Cancer Care Guide: Why Body Scrubs and Exfoliation are Good Skincare Additions for Cancer Care


In parts of Egypt, Asia and Europe body scrubs have been part of the female self-care ritual for millennia. Women used to get together weekly to bathe, gossip, and relax while they scrubbed their entire bodies. In Egyptian times there's documentation of both women and men using body scrubs with essential oils to keep their skin moisturized and wrinkle-free from the desert heat. Nowadays, this ritual continues to be a weekly routine in many countries around the globe.

Body scrubs are still used to this day for a myriad of health and beauty benefits. From eliminating dead skin cells from the peripheral layers of the skin to moisturizing and restoring natural oils. Body scrubs can also arouse the body's innate healing mechanism, promote cell renewal and eliminate fluids while leaving your skin supple, healthy, and with a beautiful glow!

The magical benefits of body scrubs

Body scrubs remove dead skin cells, improve blood circulation, purifies skin via exfoliation. In some countries, it's also known as body polish because it consists of exfoliating granules and a liquid base which removes dead skin when you massage the mixture over your body. This circular motion also boosts blood circulation and helps to drain lymph nodes by increasing the flow of blood onto the skin's surface area. Salt, sugar, and coffee are prevalent exfoliating ingredients in natural body scrub recipes as they are rough enough to scrub the skin but still soft enough to not cause damage or irritation. 

Let's take a look at the top benefits of body scrubs:

Exfoliation eliminates the outer layer to expose the newer skin beneath. This peeling of the outer layer unclogs pores, keeps skin cleansed, and helps lessen acne breakouts. There are various reasons that exfoliation is desirable for the skin. Routine exfoliation gives the skin a more luminous appearance and a softer feel. Over time, it can help to diminish the appearance of wrinkles and will promote the skin’s firmness and tone. It enhances blood circulation, helps to eliminate toxins, rids skin of dry patches, and can even support the breakdown and presence of cellulite. Lastly, exfoliation also enhances the results of daily moisturizing by allowing the moisturizer to be absorbed by the skin more profoundly.

Types of scrubs, and what ingredients are most beneficial

The easiest way to exfoliate at home is using body scrubs, which luckily are abundant on the skincare market meaning that you'll have plenty of options to choose from. Nevertheless, it's strongly advised in the skincare space to try to opt for a natural product, or at the very least a scrub that doesn't include microbeads as the exfoliating agent.

Microbeads are round, small plastic beads that are found in most conventional exfoliation products and over the last decade have started to cause quite a stir in the environmental and activism world. Truth be told, there's validity to the outrage! The plastic waste from these microbeads, which unfortunately are not filtered out of our water systems during treatment, is killing our marine life due to ecosystem damage.

For instance, a 2013 study showed that in the Great Lakes there were 1,000 to 1.7 million plastic micro-particles per square mile. Not only are the microplastic beads detrimental to fish, but they're also bad for our faces – microbeads can produce eye irritation and increase the risk of rosacea. It's no surprise that Illinois was one of the first states to ban the use of microbeads back in June 2014!

Rather than using microbeads, you should consider other natural alternatives like scrubs with sugar, oats, crushed walnut husks, coffee grinds, or salt.

- Sugar is perfect for whole-body use. It's a great exfoliant because it helps with clearing pores and can prevent moisture loss in the skin. Sugar is normally a great option for people dealing with eczema or skin sensitivities since it is non-irritating.

Granulated coffee makes skin feel smoother, plus the caffeine has a tightening effect that visibly can help manage cellulite.

Grains and oats can moisturize and soothe the skin. Again, these exfoliating agents are great options for those with sensitive or dry skin.

Salt-based scrubs enhance skin softening and exfoliation.  Sea salt, for example, is a great exfoliant for psoriasis sufferers, but should not be used more than once a week. 

These are just a few examples of eco-friendly ingredients that won't damage the environment and will serve as a healthier option for your skin.  Purchasing scrubs are normally affordable, since the ingredient combination is anything but complex, and these can range from finely ground exfoliant which is usually applied to the face area, or larger ground ingredients that are ideal for the entire body.

