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 • Body  • Bodycare Guides  • The Experts Explain How To Use Your Body Scrub (the Right Way)

The Experts Explain How To Use Your Body Scrub (the Right Way)

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Main image – Studiofirma/Stocksy

Hands up who likes smooth, silky skin! Yep it’s much more shall we say, chic than the rough, dry skin look. So, you might want to add a body scrub to your wish list.

But in case you’re confused about what a body scrub actually is, you’ve come to the right place. Because here, I have your official body scrub breakdown of the whats, the whens and the hows. With tips from Emma Watson’s aesthetician, Jenette Serrins, and head of research and development at Q+A Skin, Faye Purcell.  

Why do you need one? What actually goes into one? Does it go on dry skin or wet skin? And should you use it before body wash or after? Sit back and marvel as all becomes clear (and your skin miraculously becomes smoother…)


What is a body scrub?

It’s easy to just say a body scrub leaves the skin feeling smoother and leave it at that. But us beauty enthusiasts need more info. “They can also help minimise ingrown hairs and remove patchy fake tan,” says Purcell. “Not exfoliating regularly can leave you with dull skin and uneven texture.”


Body scrub

Image – Iryna-Mylinska/Adobe


Ok, so what do they actually contain? Well, there are two main types – physical and chemical. “You can get scrubs containing physical exfoliants like salt, sugars and ground up walnut shells – physical particles that scrub off dead skin through friction,” Purcell explains. 

A chemical, liquid exfoliator is applied onto dry, clean skin just before moisturiser. A physical, grainy scrub has its own set of rules – keep scrolling!


How to use a physical scrub step-by-step

Woman using a body scrub

Image – Misha/Adobe

  • Apply it after body wash, not before:

“You always want to follow your body wash with a body scrub,” says Serrins. “The scrub will work much more efficiently when you are clean, giving you the best results.” Purcell adds, “Clean skin generally absorbs nutrients better.”

Before exfoliating, “I would suggest rinsing off very well in the shower, using an all-natural soap,” says Serrins. “I love natural oatmeal bars.” 

Try Little Soap Company Organic Unperfumed Bar Soap with Oatmeal (£3.99 from the Little Soap Company UK) which is perfect for sensitive skin types.


  •  Don’t wait for your skin to dry:

“Massage your body scrub onto slightly damp skin for best results,” says Purcell.


  • Scrub in circular motions:

“Use circular motions to really help boost stimulation and get your skin glowing. Don’t forget to focus on rough patches like knees and elbows,” says Purcell.

Be gentle and don’t scrub for more than 30 seconds. “Exfoliating more than your skin needs can upset the barrier function and lead to flaky, red, weak and dehydrated skin,” warns Purcell.

My favourite physical exfoliator is Ouai Scalp and Body Scrub (£36 from Space NK UK /$40 from Ouai US) as it is surprisingly moisturising thanks to coconut oil and my skin is silky soft when I get out of the shower. 


  • Hair removal:

If your preferred hair removal method is shaving, you’ll want to exfoliate before shaving (and it’s definitely always a good idea to exfoliate 48 hours before any waxing appointments), since it helps to prevent ingrown hairs but is less sensitising than exfoliating after shaving.


  • Pat skin dry:

“When you get out of the bath or shower, pat, don’t rub the skin,” advises Purcell as rubbing can cause skin irritation.


  • Seal the deal with moisturiser: 

“Using a body scrub also helps to boost the absorption of your body moisturiser,” says Purcell. “ Apply your body cream or lotion immediately afterwards to damp skin for maximum absorption,” she adds

An all-time favourite body moisturiser of mine is Lancome Nutrix Royal Body Butter (£36 from Lancome UK /$47 from Lancome US). Nothing else matches up to the hydration it gives my skin!


  • Exfoliate once or twice a week: 

“Exfoliate your body once or twice a week to buff away dead skin cells, other pore-blocking debris and help prevent in-grown hairs,” explains Purcell


Chemical body exfoliants

As we’ve covered, there’s another type of body exfoliant you might want to consider if you have sensitive skin.

“Chemical or liquid exfoliants like fruit enzymes, AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) use ingredients that chemically dissolve and break down the ‘glue’ that holds dead and damaged skin cells together, allowing them to be easily lifted away,” says Purcell.

You can get a mixture of chemical and physical, but a chemical exfoliator is gentler than a physical. “They tend to be less abrasive on the skin,” she says. 


Body scrub

Image – Tsarevapro_/Adobe


For a brilliant blend of physical and chemical, Purcell recommends using Q+A’s AHA Exfoliator Body Scrub (£8 from Naturisimo UK /$9 from Feel Unique US). “It blends AHAs (lactic and glycolic acids) with upcycled corn” to polish the skin “without using any harsh, scrubby ingredients that might aggravate the skin.”

You can also find chemical exfoliants in your body lotion. With these you’ll need to make sure your skin is clean and dry and apply it before moisturiser. Paula’s Choice Skin Revealing Body Lotion 10% AHA (£33 from Paula’s Choice UK /$29 from Paula’s Choice US) contains a mix of hydrating shea butter and skin renewing glycolic acid.


The takeaway

So, achieving smoother, polished skin doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s just one extra step in your body cleansing routine (and, in most cases, you don’t even have to wait for your skin to dry.)

If you like gentle, non-abrasive exfoliation, choose a liquid chemical AHA or BHA exfoliator. An all-in physical body scrub with get your blood circulation flowing and will dig deeper into pores and ingrown hairs. 

Or, to compromise, choose a combined chemical and physical scrub, like the Q+A AHA Exfoliator Body Scrub.

Whatever option you go for, expect instantly buffed, smooth skin that will absorb your moisturiser better and rock a gorgeous glow. 


Meet the experts

Jenette Serrins is a skincare expert and celebrity aesthetician, and the owner, founder, developer and alchemist of Jenette Skin Care Inc and Being in LA wellness spa, a Los Angeles-based spa that tends to the likes of Emma Watson and Rachel McAdams.


Faye Purcell is a development chemist and the head of research and development at Q+A Skincare, a natural, affordable and ingredient-led skincare brand.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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