How To Use a Face Scrub Properly: A Step-by-Step Guide

How To Use a Face Scrub Properly: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Achieving a healthy, radiant complexion often requires more than just cleansers and moisturizers.

It also necessitates the use of exfoliators like facial scrubs, which are integral parts of a complete skincare regimen. 

Incorporating a face scrub into your routine can work wonders in revitalizing and rejuvenating your skin. 

However, understanding how to use a face scrub properly is essential to maximize its benefits while avoiding any potential pitfalls.

a woman smiling happily at the camera with face scrub on

In this article, we will delve into the world of face scrubs and guide you through the step-by-step process of how to apply a scrub on your face. 

Whether you’re a skincare novice or a seasoned enthusiast, this comprehensive guide will help you unlock the secrets to glowing skin and make the most out of your face scrub experience.

What Is a Face Scrub?

In skincare, you’ll find two types of exfoliators: physical and chemical. 

Physical exfoliators are products or tools that are used to manually unclog the pores and remove dirt, excess oils, dead skin cells, and other impurities from the topmost layer of the skin.

This type of exfoliator can either come in the form of face scrubs that use mildly abrasive ingredients with small granules like salt and sugar or tools like silicone face scrubbers, net sponges, and loofahs, among others.

On the other hand, chemical exfoliants are mild acids that dissolve dead skin cells to expose the younger, healthier ones. 

There are scrubs that use both physical and chemical exfoliators. Usually, those ingredients work hand in hand to thoroughly help remove stubborn impurities from your skin. 

The Benefits of Using a Face Scrub

With face scrubbing, the main intention is to exfoliate the skin as these products gently clear away other impurities that cannot be removed by a basic cleanser

Exfoliation using a face scrub has several benefits, including the following:

Reveals Fresh, Clean Skin

Face scrubs remove dead skin cells from the topmost layer of your skin to reveal newer, more radiant skin hiding underneath. 

Aside from promoting fresh and luminous skin, this healthy turnover of skin cells also stimulates collagen production.

This is because when you remove dead skin cells, your skin is shocked into producing new skin cells.

This boosts the production of collagen, a building block of the skin that keeps it vibrant and elastic.

Prevents Acne Breakouts

Over time, dirt, debris, excess oil, and impurities may build up in your pores, leading to acne breakouts. 

By learning how to use a face scrub and using it regularly, you ensure that your pores won’t get clogged, helping minimize the possibility of acne formation. 

Improves Skin Texture

If you let dead skin cells accumulate on the topmost layer of your skin, they may make your skin feel rough and uneven. 

By using facial scrubs, you get to remove that rough layer, helping smoothen and improve your skin texture. 

Lets Skin Absorb Skincare Products Better

Did you know that exfoliating can help make your other skincare products more effective? 

Facial scrubs eliminate dead skin cells that block ingredients from properly penetrating your skin, creating a clean canvas onto which you can apply other skincare products. 

So after exfoliation, your serums, moisturizers, and masks will be more easily absorbed by the skin. This means they’ll work more effectively.

Helps Improve Blood Circulation

Yes, facial scrubs can improve your blood circulation. 

This is because when you exfoliate with a scrub, you usually massage the product into your face. 

This motion helps stimulate better blood flow, which makes oxygen and nutrient delivery to your skin more optimal. This may promote better skin health and improve your complexion. 

How To Apply a Face Scrub: Step-by-Step

What is the right way to use a face scrub? To get the most out of the face scrub you use, you may want to learn how to properly apply it to your face. 

Luckily we’re here to help you!

a close-up image of a face scrub laid on a table

Here’s our step-by-step guide:

1. Start With a Clean Face

Do you use a face scrub before or after you wash your face?

If you’re wondering when to use a face scrub in your routine, it’s always after cleansing. Before exfoliating, make sure you’ve already cleansed your face using a gentle cleanser. 

This step lifts and removes any makeup, dirt, and sebum that is on your skin to prepare for exfoliation. 

Make sure to rinse off your cleanser thoroughly with warm water and pat your skin dry with a clean towel. 