Using body scrubs offers simplicity, which can be particularly useful in male or teenage demographics - still, there are specific cases when body scrubs are far from advisable. For instance, people with cystic acne, elderly skin, or rosacea should avoid harsher exfoliant agents.

The primary reason why people with acne-prone skin should avoid using scrubs is mainly that the harsh particles will not only cause redness, irritate, and damage the skin, but they might also spread bacteria which will ultimately worsen the situation. This is the same reason why people with rosacea or acne are advised against treatments like microdermabrasion.

Older people tend to have more delicate skin that can bruise and break easily. Therefore, using a harsh scrub, or other similar forms of exfoliation can cause injury and pain. In these cases, an enzymatic exfoliation is a good option, or, if needed and an alternative would be opting for a light oatmeal scrub.

In all other use cases and normal skin circumstances scrubs can be used two or three times per week, but no more than that – the skin needs sufficient time to accumulate dry dead cells, so over-exfoliating really needs to be avoided because simply too much of a good thing is a bad thing!

Why body scrubs and exfoliation are good skincare additions for cancer care

There are a few conventional treatment options for cancer, yet the most common is chemotherapy. It has numerous potential benefits when it comes to successfully treating cancer, but it can also cause some not-so-pleasant side effects.

Some skin side effects of chemotherapy are more prevalent than others. For instance, it’s very well-known that chemotherapy can lead to skin dryness, inflammation, and light sensitivity.

A more serious skin-related secondary effect can occur when you’ve experienced radiation therapy, chemotherapy can create a skin reaction commonly referred to as radiation recall. This reaction can prompt a sunburn-like rash to develop in the localized areas that have been treated with radiation. 

Some secondary skin symptoms include:

- inflammation

- redness

- pain or discomfort

- blisters

- peeling and flaking dry skin

If you start to experience skin-related side effects from cancer treatment, it's important to talk with your healthcare provider. Because, if the reactions are severe they may have to prescribe medications to initially help with the management. 

You can also take steps to soothe your skin by using sensitive, scent-free, organic, non-toxic, and natural skin care products, such as in the case of moisturizers and exfoliating body scrubs. 

Routine gentle exfoliation and hydration can help manage the dry and irritated skin that so many people experience during chemotherapy. Plus, taking time for self-care can also help you feel better and more comfortable about how you look throughout treatment.

What to avoid in body scrubs (harmful ingredients)

Although many of us may not recognize it, most conventional skincare products are crammed full of a cauldron's worth of synthetic chemicals, many of which can poorly affect our health. Whether they’re in the form of artificial fragrances, parabens, formaldehyde, or other toxic substances—these ingredients can lead to skin disorders such as dermatitis, psoriasis, and skin irritation, to name a few.

Natural ingredients have been the foundation of skincare products for centuries, and nowadays they are becoming more widespread in skincare formulations due to consumers’ concerns about synthetic chemical substances being used as ingredients. Without a doubt, the global organic and natural personal skincare market is rapidly growing.

Recently, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) stated that “Every day, on average a woman uses about a dozen skincare products comprising more than 150 separate ingredients. Numerous cosmetic chemicals are designed to be absorbed by the skin fully, and they do. Consequently, some popular cosmetic ingredients end up circulating in the body, such as modern plasticizers called phthalates, parabens, and fragrance components, for instance, musk xylene.”

The main list of ingredients and toxic chemicals to avoid includes aluminum, DEA, mineral oil, DMDM, glycol, Phthalates, MEA, butylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, TEA, and synthetic fragrances.

 TEA, DEA, and MEA are commonly used as ingredients in facial toners, shampoos, and exfoliants. They can produce allergic reactions, eye irritability, and dehydrate the skin leaving it dry.

Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate is a chemical that can be conventionally found in gels, face wash, shampoos, and exfoliants. It can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, and even the respiratory tract.

