The XX Factor

Reddit’s Vendetta Against St. Ives Apricot Scrub Is a Dermatological Inspiration

Reddit don’t want no scrubs.

Photo illustration by Slate.

Some of us around the office have recently become devotees of /r/SkincareAddiction, a subreddit for people who want to achieve clear skin—and the moral high ground that comes with it—through the maintenance of a meticulous, multistep skincare routine. And we’ve noticed that if you spend a good amount of time hanging out in that particular slice of the internet, a few themes start to recur: 1) If you think your moisturizer with built-in SPF is providing you with enough sun protection, you’re living a lie. 2) Those things you thought were blackheads are actually sebaceous filaments. 3) And maybe most importantly, St. Ives Apricot Scrub, the popular product available at drugstores nationwide that you yourself have probably used and seen in many friend’s medicine cabinets, is complete trash. According to the skincare addicts, you’d be better off dipping your face in a septic tank than using the stuff.

To be clear, we at Slate are not saying that Apricot Scrub is bad. We are merely delighting in how much SkincareAddiction hates it. The intensity of the shade is made all the better by the fact that this is, like, a beauty product you can buy for a few bucks at Walgreens. Is it really deserving of all the vitriol? One user wrote that mentioning it in the sub “is on par with uttering Voldermort’s name.” Another referred to it as “St. Ives Devil Scrub” before promising that, don’t worry, he or she wasn’t using it on her face. Why so much hate for one seemingly harmless little exfoliant? Well, first of all, it may not be so harmless, according to Reddit:

My dermatologist says that no one should use it. The issue is that, even if it may seem to help, you are also simultaneously ripping your face up on a micro level. This leaves room for dirt and bacteria to get into these tiny rips, and you end up with bigger problems down the line. —Reddit user heartshapesANDninjas

The apricot scrub has tiny, jagged, uneven pieces of walnut in it that cause micro tears in the skin, which can lead to infections. You may as well go and rub gravel or crushed glass on your face. Other sites also recommend lemon juice and baking soda, but those are also horrible for your skin. People generally don’t know what they’re doing in terms of skin care. —Reddit user ISwearImAGirl

The tiny pieces of walnut or apricot that tear your skin theory is one that pops up all over the place. (It even got name-dropped in a fake Ask Me Anything and a bit of SkincareAddiction fan fiction that I am having trouble comprehending. You tiny-pored maniacs, of course you have your own fan fic!) Also, there’s the idea that physical exfoliation in general is for n00bs:

My understanding is that on this sub we don’t really recommend physical exfoliation much at all. Chemical exfoliation is much preferred. —Reddit user cmcgovern1990

Again, no idea if this is true and will actually improve your skin! Once, someone asked for “clear evidence of St. Ives Apricot Scrub being so terrible for your skin,” and you can read through all the scientific mumbo-jumbo, but it seems like your mileage may vary. Sometimes Redditors from the other side of the St. Ives divide come and try to defend it. For all we know, the microtears thing could be very well be made up by one Redditrix with a random vendetta against St. Ives. But even so, it is a worldview lots of people buy into:

It completely ruined my skin 3 years ago. I got a bacterial infection because I used it. From perfect skin to constant folliculitus and break outs.. I wish I can go back in time :( I’m still suffering from pustules and constantly inflamed skin. —Reddit user plantshit

In response to a post called “[cringe] Friend uses St Ives to remove makeup,” a chorus of Redditors spoke up:

Her skin is going to fall of and she’s gonna die [sic] —Reddit user ZKXX

It’s far too rough for the face, (the eyes don’t bear thinking about)!! I sometimes use it as a back scrub, but that’s all. You’ve tried to help her, that’s all you can do, the rest is up to her, but no amount of “medicine ” will help if she treats her skin so badly. —Reddit user missblonde

friends don’t let friends give themselves micro-abrasions every single night! —Reddit user alishaha

A lot of these threads are a few years old, but that doesn’t make them any less funny. It just means that Reddit has been hating on St. Ives Apricot Scrub for years now, with no sign of stopping. Now, to be fair, the skincare addicts have no problem with people using the scrub elsewhere on their bodies. Your face may be too sensitive for it, but it’s perfectly acceptable to use on your butt!

I used to use St Ives everyday, and had awful and painful acne on my jawline. I stopped using it and the acne went away. I started using the St Ives to exfoliate my legs and buttocks. Awesome for asscheeks, bad for face cheeks.

In addition, why not try it on your disgusting feet? “I was about to rage so hard when I clicked on this thread,” one Redditor admitted when he or she came across a rave for St. Ives—before seeing it was being recommended only as a foot scrub. Fine for feet, legs, butts, all nonsensitive body parts that you don’t care about repeatedly microtearing; just keep it far away from your precious visage.

By the way, don’t take this as a recommendation to try cleaners containing so-called microbeads, unless you want to aid in destroying the ocean.

Also!! Don’t buy the “microbead” scrubs with tiny plastic beads, they’re ending up in lakes and rivers and polluting everything.

Skincare is serious business, people. And wow, I hope no one on SkincareAddiction ever has a run-in with /r/Popping. Things could get ugly.