2. Slightly Dampen Your Skin With Water

You may be asking, “Should I apply my scrub on a wet or dry face?”

Here’s the answer: your face should be damp. So before applying your facial scrub, prep your skin by dampening it with water. 

The slight moisture will help your product glide more easily across the skin, lowering the risk of irritation that results from too much abrasion. 

3. Apply the Scrub Onto Your Face

Dispense a small amount of product onto your fingertips and gently spread it across your face. Start with a pea-sized amount and only use more if needed.

4. Massage the Scrub

Using your fingertips, spread the product across and massage it gently into your skin in circular motions for around one to two minutes. 

You may start at the center of your face and slowly move outward. 

If your skin has problem areas that tend to be oilier than usual (such as your T-zone or your forehead, nose, and chin), you may focus on those areas more. 

Now if it’s your first time exfoliating your skin, you may have one important question: “How long should I leave the scrub on my face?”

Skin experts suggest massaging the scrub onto your face for around one to two minutes. This gives the scrub enough time to lift any leftover dirt, dead skin cells, and impurities off your skin.

Going beyond two minutes may irritate your skin. You may also end up overstripping your skin of moisture and run the risk of your exfoliator causing micro-tears — or small cuts — on your skin.

5. Rinse Off Your Scrub

After massaging the product all over your skin, you may rinse it thoroughly with warm water. 

Make sure to rinse off all the product from your skin so your face is clean and prepped for the next steps in your routine. 

Pat your skin dry with a fresh, clean towel. 

6. Tone and Moisturize Your Face

After exfoliating with your scrub, you can continue the rest of your routine and proceed to use the toner of your choice. 

Let your toner sink into your skin fully and then apply your favorite serum.

After the serum has been fully absorbed by your skin, you must use a moisturizer. This is a crucial step on days when you exfoliate, as exfoliation tends to leave your skin dry.

How To Use a Facial Scrub: Dos and Don’ts

There are a couple of things you need to remember to make this experience more fruitful.

Here are the dos and don’ts of using a facial scrub.


  • Apply facial scrubs to your face in gentle circular motions.

    Scrubbing too harshly may lead to microabrasion and skin damage. It may also overstrip the skin. 

    Gentle circular motions are enough to slough away dead skin cells and unclog your pores. 
  • Apply sunscreen after exfoliation.

    Exfoliation can leave your skin sensitive to the sun. So after this step, make sure to use sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection against harmful UV rays.
  • Use moisturizer. 

    While many scrubs use moisturizing ingredients to counteract the drying effects of the physical exfoliators in their formulas, applying a moisturizer after exfoliating is still the best practice. 

    Exfoliation may remove moisture from your skin, so replenishing your moisture levels with a high-quality moisturizer is crucial. 


  • Don’t use a facial scrub after a skin treatment.

    If you recently had a skin treatment that exposed a newer layer of skin, avoid exfoliating, as this may just cause skin damage.

    These treatments include laser skin resurfacing, chemical peels, and dermabrasion.
  • Don’t overscrub your face.

    You may think your facial scrub will work more effectively if you massage it into your skin longer.

    This is not the case, as using your scrub for over two minutes may only cause irritation and skin damage.
  • Don’t use a facial scrub if you have active acne breakouts or open wounds. 

    Scrubbing using physical exfoliators can cause more inflammation if your skin currently has acne.

    It may also slow down your skin’s healing process if used on wounds and pimples.

How To Choose a Face Scrub

Now that you know how to use a face scrub, you may be ready to start exfoliating. But before you do, it’s important to find and choose the right product. 

There are a lot of scrubs out on the market right now, and each of them is made differently, so it’s crucial to pick one that suits your needs best.

Here are some considerations you need to make before purchasing a facial scrub:

Your Skin Type

The first consideration in choosing any type of skincare product is your skin type.

Different product formulas usually cater to different skin types, so it’s always best practice to choose the right one for yours. 

The four most common skin types are normal, oily, dry, and combination skin. 

The first consideration in choosing any type of skincare product is your skin type.

Different product formulas usually cater to different skin types, so it’s always best practice to choose the right one for yours. 

