Dear Megan,

Is a scrub made an home for oily skin as good as scrubs containg Salicylic Acid?

– Anonymous (via Quora)

I’m going to be honest – in general, no, a homemade scrub is not a substitute for a salycylic acid / BHA scrub.

Can we do it at home? Yes.

But you need some know-how first.

First of all, the evidence is mounting more and more against scrubs and anything more than very, very light abrasion. So be careful with your scrubs and never – ever – use a sugar scrub on your face.

While the silicone scrubby linked below is really awesome, but it’s not a salicylic acid substitute. That’s because salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliator, while the silicone scrubby is a physical exfoliator. Let’s dive into a quick skincare lesson first, before I circle back with your answer:

Chemical Exfoliators (BHAs, AHAs)

Salicylic acid works from inside your pores, helping you shed dead skin cells and prevent acne. Salicylic acid is also known as BHA. BHA is the type of light exfoliation you want to prevent acne and signs of aging – if you have oily or acne-prone skin, or deal with sensitive/redness. If you have dry or creepy skin, an AHA is a better chemical exfoliator. (source)

If you’re thinking of buying one at the store, let me suggest to you Paula’s Choice 1% BHA lotion, Paula’s Choice 2% BHA lotion (for a little more oomph), or the Murad AHA/BHA combo exfoliating cleanser.

Physical Exfoliators

The silicone scrubby will help slough off dead skin cells and dirt on your face, but that’s all. It doesn’t do anything from inside the skin cell and at best they just do 1/2 the work of a chemical exfoliator. In any case, make sure that your physical exfoliator – a silicone scrubby, brush, etc – are extra gentle.

DIY Chemical Exfoliators

IF you want to try making a salicylic acid scrub at home – it won’t really be a scrub, but rather a juice or pulp – you can make one with fruit. UNRIPE blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupes, dates, grapes, kiwi fruits, guavas, apricots, green pepper, olives, tomatoes, and radishes are source of salicylic acid.

The biggest issue you’ll face is that a salicylic acid wash at the store will have a percentage marked on it; a fruit or vegetable won’t. So while it will be good for your skin, you can’t be sure how strong the mix is. Maybe it’s not strong enough and does nothing, maybe it’s too strong and will cause a small chemical burn. It’s difficult to know without testing the material. Plus, produce isn’t cheap.

My Recipe for a DIY BHA/Salicylic Acid Mask

If you really want to DIY this, here’s my best suggestion. I’ve done this one myself, so speaking from experience, here:

Get an unripe pineapple and a papaya at the store. This should run you ~$5 in America or ~$2 in Asia.

Skin and cut the pineapple. Skin and slice the papaya, removing the seeds. Put both in a blender and blender to a juicy pulp.

Taking a small amount (2–4oz), cover your face and neck with the juice. Let it sit for 10–15 minutes on your skin and don’t itch it.

Wash off completely and pat your skin dry.

You can do this mask about 2–3 times a week.

Here’s the full details on how to make this mask and why it’s great, beyond it being a good source of acne-fighting salicylic acid. *hint* It’s also great for evening out your skin tone.

Feels weird, but if you want to go all natural, this is it! Hope you enjoyed learning (skincare can be boring, but it’s important) and best of luck!

*This blog is part of the Beauty Q&A series, where our founder Megan answers your toughest beauty questions every Tuesday and Thursday on the blog.  If you’d like your beauty question answered on the blog, email Megan at [email protected]*

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Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez is a board-certified general practitioner with more than 15 years of patient care experience. She takes an integrative approach to patient care that considers the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and is deeply committed to assisting her patients in achieving and sustaining optimal health. Dr. Vanessa is also a skilled writer and medical reviewer, specializing in preventive care and health promotion. Her articles are written in an approachable manner that is simple to comprehend and implement in one’s own life. Dr. Vanessa’s mission is to equip her patients and readers with the knowledge and resources necessary to live their greatest lives.

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