|The Nitty Gritty: Exfoliating Soaps
By Debbie Steele
Exfoliating soaps are one good way to slough off dead,
flaky skin. There are lots of choices out there, from
simple bars to exotic liquids. I tried several options (many of these soaps would work equally well for men or women).
One note about exfoliating soaps generally: It is possible to
overdo it. My skin tends to be very dry, and although exfoliating
is a good way to make it feel smoother, it can also be a little
I tested a total of seven soaps for this article. A
couple times during this process, my skin seemed to be crying
out: “Give me a break here!”
So, for some people, daily use of
an exfoliating soap may work well, but for others (like me), once
or twice a week may be more appropriate. Just listen to your skin.
I began with a couple of bar soaps from The Natural Bath
Shop, a small operation headquartered in my hometown of
Charlotte, North Carolina. The couple who run the business
have a small retail store in Charlotte, as well as an online
They offer a nice selection of natural products; I especially
like their handmade bar soaps. For this article, I tried the
Apricot Almond Scrub bar and the Loofah and Cornmeal Scrub bar.
Apricot Almond Scrub is a rich brown color, with
a sweet, nutty apricot smell. It reminds me of the Aapri facial
scrub I used years ago, only with much finer grains. As the
bar wore down, the grains created interesting patterns in the
soap. I found this soap a little too rough to rub directly on
my skin, but if I lathered it up in my hands and then washed
with it, it felt fine.
I definitely noticed a difference in
my skin after showering with this soap just once: it really
was smoother. Overall, I really like this soap. A 6-ounce bar
sells for $3.95.
Loofah and Cornmeal Scrub, which they recommend
for sensitive skin, is a nice, if somewhat unexciting, bar soap.
It’s a creamy off-white color with no added fragrance (although
it does have a very faint herbal scent). Its exfoliation comes
from finely ground loofah and cornmeal. This soap is less rough
than the Apricot Almond Scrub bar, and has a nice, creamy lather.
Again, a 6-ounce bar sells for $3.95.
Sweet, Spicy Gel
Moving from bars to liquids, I tried Kiss My Face Rough Thyme
Shower Gel. For those of you unfamiliar with Kiss My Face, it
is an all-natural body care company whose products are often
sold in health food stores.
They offer an interesting and very
reasonably priced selection of products. Because of the name
and the green bottle, I was expecting Rough Thyme Shower Gel
to have an herbal fragrance. In fact, this gel has a sweet,
spicy scent that I really like. The ingredient list includes
lemon, cinnamon and clove; these are the scents that came through
most clearly to me.
The most noteworthy thing about this soap
is its consistency: It is definitely a GEL. Unlike your typical
liquid soap, this one has a sort of slimy/gooey/clingy feel,
and did not make much of a lather (one nice thing about the
gel consistency: it’s great for shaving).
Its “spherical jojoba
wax beads” provide very gentle exfoliation. In fact, despite
its name, Rough Thyme Shower Gel is the least “rough” of all
the scrubs I tried. My skin felt nicely moisturized after using
it. A 16-ounce bottle of Rough Thyme sells for about $9.00 at
I next used Bloom Exfoliating Body Scrub, available at
($16 for 5.28 oz.) Bloom is an Australian company whose self-described
mission is "to create innovative, quirky products…for the young
and young at heart." Check out Bloom’s cute, quirky website
The scrub describes its fragrance as a "citrus sorbet" of grapefruit,
lemon verbena and orange, but I found the scent to be strong
and bitter. I couldn’t figure out the source of the strong aroma;
the ingredient list starts out with such benign ingredients
as green tea extract, rose water and sweet almond oil. The last
ingredient listed is bitter orange oil; maybe that’s it.
exfoliating action in this scrub comes from ground walnut shells,
which provide a much stronger scrubbing action than Kiss My
Face’s jojoba wax beads. (On a "grit" scale of 1 to 10, if the
Kiss My Face gel is a 2, this scrub is about a 7 or 8.) As I
used this scrub in the shower, I could feel my skin getting
Almost immediately after getting out of the shower,
however, the skin on my legs began to feel dry, tight and irritated.
I applied lotion as usual, after my shower and again the next
morning, but my legs felt uncomfortably dry for about 24 hours.
The bottom line: If you’re looking for a serious exfoliator
and you like this one’s distinctive smell, this may be a good
option. If your skin is dry or sensitive, however, proceed with
caution. As for me, I’m saving the rest of my tube to use as
a foot scrub.
Fruity or Floral
I next used Cali Oliva Salata Moisturizing Body Scrub.
The Cali product line claims a colorful history: "In the 19th
century, on the outskirts of Rome by the Mediterranean Sea, the
Roman nobles discovered the Cali Beauty Farm. There, based upon
ancient home made recipes…the nobles enjoyed and benefited from
our recipes…our philosophy has been to treat the outside and
inside of our bodies with the same care while using the finest
I felt better after just reading the package! The Cali scrub
is one of two I tried that uses salt for exfoliation. (The other
is the Philosophy scrub described below.) I found the salt to
be a nice medium-strength exfoliator: grittier than Kiss My
Face’s jojoba wax beads, but not as rough as Bloom’s ground
walnut shells. It was basically the consistency of coarse table
salt (I have a lingering suspicion, however, that salt is drying
to the skin. Think slugs on the sidewalk).
The Cali scrub has
a sweet, fruity smell that I found very nice. I would describe
it as a peach-apricot-melon sort of smell. This rich, fragrant
scrub made a nice lather, and left my skin feeling smooth. Overall,
this was one of my favorite exfoliating soaps. You can purchase
($18 for 8 ounces.)
Philosophy is a company with a wide range of product offerings:
makeup, skin care, bath and body products, gifts and fragrances,
all with a “philosophical” element. For example, their Amazing
Grace Olive Oil Body Scrub proclaims that "amazing
grace is the person who lives in a state of love, forgiveness
and total compassion…the humble spirit who lets others shine…who
has let themselves out and the spirit in."
Wow! Am I even worthy of
this soap? Like the Cali scrub, the Amazing Grace scrub uses
salt for exfoliation, and the consistency is very similar. As
for the fragrance, let me say upfront that I am not a big fan
of florals. If you are, you might love the smell of this
product, which Philosophy describes as "light, floral."
To me, though,
it smells like cheap perfume (there, I said it). It has a rich,
creamy feel and makes a nice lather. Overall, it was very similar
in feel and effect to the Cali scrub. The primary difference
between the two is the fragrance and color ($18 for 8 ounces),
available from Philosophy.com.
Finally, I tried a scrub from Garden Botanika, a
product line with an uncertain future. (Garden Botanika sold its assets to a St. Louis-based
company, Schroeder & Tremayne, in March of 2001. Schroeder &
Tremayne is a privately held company whose divisions sell body
care and auto care products through various retail outlets).
The company says it plans to sell Garden Botanika products through
other retailers, in addition to catalog and internet sales.
So stay tuned for changes sure to follow.
I tried their Exhilarating
Mint Body Scrub. This stuff has a wonderful, sweet mint smell.
Its exfoliating action comes from ground loofah and cornmeal.
Of all the products I tried for this article, this one was the
“grittiest”, more so even than Bloom’s ground walnut shells.
For me, then, it is too rough to use anywhere but on my feet.
If you’re after some serious exfoliation and you like the smell
of mint, this might be a great choice. It sells for $8.50 at
Editors note: Garden Botanika has reformulated and renamed the
Exhilarating Mint Body Scrub, and is now available as
Exfoliating Fresh Mint Salt Scrub (9 ounces for $20.00).