The four most common skin types are normal, oily, dry, and combination skin. 

All skin types benefit from exfoliation, but not all of them respond well to the same types of exfoliants.

Those with the normal skin type are the lucky bunch. Since their moisture levels are balanced, they can benefit from both physical and chemical exfoliators. 

Those with dry skin should try to avoid physical exfoliators like scrubs because they can dry out the skin even more.

Instead, they can benefit from a facial peel with chemical exfoliants, particularly AHAs like lactic acid, which can help moisturize the skin. 

Additionally, these types of ingredients won’t have to draw out the small amount of moisture from your skin to effectively exfoliate it. 

Meanwhile, those with oily and combination skin can benefit from both physical exfoliants and chemical exfoliants.

These skin types usually have trouble with excess sebum production, and using scrubs is a great way to control this since it manually removes oil.

Chemical peels with BHAs like salicylic acid are also strong enough to control sebum production, so those with oily to combination skin can use them too.

Exfoliating Ingredients

The main exfoliators of different skincare products can vary. There are good physical exfoliators and bad ones. 

The ones you should look for should be gentle enough that they won’t cause any micro-tears when used. These are usually smooth in shape and/or texture and dissolvable in water. 

The ones you should avoid are those that are too abrasive.

To help you select the right product with the most ideal exfoliating ingredient, here are some physical exfoliators that you should look for in your facial scrub and others that you should steer clear of.

What To Look For

  1. Sugar and Salt

    Sugar and salt granules are great exfoliators. These can effectively remove impurities and the topmost layer of the skin.

    They both dissolve in water, making them gentle and not too abrasive. 
  1. Jojoba Beads

    Another gentle physical exfoliator is jojoba beads.

    You don’t have to worry about these creating micro-tears in your skin because jojoba beads are round-shaped and well-polished, making them smooth and non-abrasive.

    On top of this, jojoba beads are natural and environment-friendly.
  1. Oatmeal

    If you’re looking for a physical exfoliant with many added benefits, oatmeal might be the one for you.

    Oatmeal is soft, especially when used in scrubs that have high moisture content in their formula. This makes it an effective exfoliant while staying gentle enough to avoid any micro-tears in your skin. 

    Additionally, oatmeal itself as a skincare ingredient has many benefits. It delivers a soothing effect, making it perfect for sensitive skin. It also has saponins, which help in skin cleansing.

What To Avoid

  1. Plastic Microbeads

    Technically, this type of exfoliator doesn’t damage the skin but rather the environment.

    Most wastewater treatment facilities can’t capture plastic microbeads.

    So if you use a scrub with these exfoliators and let them go down your drain, they may end up in different natural bodies of water.

    When they enter rivers, oceans, and lakes, they can damage marine life and the environment. 

    So make sure to avoid facial scrubs that contain plastic microbeads.

    If you’re unsure about whether your chosen product has it, watch out for the following plastics in its ingredient list:

    ◦ Polyethylene
    ◦ Polypropylene
    ◦ Polylactic acid
    ◦ Nylon
  1. Crushed Nuts and Nut Shells

    Many scrubs use crushed nuts and nut shells in their formula. While using them is effective in exfoliating the skin, they can also damage the skin.

    These physical exfoliators are rough, sharp, and hard. So even if they’re used gently, they can cause micro-tears in the skin.

Product Ingredients

You also need to consider the skincare ingredients that go into your products. Aside from the exfoliators, you should also consider the other ingredients in facial scrubs. 

If you have specific skin concerns, try to find natural but effective products that may help with such concerns. 

For instance, if your skin needs hydration, look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which has incredible moisturizing properties. 

If you have easily irritated skin, search for gentle, soothing ingredients like cica that calm the skin and reduce redness. 

3 Facial Scrubs Worth Trying

Paula’s Choice The UnScrub Cleansing Gentle Face Scrub

We recommend this face scrub for its non-abrasive exfoliation and skin-soothing benefits!

