Personal Hygiene Series: How to Use Face Scrubs the Right Way may earn commission when you buy something through the links or banners on this page.

Have you ever tried to use a face scrub to get your skin to look glowy and fresh, only to end up with a red, irritated face? Yeah, no fun, right? This keeps many women from using face scrubs in their beauty routine.

But it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing skincare item. There’s a place for it in your life – yes, even if you have sensitive, or acne-prone skin. Let’s get scrubbing!

Exfoliating with a face scrub: the basics

How do you use an exfoliator using a face scrub? It’s a basic question, I know. But it’s a good place to start. Exfoliating is a skin care practice that removes the dead skin cells from the skin’s surface.

There are two ways to slough away dead skin cells. The first is mechanical, the second is chemical. Facial scrubs are mechanical exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation uses chemicals, like salicylic acid, glycol acid or enzymes.  These chemicals help to break down the buildup of dead skin cells, too.

But you usually do these with the help of a skin care professional. Mechanical exfoliation is something you can do at home with a face scrub.

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Why you should exfoliate with a face scrub

If you’re already using a cleanser and toner, you probably think a facial scrub is just an unnecessary – and even damaging – step. But here’s why exfoliation is worth it.

You won’t physically see and feel the buildup of dead skin cells. But you will notice that your complexion looks dull and a bit listless. What’s more, if there are dead skin cells sitting on the surface of your sin, your makeup will not look too hot either.

Removing that old layer of skin helps to reveal fresh, smooth and brighter complexions. A facial scrub exfoliant can also clear away dead cells from the pores, making them look smaller. In a way, exfoliating your skin is like sanding a wall before applying a fresh coat of pain.

And while you can totally wear makeup on your freshly exfoliated skin, you’ll probably find that your skin looks pretty amazing on its own, too.

Facial scrubs for dry skin

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If you have dry skin, you might think exfoliating with a facial scrub is the worst thing you could do.

But that’s not necessarily true. In fact, if you have dead cells building up on the skin surface, it can actually prevent your true skin from absorbing the creams and moisturizers you apply. Plus, with dead cell buildup, oil can get trapped and cause mini bumps, similar to pimples.

If you have dry skin but want to use a facial scrub, look for a gentle product that uses AHA-rich serums, which helps to dissolve the bonds connecting the dead skin cells.

Always look for a facial scrub that also provides moisturizer, too. And as soon as you’re finished with the face scrub, app a gentle, hydrating lotion.

Facial scrubs for oily and acne-prone skin

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If you have oily, acne-prone skin, you probably want a rough, abrasive face scrub to cut through the grease and clear away the oils. But you want to stay away from rough scrubs. Believe it or not, they’ll actually encourage breakouts.

That being said, you can use a facial scrub that contains hydroxy acids, like glycolic or salicylic acids, but remember, less is more. Look for products that have a small percentage of these chemicals to avoid harming your skin. Just how much glycolic or salicylic acid should the scrub contain? Look for two to five percent.

Observe how your skin reacts. If it doesn’t become red, raw or irritated, consider using products with a higher percentage of glycolic and salicylic acid. But remember to do so slowly, gradually and always listen to your skin.

Facial scrubs for sensitive skin

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It comes as no surprise that sensitive skin types need to avid gritty, rough scrubs. But that doesn’t mean all facial scrubs are off limits. Instead, look for a cleanser containing fruit or plant enzymes to a deeper clean.

Anise extract, for example, can help to cleanse skin, while providing a gentle enzymatic peel.

And instead of looking for an “exfoliating face scrub,” look for powerful cleansers for sensitive skin. Remember, less is more. If you over-exfoliate, you can disrupt the skin’s natural pH levels, and make it more vulnerable to breakouts, dryness, etc.

Facial scrubs for combination skin

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What if you have an oily T-zone, but flake, dry cheeks?

Here, you can customize your facial scrub by using a waterless, powder-based product that uses baking soda as its base. Here, you can add less water to the powder to create a stronger, more concentrated scrub for the oily sections. Then, for the dryer section, use more water, so the facial scrub is gentler on the skin.

How often should you use a facial scrub?

Every woman is different and so is her skin type, and depending on the product you’re using, you may be able to tolerate more (or less) than the girl next door.

That being said, it’s a good idea to start with just one facial scrub treatment a week. You may be able to graduate to two or three times per week, but always listen to your skin, and see how it reacts. Over-exfoliating can do more harm than good.

When should you use a facial scrub: morning or night

This all boils down to personal preference, but if this is is a new step in your skincare routine, it’s recommended to use a face scrub in the evening. Your skin can be sensitive after a scrub (no matter what your skin type), and it might be better to apply a gentle hydrating cream or lotion, along with a serum before going to bed.

This allows your skin to get hydrated and glowy overnight, without having to also wear makeup or be exposed to the elements, whether that’s sunshine or wintery conditions.

In other words, your skin has more time to process what just happened and “recover.”

Step by step skincare routine with a face scrub

Here’s a basic plan for you to follow when you include facial scrubs in your beauty routine:

  1. Cleanse with your usual facial cleanser
  2. Exfoliate with a facial scrub using gentle, circular motions
  3. Hydrate with a serum and/or lotion

That’s it! Use a facial scrub in the middle of your skincare routine to help clear away dead skin cells and reveal the beautiful, fresh, glowy skin that’s waiting underneath.

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