If I had been charging people, every time I got asked my opinion on St. Ives scrub, over the last decade alone, I would have made some serious buck. Clients and students always want my professional opinion when discussing products and my honesty doesn’t always align with what they want to hear, probably because over the counter, cheap product is easily accessible, and their ads are everywhere, eventually convincing you these scrubs are a must have. The truth started surfacing some time ago and there was even a lawsuit, which got dismissed by the judge due to plaintiff’s inability to directly prove cause. Facts still stand, St Ives scrub is without a doubt horrendous to your skin, put aside the fact that the class action lawsuit created their own case studies to exhibit the damage rather than use actual researched cases, which is why the judge tossed it in the first place, there are no proper studies to show the damage it causes. No double-blinded studies, as proper researchers would use anyway. No one has time for that! Instead it’s our job, as service providers to educate, then present you, the consumer with a better choice.
Over the years, I have had the pleasure of using many scrubs, beautiful products that contain potent ingredients and more polished exfoliators. Regardless of which of these products you choose, you should never over-exfoliate. No more than twice a week for thick, textured and oily skins and once a week for drier, more mature types. During exfoliation you should pay close attention to not get overly aggressive in areas of chronic redness, (we all get it, particularly on the cheeks and nose) those with sensitive, easily irritated skin would benefit from using a gentle terrycloth facial towel to simply wipe off their cleanser, the terrycloth texture offers more than enough exfoliation. (just ensure you have a nice, clean towel for each wash)
Signs that you are over-exfoliating? Look for tight, shiny forehead, red and irritated patches of dry skin, acne like breakouts, dehydration and fine lines (think of the land in drought)
What is happening!? You see, on average, most healthy people in the teens, and 20 to 30’s will produce new skin cells at the basal layer and push it through the other four layers of the epidermis, to prepare for natural sloughing, every 28-30 days, approximately, add additional 10 days for each decade after 30 to accommodate for aging and slowdown of cellular turnover. We get great skin by helping speed up this natural process, but we are humans and over-abusers. In our brain, we get this idea that we are glowing, our products absorb better and work better so we figure, if once a week gives me radiance, then every day will be even better! FULL STOP! NO…
Simply put, over-exfoliating puts our skin into a frenzy. Not only is the environmental protection stripped but the sebaceous glands (those pesky white and black heads and oil on the skin) are sending a signal to the brain that there is no oil or stratum corneum left, so brain will respond by telling your glands to produce more, (oily skin needs a moisturizer too to help keep skin happy, but that’s a story for another time) and more oil, more new cells = more clogging, among other issues, such as sensitivities to your environment and other ingredients. (the number of clients that tell me they are allergic to skincare is alarming by the way!)
We need to get back to the purpose of this article, we know the skin is amazing and capable of many feats, protection, sensation, heat/cold regulation, excretion, secretion, absorption and my favourite, wound healing! In fact, many advanced treatments rely on this wound healing cascade, to signal a release of our own growth factors, to help produce new collagen, everyone’s favourite side effect of “hurting” the skin. That said, clinical studies, one after another all signal to same outcome, injury needs to be controlled, even and at a right angle (90°) into the skin in order to produce the best outcome post healing (Dr. L. Setterfield, 2013)
Sadly, for all those fans of St. Ives scrub, even at cosmetic level, it exfoliates your skin unevenly, it does cause uneven abrasions and has a potential to get caught and lodged in to the skin, which can lead to further inflammations, infections and worse breakouts.
I told myself, I would keep this one short, so to make good on my word, if you must use an exfoliant, use one that has biodegradable, spherical beads, no more than once a week. My current favourite is by Vivier, Vitamin C scrub, and as far as St. Ives scrub goes, I wouldn’t even use it on my feet!