Primary Benefits: Gently exfoliates the skin; helps remove makeup residue and other impurities; has a soothing effect


  • Formulated jojoba beads for gentle exfoliation
  • Contains soothing chamomile and green tea
  • Has added soapberry extract for exfoliation

Achieve glowing skin with this face scrub from Paula’s Choice!

One of the top facial scrubs you can find today is this one from Paula’s Choice. 

Apart from helping remove makeup, dirt, and gunk that weren’t caught by your cleanser, it also facilitates skin cell turnover with its gentle exfoliation.

This face scrub uses physical and chemical exfoliants to keep your skin in tip-top shape. Don’t worry though, both ingredients are mild enough that they won’t cause irritation!

As a physical exfoliant, it uses jojoba beads to manually scrape away the gunk off your skin. This is complemented by soapberry extract, a gentle chemical exfoliant, to help purify your skin. 

You can help your skin reach its best state using Paula’s Choice The UnScrub Face Scrub!

L'Oreal Paris Pure Sugar Scrub Purify and Unclog

We love this sugar scrub for its exfoliating and cleansing power

Primary Benefits: Offers gentle exfoliation, helps unclog pores, helps minimize pore appearance


  • Formulated with AHA/BHA for non-abrasive exfoliation
  • Contains botanical ingredients like apple fruit water and willow bark water
  • Perfect for all skin types

For smooth, clean, and healthy skin, try out L’Oreal’s Pure Sugar Scrub.

One sugar scrub worth mentioning is this offering from L’Oreal Paris. It’s formulated with 3 types of pure sugars and whole kiwi seeds to exfoliate your face. 

The sugars used in this scrub are rich in minerals. So after they lift dead skin cells off your skin, they also melt into it to nourish it. 

Enjoy refreshed, purified, and nourished skin with this L’Oreal facial scrub!

Skinfood Black Sugar Mask Wash Off

We swear by this face scrub because of its restorative properties and exfoliating capabilities. 

Primary Benefits: Gets rid of stubborn impurities, helps reduce sebum buildup on pores, nourishes the skin


  • Formulated with simple sugars that are both gentle exfoliators and nourishing ingredients
  • Also has plant oil and rice wine for added hydration and nourishment
  • Perfect for all skin types

Cleanse, refresh, and rejuvenate your skin with this sugar scrub from Skinfood. 

The SKINFOOD Black Sugar Scrub has a massive following for good reason.

This scrub uses black sugar that doubles as an exfoliator and a nourishing ingredient, helping gently lift the outermost layer of your skin while giving it nourishment and preventing micro-tears. 

Skinfood black sugar mask wash off product on top of a white table

On top of this, the SKINFOOD scrub also contains plant oil and rice wine to help hydrate your skin and boost its health.

a woman with hair wrapped in a towel looking at the camera while applying face scrub on face

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often To Use a Face Scrub: What’s the Recommended Frequency?

You may be wondering how many times to use a face scrub for your regular routine. 

Well, you may feel the urge to use scrubs on your face daily, but this is one practice you should avoid if you don’t want your skin to become dry and irritated. 

Remember, overexfoliating can cause more harm than good. 

For best results, you should only use scrubs two to three times weekly. This is enough to keep your skin clean without compromising its moisture levels. 

Can I Make My Own Face Scrubs at Home?

Yes. Yes. DIY facial scrubs have been popular among skincare enthusiasts for a long time. Dermatologists have also suggested some recipes for them. 

Wondering how to use face scrubs at home with ingredients you can find around the house? It’s easy! 

You can try one of the most popular DIY scrubs many people use, which is a sugar scrub. It just involves mixing granulated sugar with coconut oil and lemon juice and applying it to your face the same way you would a store-bought scrub.

Scrub Your Way to Smoother, Clearer Skin

Ask any skincare expert, and they’ll tell you that exfoliation is crucial to any skincare routine. 

Apart from its own benefits of cleansing the skin deeply, it’s a step that helps you maximize the positive effects of the rest of the steps in your skincare routine. 

As such, for any routine to become a success, you need to know how to use a face scrub. Hopefully, this article has helped you learn just that.

Ready to build the right skincare regimen for you? Don’t forget to include face scrubs in your lineup!

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