For years, the microbead reigned supreme among face and body scrubs—dermatologists loved the perfectly round, tiny plastic ball because it gently eases dead skin cells off your face and neck without overly abrasive scratching or tugging.
But recent research has found that these little beads are rolling down the drain into lakes and oceans, polluting our water supply and confusing marine life (they think they’re food), so most major companies have agreed to phase them out. Plus, a growing number of states are signing bills to get them banned. This doesn’t mean a life doomed to complexion dullness: The sustainable, nonsynthetic buffers here are considered kind to both your skin and the environment. Find your perfect fix.
Oatmeal and almond-meal scrubs are made with finely ground natural fibers that gently decongest pores, making these scrubs a safe bet for touchy skin on the chest and face. Oatmeal can also soothe inflammation: “It’s great for rashes, itchiness, or swelling,” says Fusco.
The sweet benefits of these granules are twofold: Sugar is well tolerated by most skin types because it dissolves quickly, and it’s a humectant, meaning it draws in moisture, leaving you soft and hydrated. Aside from relieving dryness on your arms and legs, sugar works well as a lip scrub and can even be added to your hair-care routine: “Sugar shouldn’t leave a residue, so my favorite thing to do is add a tablespoon to my conditioner and give my scalp an invigorating scrub,” says Francesca Fusco, M.D., a New York City dermatologist.
Shells & seeds
The angular edges of ground walnut shells, apricot pits, and grape seeds help loosen rough patches on elbows, knees, and ankles. But the gritty texture could inflame sensitive skin. Use shell-based scrubs on your face and chest only if they’ve been crushed to a fine powder.
Rice isn’t just a meal essential in Asian countries—ground uncooked rice has been used as a skin-care staple for centuries. Why? It’s a delicate buffer for both oily and easily irritated skin and can treat pesky rashes or inflammation like eczema. Buy it as a powder and mix with a fragrance-free lotion to make a mask, says Ellen Marmur, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. (Leave it on for 20 minutes, rinse, then moisturize.)
Indulge your inner DIY goddess and buy a bag of marshmallow root, which can be rubbed against the skin of your face or body like an eraser (little pieces will fall off). “This is great if you are on acne meds or use benzoyl peroxide, or if you accidentally got a bad sunburn and are peeling,” says Fusco. (Marshmallow root and extract are anti-inflammatory and can soothe rosacea, eczema, and puffiness as well.)
The roughest of the bunch, salt has sharp edges and a very coarse texture. But there’s gain to be had with the pain: The sloughing action can be stimulating enough to increase circulation, and if the salt is crushed to a superfine powder, it can be used on the face to draw away water, which has a mattifying effect.
Add olive oil to a handful of grounds from your coffee pot–or use a premade scrub–and massage over your body in the direction of lymphatic flow (up from your feet; toward the heart). The movement plus the caffeine can help depuff areas that accumulate fluid.
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