Everything You Need To Know About Face Polishes And If They Are Better Than Face Scrubs


There’s no doubt that face scrubs have become one of those controversial beauty products that’ve left many confused. Are they useful for exfoliation? Can it do more harm than good? Can they really cause micro tears to the delicate skin on the face? There are so many questions around it. And then, enter: face polishes. The sophisticated sibling of the face scrub. 

We’ve seen so many new face polishes launch in the recent past, which makes us wonder – are these going to replace face scrubs and are they really better? We connected with skin expert Dr Jaishree Sharad, internationally renowned cosmetic dermatologist, Author, TEDx speaker and Founder of Skinfinitii Aesthetic Skin and Laser Clinic in Mumbai, to get her thoughts on whether face polishes are more effective and less abrasive as compared to scrubs. Read on to know more…

Face Polishes Vs Face Scrubs

Dr Jaishree says, “Both face scrubs and polishes help in exfoliation. Scrubs tend to be a bit harsher and grittier, whereas polishes contain finer particles of the ingredients which only help to remove dead cells present in the upper layers of the skin. Polishes do not cleanse or unclog the pores.” 

She adds that because face polishes remove the dead cells which are present in the stratum corneum (upper layer of the skin), this results in smoother and softer skin. “When light falls on a smoother skin surface where there are no dead cells, it reflects thus making the skin look more radiant.” Face polishes also help improve skin texture overall, she says.

When it comes to face scrubs, she points out that these are cream-based products containing exfoliating particles which could be natural ingredients like sugar or sea salt, cinnamon, fruit pits, crushed seeds, crushed shells, or sometimes even artificial ingredients like jojoba beads or polyethylene. They are used to deep cleanse, exfoliate and remove dead cells from the skin. “A polish, on the other hand, is a milder form of exfoliation. Face polishes are actually enough to exfoliate the skin, but if you do use scrubs, make sure to be gentle.”

Face Scrubs and the Skin Barrier

So, if face scrubs aren’t all bad, why then have they earned such a negative reputation? “If you use scrubs frequently, you may end up over exfoliating your skin resulting in disruption of the protective layers of the skin,” points out Dr Jaishree. This, she says, results in a compromised skin barrier making the skin more sensitive, more prone to infections because microorganisms, dust, and pollutants penetrate the skin easily. The skin can get more sensitive and one may develop rashes, fungal infections, bacterial infections, viral infections, etc. Scrubs can also cause redness, irritation and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. “Over scrubbing can also alter the skin’s natural oil production, as a result, the sebaceous glands overcompensate and secrete more oil leading to acne,” she says. 

Skincare Notes to Bear in Mind

We asked Dr Jaishree about which ingredients should be avoided in face scrubs and face polishes both, and she advises staying away from ingredients such as beads, crushed seeds, fruit pits, crushed walnut shell, and sea salt, as they can irritate the skin or cause allergies or manually damage the skin. She also cautions that as far as possible, those with sensitive skin, eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, rosacea or excessively flaky and dry skin, should try and avoid both polishes and scrubs, as these can do more harm than good for such skin conditions. 

We quiz her on how often one can include face polishes in their skincare routine. She suggests, “If you have oily skin, you can use face polishes twice a week. Exfoliation using face polish once a week is enough for those with normal skin, and if you have dry or sensitive skin do not exfoliate more than once a month.”

So, to summarize, while face scrubs can deeply cleanse, if you do use them ensure you don’t scrub too often and too overzealously, and avoid harmful ingredients such as crushed walnut shell, etc. On the other hand, face polishes are gentler, but mainly work to slough off only the upper layers of dead skin, which is good enough exfoliation, says Dr Jaishree.

Here are 7 Face Polishes You Can Try:

iSClinical Cleansing Complex Polish

A multi-purpose cleansing scrub, this cleanses the surface and pores of the skin without drying or stripping essential natural oils. Its light, foamy gel contains eco-friendly microparticles & botanical extracts to provide both physical and biochemical exfoliation which helps to instantly polish and soften the skin.

Klairs Gentle Black Sugar Facial Polish

Ingredients such as black sugar, shea butter, and cranberry oil come together to smooth the skin and work as natural moisture providers in this facial polish. The fine particles of black sugar and unsaturated fatty acids remove blackheads and sebum, as well as rough skin, making it silky smooth. It helps brighten skin tone by revealing a fresh layer of skin.

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant

This rice-based exfoliant powder activates upon contact with water, releasing papain, salicylic acid and rice enzymes to gently polish and cleanse the skin. A skin-brightening complex of phytic acid from rice bran, white tea and licorice help balance uneven skin tone while a super-soothing blend of colloidal oatmeal and allantoin helps calm the skin.

Neutrogena Bright Boost Resurfacing Micro Polish


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Formulated with glycolic and mandelic AHAs, this gentle exfoliator helps dissolve impurities of dull skin for a visibly brighter, smoother look. It promises to offer three times the polishing power of a normal scrub where it helps remove dullness, boost radiance, and accelerates skin renewal for radiant-looking skin.

Dot & Key Illuminating Glow Detan Clay Polish

Formulated with natural clay and sandalwood powder, this polish in a face pack format clears the upper layers of the skin to reveal brighter skin. It comes infused with peony root extract, which acts as a tan remover and clears impurities, leading to skin brightening and facial glow. It also refreshes the skin with its green tea and verbena fragrance.

Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Brightening Exfoliating Daily Cleanser


A purifying, exfoliating face wash, this is infused with white birch and peony extract that helps remove dirt, oil, and pollution. It also contains the properties of Pearlstone, a natural exfoliant that helps in smoothening of the skin. Overall, this brightening gel face wash refines the texture of your skin for a more radiant appearance.

The Body Shop Vitamin C Daily Glow Cleansing Polish

Vitamin C is known to help brighten skin, and the vitamin C in this cleansing polish has been derived from the camu camu fruit of the Amazonian rainforest in Peru. It helps combat dull, tired skin to reveal a softer, more radiant complexion in one easy step of cleansing and exfoliating.

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