Though I love chemical exfoliation for daily skin maintenance, sometimes nothing beats a scrub. A good scrub instantly enlivens your complexion and gives you that baby-cheek softness you just can’t stop touching. (Wash your hands first, though.) But not just any scrub will do. Today I want to talk about Skinfood’s best-of-breed face scrub, the Skinfood Black Sugar Strawberry Mask Wash Off (yes, that is exactly what it’s called). Along the way, we’ll also discuss some tips for scrubbing safely.
Skinfood is a Korean brand that bases its products around the supposed skin benefits of various foods. With a huge variety of adorably packaged, deliciously scented products at drugstore price points, it is a fantastic Korean skin care starter brand (in other words, gateway drug). Skinfood also makes a huge variety of samples available through online vendors like TesterKorea, so trying out their product lines is cheap and easy. I first experienced the Black Sugar Strawberry Mask Wash Off as a sample tucked into one of my online orders. It was love at first scrub.
Purpose: Skinfood Black Sugar Strawberry Mask Wash Off is a sugar-based face scrub that moisturizes and physically exfoliates skin.
Do not use if: You are experiencing an active breakout, are allergic to strawberries, or have sensitivities to lanolin, shea butter, fragrance, or anything else in the ingredients list.
Facial scrub tip: Avoid scrubs, brushes, and rough cloths when having an active breakout. Physical exfoliation can further irritate inflamed skin and spread bacteria from affected areas to the rest of the face.
When and how to use: Use once or twice a week. After cleansing and while face is still damp, lightly massage scrub into skin for 1-2 minutes. Leave on for 10-15 minutes, then massage again and rinse off. I like to use this in the evening, between the oil and foaming cleanser stages of my routine, to ensure that I have removed all of the mask residue.
Facial scrub tip: Don’t overexfoliate! Scrubs and other physical exfoliators should not be used every day. Overexfoliation can cause increased roughness and flakiness and make skin look unnaturally tight and shiny or dull and scaly. Limit physical exfoliation to once or twice a week at most (with the exception of konjac sponges, which can be used every day).
Ingredients list: Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sucrose, Glycerin, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Stearalkonium Hectorite, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Lanolin, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, Fragaria Vesca (Strawberry) Seed, Sorbitan Laurate, Fragaria Ananassa (Strawberry) Seed Oil, Water, BHT, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Caramel, CI 17290, CI 17986, Parfum
Notable ingredients: According to a CosDNA analysis of the ingredients list, the Black Sugar Strawberry Mask is relatively safe. Only two ingredients are identified as potential acne triggers or irritants: Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) wax and sorbitan laurate. These ingredients each scored a measly 1 for both acne and irritation.
As you might have guessed from the product name, the Black Sugar Strawberry Mask is a sugar scrub. In a good formulation, sugar is an excellent physical exfoliator. It’s gritty enough to remove dead skin but begins to melt as soon as it touches water, which reduces roughness and prevents irritation.
Facial scrub tip: There are a couple of face scrub ingredients to avoid. Crushed walnut shells, a key ingredient in the ever-popular St. Ives apricot scrub and many others, are far too abrasive for the face (though they make great body scrubs). Ultra-abrasive ingredients like walnut shells damage the surface of your skin, creating microscopic lacerations that bacteria can enter. Baking soda is an alkaline nightmare that mangles your skin’s moisture barrier, causing excessive oiliness and/or a prematurely aged appearance. Microbeads, meanwhile, pollute the water supply. Bans against microbeads have been enacted in some states and are being considered in others. Also, I’ve never found microbeads to be effective exfoliators.
Skinfood’s Black Sugar Strawberry Mask Wash Off contains several great moisturizing ingredients. Glycerin and lanolin are both deeply softening and found in many heavy moisturizing products, such as the classic Neutrogena hand cream. Lanolin is also the base for many nipple balms for nursing mothers. Shea butter is another popular moisturizing ingredient. Strawberry seed oil and the rest of the mask’s botanical extracts provide antioxidants, though as with all wash-off products, I’m not convinced they’re on the skin long enough to have much of an effect.
Performance: Unless you’re prepared, you may be in for a little confusion when you unscrew the lid on the plastic tub. The scrub looks like strawberry jam. It even has little strawberry seeds dotted throughout. And it smells strongly like strawberry jam, like the sweetest, tartest, most delicious strawberry jam you’ve ever tasted.
Don’t try to eat it. As convincing as it looks and smells, this scrub does not taste good. Skin and Tonics even warns readers not to eat the product. I tried anyway, because How could it not taste good? It smells delicious! Repeat after me: It does not taste good.
(Yes, tasting a face scrub was a stupid thing to do. At least I wasn’t the only one. This is apparently a very common lapse of judgment among people who have tried this product.)
Just use it on your face, mmkay?
The texture of the scrub is interesting. It’s not creamy or thick when applied. Instead, the light and watery mask base melts onto the skin immediately, while the generous helping of sugar starts off satisfyingly scratchy but quickly softens as you massage. It is very important to use this on a damp face. When I used it for the first time, I neglected to read the instructions and put it on a dry face. That was far too abrasive. Learn from my mistake and don’t do that.
Facial scrub tip: Never massage anything on your face for longer than a couple of minutes at a time, and never press hard. Excessive massaging causes broken capillaries, which nothing but lasers can fix. It’s your face, not a dirty bathtub. Be gentle and don’t scour.
After the brief wait, skin feels plumper, softer, and more moisturized even as you rinse it clean. The mask rinses off easily and with minimal residue; for people with dry skin, what residue remains can actually be helpful as an additional light moisturizing step. And if you don’t want to wait, you can rinse the mask off right away without losing any of the exfoliating benefits.
Conclusion: Skinfood’s Black Sugar Strawberry Mask Wash Off gives me amazing results every time I use it. My skin instantly feels super soft and looks bright and glowing, never irritated or dry. The results last for days. And the best thing about this scrub? It’s under $10 a tub and lasts for months.