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Using sugar as a scrub. Good or bad idea?

The natural cellular renewal of the skin can sometimes be slowed down. Therefore, exfoliation becomes necessary to remove dead cells from the skin's surface. Among the different types of mechanical exfoliations, the use of sugar is highly appreciated. However, is using sugar to exfoliate your skin a good or bad idea? We will provide some answers in this article.

Published February 14, 2024, by Sandrine, Scientific Editor — 5 min read

What does exfoliation entail?

Exfoliation aids inaccelerating cellular renewal by removing dead cells from the skin's surface. It helps torefine the skin's texture and to combat dull complexion. Certain exfoliants assist indiminishing imperfections and in delaying the onset of ageing signs.

There are three types of exfoliations:

  • Mechanical Exfoliation : This involves using an abrasive material such as sugar to remove dead cells from the skin's surface through circular movements.

  • Chemical Exfoliation : Through the use of hydroxy acids (A.H.A., B.H.A., P.H.A.), chemical exfoliation dissolves the lipid cement between cells, thus promoting their detachment.

  • Enzymatic Exfoliation : this process removes damaged skin proteins through the use of fruit-derived enzymes such as bromelain from pineapple.

Sugar Exfoliation: Good or Bad Idea?

As previously mentioned, exfoliation with sugar is a type of mechanical exfoliation that involves creating friction on the skin using circular movements. It is generally very popular because it is inexpensive. However, it does have some drawbacks.

Firstly, this method acts solely on the superficial layers of the skin unlike chemical exfoliation which works more deeply within the epidermis. For instance, glycolic acid, which is an A.H.A. besides exfoliating the skin, reduces pigmentation spots, restores firmness and hydration to the skin and diminishes wrinkles and fine lines.

Furthermore, sugar exfoliation can prove to be harsh on the skin due to the irregular edges of sugar crystals. It can be the cause of micro-damage to the skin leading to inflammation and redness.

Therefore, chemical and enzymatic exfoliation should be favoured over physical exfoliation. Moreover, due to their harshness, sugar-based scrubs are not recommended for acne-prone and sensitive skin.

The Typology Alternatives.

At Typology, we offer a wide range of scrubs and peels tailored to your skin type.

Our mechanical exfoliators are distinctively gentle due to their fine granulometry. This is the case with our regenerating facial scrub which gently removes dead skin cells from the skin's surface using apricot kernel powder , which is extremely fine and nourishes the skin thanks to squalane. Our radiance facial scrub is also formulated with apricot kernel powder. It exfoliates the skin and reveals a radiant complexion. Our peeling mask, on the other hand, contains cranberry powder which gently exfoliates the skin with its micro-grains. The formula also contains P.H.A. and acids from blackberries, raspberries and blackcurrants, allowing for chemical and enzymatic exfoliation in addition to mechanical exfoliation.

If you have acne-prone and/or sensitive skin, it is advisable to avoid granular scrubs and instead opt for peelings based on hydroxy acids.

Our exfoliating serum based on 10% glycolic acid eliminates dead cells and tightens pores for a smooth and unified complexion. Alpha-bisabolol and chamomile extract balance the potentially irritating effect of glycolic acid thanks to their soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. This serum is to be used only in the evening and the use of sun protection the following morning is strongly recommended. Our gentle peeling serum, formulated with 10% lactic acid gently exfoliates the skin. Indeed, this molecule, larger in size than the glycolic acid molecule, will penetrate less deeply into the epidermis, and will therefore be less irritating than the latter. This serum is to be used only in the evening and the use of sun protection the following morning is strongly recommended.


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