A good facial scrub costs anywhere from $5 to $75, depending on where you buy it, but several experts say that an equally effective formula is readily available in your kitchen.
Facial scrubs rely on abrasive materials like ground nuts, salt and synthetic beads to exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells. These abrasive formulas abound in the beauty aisle, but experts say you can use common household ingredients to provide exfoliation for pennies on the dollar.
Sugar is a common ingredient in commercially packaged facial scrubs because it is gentler than salt (and many other abrasives) but still effective. Julyne Derrick at About.com is a fan of sugar (both white and brown) because it's readily available and simple to use. She recommends placing a tablespoon of brown sugar in the palm of your hand and mixing it with a teaspoon of olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil. Then massage onto your face and rinse with warm water. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two do not share an editorial affiliation.)
The cosmetics chemists at TheBeautyBrains.com say that baking soda makes a great scrub as well. The fine powder consistency exfoliates without tearing up your skin. It may also have some mild cleansing abilities. To use it, add a teaspoon to your regular facial cleanser (see our report on Facial Cleansers for product recommendations), mix it up, massage onto the skin and rinse as usual. Baking soda can be a bit drying, however - be sure to follow up with a good facial moisturizer.
Perhaps the most affordable and practical facial scrub of all is a good old-fashioned wash cloth. Paula Begoun, author of Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter without Me, says that a wash cloth paired with a gentle daily cleanser is just as effective (sometimes more so) as any commercially packaged facial scrub. For the best results, use the washcloth to gently massage cleanser over the skin and rinse off with warm water. It should be noted that Begoun prefers chemical exfoliants (alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids) over manual ones. She says that scrubs can only reach the outermost surface layers of skin, while AHA and BHA formulas are able to reach further to remove built-up layers of dead skin cells. Furthermore, Begoun says many scrubs are too abrasive and can damage skin.
Whatever you choose to use, don't skip exfoliation. Experts say that it is likely the most neglected step in the average person's skin care routine, but it's an important one. Skin naturally sheds on a regular basis but the process can be interrupted when dead skin cells stick together. Exfoliating products aid the shedding process and help to brighten up dull, dry and flaky skin. Rona Berg, author of Beauty: The New Basics, says that regular exfoliation "helps pave the way for plumper, healthier, smoother skin cells to surface." And isn't that what we all want?