depending on the product. So, don’t use a sugar scrub formulated for your body on your face and vice-versa. Be sure to use the product as directed.

Additionally, Dr. Garshick says it’s important to avoid formulas or DIY scrubs that contain larger sugar crystals. “These can be too irritating, especially on the face, as they can lead to micro-tears in the skin barrier and cause redness and sensitivity,” she says.


Tula So Polished Exfoliating Sugar Face Scrub

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How should you use a sugar scrub?

If you’re interested in trying a sugar scrub, start by slowly introducing it into your skincare routine. “As with most exfoliants, sugar scrubs should be used once to two times per week to avoid over-exfoliation and a disrupted natural skin barrier,” says Dr. Garshick. Oily skin types can use a sugar scrub up to three times a week, says celebrity facialist and esthetician Taylor Worden. If you have sensitive skin, you should be cautious when incorporating any exfoliant into a skincare routine, says Dr. Garshick. So, start by only using a sugar scrub once a week to see how your skin reacts, then increase frequency as needed and tolerated.

In terms of how to use a sugar scrub, it depends on where you’re exfoliation. If you’re using a sugar scrub on your face, Dr. King says to use light pressure and rub it in circular motions. Be sure to follow up with a hydrating moisturizer. When using a sugar scrub on your body, Worden recommends applying the sugar scrub in circular motions on wet skin, starting from your feet and working your way up. “Leave the formula on for a few minutes and then rinse off with water,” she says.


Sara Happ Pink Grapefruit Sugar Lip Scrub

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If you’re using a sugar scrub on your lips, like the Sara Happ Pink Grapefruit Sugar Lip Scrub, she says to apply water on your lips and then the sugar scrub. “Rub your lips together to exfoliate and then remove with a tissue.” Finally, you can also use a sugar-based scrub on your scalp. Worden recommends mixing the sugar scrub with your shampoo and rubbing that all over your scalp to remove buildup and increase circulation. One you can try is the Bosley Rejuvenating Scalp Scrub, which checks off all the boxes as it’s made with sugar particles to exfoliate, caffeine to stimulate circulation, and activated bamboo charcoal to get rid of excess oil.  


Bosley Rejuvenating Scalp Scrub

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