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A dermatologist weighs in on whether it's safe to keep using the beloved scrub.

Anthea Levi
January 04, 2017

If you are a devotee of St. Ives Apricot Scrub, you may be wondering if you should switch to another face wash now that it's the subject of a class action lawsuit.

Many people love the old-school scrub (it's been around for nearly three decades) for its ability to slough off dead skin cells, and create a deep-clean feel. But two plaintiffs are suing the product's parent company, Unilever United States Inc., claiming that the scrub's exfoliating ingredients, including crushed walnut shells, are too abrasive and can actually damage skin, Top Class Actions reports.

That seems hard to believe considering the scrub's loyal following. But it's possible that some people may experience irritation, says Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City.

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“The problem with walnut scrubs is that the scrubbing beads have rough edges, which can cause micro-tears in the skin, lead to damage, and inflame comedones,” she explained in an email to Health. (Comedones are the technical term for blackheads.) But a walnut scrub is more likely to cause trouble for people who tend to get blackheads, or have inflamed or sensitive skin. Some people may not experience any adverse effects at all.

The current lawsuit also asserts that the St. Ives scrub isn't really non-comedogenic, as it claims to be. But Dr. Jaliman said that claim doesn't make any sense: “This scrub doesn’t have comedogenic ingredients, meaning it’s specially formulated so it doesn’t clog pores and is best for people who are acne-prone.”

The bottom line: “If you’ve been using the product and haven’t had a problem with it, then there’s no need to stop using it,” Dr. Jaliman said. But you may want to cut back if you wash with it every day: "These types of scrubs should be used once or twice a week in moderation, which is about how long it takes your skin to turn over."