Can a scrub clear your acne?

If you’re of a certain age you’ve probably heard of (and used) the St. Ives Apricot Scrub. You know—the one you’d grind against your face like you were scrubbing your bathroom grout? We put in this elbow grease because we believed it would banish breakouts. But for most people that didn’t really work. So the question is, clear your acne with a scrub?

First, what’s a scrub?

If you’re too young to remember this simpler time, or if you’ve never used one, a scrub is a skincare product that’s designed to manually remove dead skin cells when massaged into the skin. These products they’re also referred to as “physical exfoliants.”

The “physical” part comes from the grit in the scrub. Remember micro-beads (R.I.P. oceans)? Those were a kind of physical exfoliator. But these days you’ll typically find ground up shells or kernels.

So, exfoliation is all about getting rid of dead skin cells, and that can definitely help keep breakouts at bay. In fact, it’s a good idea to have some sort of exfoliation in any skincare routine. But there are a few problems with physical exfoliators.

So…can a scrub clear your acne?

The short answer is no. You can think of scrubs a bit like sandpaper: they smooth the surface but can’t get into the cracks. It’s a similar story for your skin: scrubs can remove the dead skin cells at the surface but they can’t get to what’s deep in your pores, where acne and blackheads form.

So, scrub harder?

Absolutely not! In fact one of the main issues with physical scrubs is that they can create small tears in your skin, which can end up increasing irritation, inflammation and redness, making breakouts worse.

The best way to your pore’s heart

A gritty scrub may not be best for your breakouts, but that doesn’t mean you should stop exfoliating altogether.

Instead, you can try a chemical exfoliator featuring AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) or PHAs (polyhydoxy acids). While AHAs can’t really get into your pores either, they can clear away the dead skin cells at the surface. BHAs are able to get into pores and can be a great addition to a routine geared towards breakouts.

The name of the game here is being gentle. Your skin is more delicate than you might think, so you want to go easy on from the start of your routine to the end of it.

Need help deciding?

Not sure whether physical or chemical (or a bit of both) right for you? We can do the heavy-lifting for you. Just complete a profile, let us know your budget, and we send the product that’s best for you. Head to to learn more.

Team Kura