Please Don't Do This to Your Face: Apricot Scrub Edition *UPDATED
*UPDATE: On Dec. 28th it was reported that St. Ives is actually being sued over this infamous scrub. Read the article here.
We are back with another edition of Please Don't Do This to Your Face! This is a cautionary series in which I call out some of the worst mistakes clients (and even some skin care professionals!) make when caring for their skin. Today I'm taking on a product clients love and esthetician's hate: St. Ive's Apricot Scrub.
And once again, I speak from a place of love and non-judgement. I too, have fallen prey to this product in the past. It's an easy enough mistake to make. After all, we skin care folks are always preaching exfoliation. What could be more exfoliating that rubbing ground up apricot pit on your face? And with its uber cheap price point, the seduction is complete, right?
But wait. If it sounds too good to be true...well, you know. I get it. The apricot scrub seems like an easy, affordable and even holistic option. But honestly? I would rather see my clients skip this product and not exfoliate at all. That may seem harsh but keep reading, and I'll explain why.
First, as I like to do with any product, let's examine the ingredients. We've got water as the first ingredient, which is never a good sign. Many drug store products are full of fillers, so this is no huge surprise. But not what you want in terms of efficacy. From there we have a list of lots of drying agents, irritants, alcohols and chemicals. This blog has a great breakdown of every single ingredient if you are interested. Throw in a few toxic ingredients for fun. Propylene glycol anyone?
Then of course, we have the namesake ingredient, apricot. Oh wait. Just barely. Apricot is #10 on the list, while #2 is actually walnut shell powder. The walnut shell is your exfoliant in this case, and it sounds nice and natural.
Unfortunately, no esthetician or dermatologist would ever recommend using an exfoliant this rough on the face, as it is particularly harsh and can create micro tears to the skin. Micro tears are actual damage, which can then become irritated and inflamed. This is particularly bad for acne sufferers, as it can worsen breakout activity.
What about the people who think they are getting great results?
Maybe you think you are getting great results. I did too, the first time I used it. But I think what happens is this: the first time you use it, your face probably genuinely needs deep exfoliation. Maybe you've never scrubbed your face before or it's been a really long time. Maybe you're not in the habit of getting professional treatments, so your skin has more buildup. In any event, the first use does do something good for your skin. You love what you see and feel. So you use it more.
Before long, you're using it too much and you've stripped your skin's natural barrier. This also makes you more vulnerable to sun damage, dryness, and acne bacteria. Over time, the damage begins to accumulate. You may even experience unusual levels of skin sensitivity as the result of compromised barrier function. Do you see where this is going? Spoiler: It's nowhere good.
So now what to do?
If you just bought a brand new tube and you can't stand being out the $4, you can use it to exfoliate rougher parts of your body such as your feet or elbows. Just please don't put it on your delicate face! If you feel like your skin is already experiencing damaging effects, you can start working on your skin's barrier by using soothing/healing products. I would recommend a visit to the esthetician to get some professional level treatment as well as guidance on products for the future.
If an appointment isn't in the cards for you, you can do plenty of good for your skin at home. A gentle cleanser, with antioxidants, hydrating moisturizer and SPF at minimum. As you feel your skin start to get repair itself healthfully, you could also add in a hydrating and/or repairing serum. Look for soothing ingredients like chamomile and aloe in your products.
And what about exfoliating?
As long as your skin doesn't feel overly sensitive, you can of course, still exfoliate. Just NOT with the apricot scrub. As with anything, you can easily overdo your exfoliation at home, but as long as you give your skin rest days, you should be a-ok. Just pay attention to cues that your skin may be getting irritated or inflamed and back off, if needed.
Some alternatives I recommend are, Skin Script RX's Retinol 2% Exfoliating Scrub - If you are looking to fight off brown spots, acne, aging or all over the above, this is a powerhouse scrub that contains brightening ingredients and a dose of retinol to resurface your skin. This scrub uses jojoba beads, which are a natural (environmentally friendly!) and gentle exfoliant.
This scrub can also be used as a mask by rubbing it into damp skin, leaving it on for about five minutes and then rinsing off. I recommend using a product like this only about once a week to start and then working up to maybe 2 or 3 times, if it is your only exfoliating product.
My second choice is Skin Script RX's Raspberry Refining Scrub. This is a great product-alike for your beloved apricot scrub, if you just really love the idea of a naturally fruit-based scrub. This scrub uses high quality natural exfoliants - raspberry seeds, jojoba beads and blue corn meal - but it also includes soothing and healing ingredients such as marionberry and bamboo stem. This is a great scrub for teenagers and also women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It will be tempting to use this every day because it smells amazing. However, a product like this should be used 2 to 3 times per week. Once per week may even be fine for more sensitive skin types.
Lastly, I love PCA Skin's Gentle Exfoliant. The name says it all. This product also uses jojoba beads (Seeing a trend here? It's not a coincidence. Jojoba is a much better alternative to harsh shards of walnut.) as well as soothing aloe. This product even has a bit of glycolic acid, which a chemical exfoliant beneficial to treating acne and aging.
So now that you know the scoop on this unfortunately no-good product, I implore of you...Please Don't Do This to Your Face. I hope that you will forgive me for the buzzkill and get excited to try some more skin-friendly alternatives. As always, feel free to be in touch if you have other questions!