How to Properly Use a Body Scrub

No matter what skin type you have, exfoliation is something that when done routinely can benefit all. People with sensitive or dry skin might prefer opting for a gentler form of exfoliation. Similarly, people who experience body acne should consider using clarifying scrubs instead. When it comes to exfoliating scrubs there's most definitely something for everyone, and this ritual can become a key player in maintaining optimal skin health. But, how do you apply and use scrubs?

Check out these easy steps for applying a body scrub:

Step 1: Before exfoliating with a scrub, you’ll want to make sure you remove excess oils and surface-level impurities from your skin. For this, you can use a hydrating bath gel or moisturizing soap, foamed up with the assistance of a gentle sponge.

Step 2: Before applying the scrub make sure your skin is completely wet and moistened with hot water – but, warm water is more advisable seeing as overly hot water can dry out and create skin sensitivity.

Then you can proceed by massaging the scrubs onto clean and wet skin while in the bath or shower. Pay extra care to dry areas like the knees, elbows, legs, and arms. Avoid exfoliating areas with freshly shaved skin or broken skin. Also, try to avoid scrubbing in one area for too long or with excessive force. Even areas with rough and dry skin are delicate, and will only require about 10 seconds for an out-and-out exfoliation.

PRO-TIP: The exfoliating agent or crystals in most natural formulas will settle at the base of the jar between uses. So before each application, use dry and clean fingers to mix your body scrub before each use, this helps to make sure that all ingredients are evenly distributed.

Step 3: Rinse wholly with clean, lukewarm water, and pat yourself dry with a fresh towel. After stepping out of the shower or bath it's important to moisturize any dry areas, like elbows or knees, with body butter.

Jojoba, coconut oil, and glycerin based moisturizers are all great options as they offer deeply penetrative hydration.

The rest of your body, excluding the drier areas, will already be thoroughly moisturized and smooth from the oils and ingredients in the body scrub, but for added benefit, you can use body butter on these areas also.

Frequently asked questions:

What’s the average shelf life of natural and organic body scrubs?

Body scrubs with only sugar/salt and oil should last numerous months, and in some can even last a whole year as long as they’re not contaminated with water content. Conventional store-bought scrubs have an expiration date on the packaging or label, but these will last anywhere between 6 to 12 months. Lastly, a product that's still sealed customarily has a shelf-life of at least two to four years.

Most organic face and body care brands note on their website that their products typically expire after 12 months.

How often should I exfoliate with scrubs?

Let your skin be the guide and tell you when it's time to exfoliate! Nevertheless, most dermatologists advise exfoliating twice per week for full body scrub and one time per week for a face scrub.


The key to healthy skin is good hydration and exfoliation. Our day-to-day routines clog the skin pores with toxins and dirt, and our physiological body elimination mechanism also uses the skin to get rid of toxic components via sweating. This leads to dead skin cell build-up. 

Daily exfoliation with a moderate, smooth herbal scrub can help accelerate new cell production while reducing the surface buildup of dead skin cells. 

And, when it comes to cancer care and the not-so-enjoyable secondary effects that chemotherapy can have on the skin, the use of body scrubs can be an effective way to manage dryness and support skin regeneration. There's also the added bonus of the aromatherapy benefits if your product choice uses essential oils for fragrance, which can help to create a wonderful spa-like experience that will not only leave your skin feeling refreshed but can also relax your mind and ease anxiety too.

If you are interested, check out our body scrub that comes in our cancer body care box. Our good riddance body scrub is made of organic turmeric and neem scrub to help you or your loved one tame dry and chaotic skin, and metaphorically wash away bad vibes! Grapefruit essential oil adds a bright, fresh, spiced aroma. 

Blog References

The magical benefits of body scrubs

Types of scrubs and what ingredients are most beneficial

Why body scrubs and exfoliation and good skincare additions for cancer


What to avoid in body scrubs (harmful ingredients)

How to properly use a body scrub

Frequently asked questions

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