The Serum vs. Scrub Showdown: Which Exfoliates Better?

4 min read
We're pitting two of the most popular methods of exfoliation against each other, scrubs & serums. Here's a breakdown of the pros & cons!

Exfoliation is an important step in any skincare routine. It helps remove dead skin cells, unclog pores, and improve skin texture and radiance.

There are two main ways to exfoliate: with a serum or a scrub. But which one is better? In this post, we’ll break down the pros and cons of each method to help you decide which one is right for you. But first, how does exfoliation work?

Why Exfoliate?

Exfoliating is one of the most important parts of a good skincare routine! It’s basically like giving your skin a good scrub, removing dead skin cells and helping to get rid of dirt and oil that can clog up your pores and cause blemishes.

Exfoliation also helps to promote cell turnover, which can help keep skin looking younger.When you exfoliate, you use an abrasive product (like a scrub or a peel) that will help dislodge those pesky dead cells from the surface of your skin.

This will leave behind healthy new cells, making your complexion look smoother and brighter—it's like getting an instant glow-up! And if you exfoliate regularly (about once or twice per week), it will also improve circulation in the area which can help with inflammation and anti-aging. Just be sure not to over-exfoliate as this could damage your delicate facial skin.

The type of product you choose for exfoliating is completely up to you– there are lots out there tailored for different types of skins – but always make sure they are gentle on the skin so as not to cause irritation.

There are physical scrubs with rough particles that help remove dirt buildup, chemical peels which contain acids or enzymes that dissolve dead cells away naturally, and organic options made with all natural ingredients such as sea salt or sugar crystals.

Whichever one you choose just follow the directions carefully – start slow if necessary – until you find the perfect method for keeping your face looking fresh and beautiful!

Serum Exfoliation

Serum exfoliation is a newer, gentler approach to exfoliating. Instead of using physical scrubbing agents, serum exfoliants contain chemical exfoliants that dissolve dead skin cells.

The most common chemical exfoliants are alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). AHAs work on the surface of the skin to exfoliate and improve skin texture, while BHAs penetrate deeper into the pores to unclog them and reduce acne.


  • Gentle: Serum exfoliants are gentle on the skin because they don’t use physical scrubbing agents that can be abrasive and irritating.
  • Effective: Chemical exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs are effective at removing dead skin cells, unclogging pores, and improving skin texture and radiance.
  • Versatile: Serums can be used on all skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin.


  • Can be expensive: High-quality serums can be expensive, and you may need to use them consistently over time to see results.
  • Takes longer to see results: Because serum exfoliants work more slowly than physical scrubs, it can take longer to see results.

Scrub Exfoliation

Scrub exfoliation is a traditional approach to exfoliating that uses physical scrubbing agents like sugar, salt, or microbeads to physically remove dead skin cells.


  • Immediate results: Scrubbing physically removes dead skin cells, so you’ll see immediate results after using a scrub.
  • Affordable: Scrubs can be very affordable, and you can even make your own at home with natural ingredients like sugar and honey.
  • Invigorating: Many people enjoy the feeling of scrubbing their skin, which can be invigorating and refreshing.


  • Can be harsh: Scrubs can be abrasive and irritating, especially for those with sensitive skin. Overuse of scrubs can cause redness, inflammation, and even breakouts.
  • Not suitable for all skin types: Scrubs can be too harsh for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin. They can also exacerbate existing skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

So, Which is the Best Way to Exfoliate?

The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Both serum and scrub exfoliation have their pros and cons, and the best method for you depends on your skin type, concerns, and preferences.

If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, or if you’re new to exfoliation, serum exfoliation may be the best option for you.

Chemical exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs are gentle yet effective, and they can improve skin texture, unclog pores, and reduce acne without causing irritation.

If you prefer the feeling of physically scrubbing your skin or if you want immediate results, then scrub exfoliation may be the way to go.

Just be sure to choose a scrub that’s gentle enough for your skin type, and use it no more than once or twice a week to avoid over-exfoliation.

Ultimately, the key to effective exfoliation is finding the right method and frequency for your skin.

Whether you choose serum or scrub exfoliation, be sure to listen to your skin and adjust your routine accordingly.

Exfoliation Tips

Over-exfoliation can lead to irritation, inflammation, and even damage to the skin barrier, so it’s important to start slowly and gradually increase the frequency as needed.

In addition to choosing the right exfoliation method, it’s also important to consider the rest of your skincare routine.

Exfoliation can make your skin more sensitive to other products, so be sure to follow up with a gentle cleanser, hydrating toner, and moisturizer to soothe and protect the skin.

Overall, both serum and scrub exfoliation can be effective ways to improve skin texture, unclog pores, and enhance radiance.

The key is to find the right method and frequency for your skin type and concerns, and to listen to your skin to avoid over-exfoliation and irritation.

The Best Exfoliator for You

In conclusion, serum and scrub exfoliation both have their pros and cons, and the best way to exfoliate depends on your skin type, concerns, and preferences.

Serum exfoliants are gentle yet effective, while scrub exfoliants provide immediate results and an invigorating experience.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to start slowly and listen to your skin to avoid over-exfoliation and irritation.

With the right exfoliation routine, you can achieve smooth, radiant, and healthy-looking skin.

related stories