Battle of the Body Scrubs: Salt vs. Sugar.


If spa and department store bath and body counters are any indication, salt scrubs came first. Sometime later came estheticians and salespeople expounding on the revitalizing virtues of sugar scrubs. Many of us like both kinds of scrubs to improve the tone and texture of our skin, but the question remains: which is better?

The truth of the matter is that both salt scrubs and sugar scrubs have their pros and cons and which is best for you really depends on your skin type and situation. Salt scrub is a mineral first and foremost; it comes from the Earth and typically contains a plethora of essential trace minerals that promote cell growth and contribute to skin’s overall health. It’s also the better exfoliator and ideal for those with keratosis pilaris and hard calluses on their hands and feet.  It’s unfortunate side effect: if it touches raw or recently cut skin, it does in fact sting like the dickens. It also absorbs moisture from the skin but this is easily countered by whatever essential oil or botanical medium is added to the salt mixture.

Salt scrubs are also more abrasive on the skin and not recommended for sensitive skin types and definitely should not be used on the face. Having said that, they are efficient in promoting cell renewal because of the therapeutic benefits of the high trace mineral content. Now, on to sugar scrubs…

Sugar scrubs, for all their failings, are widely preferred by those who what a luxurious spa experience.  Sugar granules are gentler on the skin so it’s usually ok to use them on your face, and they’re ideal as a body exfoliant for more sensitive skin types. Sugar also dissolves better in warm water and in doing so, creates a sweet aroma perfectly suited to aromatherapy treatments. Sugar scrub is often paired with glycolic acid, a sugar derivative, to increase exfoliation. Sugar scrubs are also great for body shaving they’re far less irritating than salt scrubs. Sugar also tends to leave a heavier moisture residue on your skin which, depending on your skin type, can be a good thing.

The final answer as to which is better? That’s entirely up to who’s using what, and what they’re using it for; a sugar scrub equals gentler yet effective exfoliation, and a salt scrub—while not for the faint of skin—offers the heavy duty sloughing we need to feel incredibly smooth.

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