Spa Pre-Treatments: Scrubs and Exfoliators July 28, 2016

EuropeSpa Blog: Spa Pre-Treatments: Scrubs and Exfoliators

Often we find numerous ‘Pre-Treatments’ on Spa Menus. But do we really know what they are? Or how exactly they contribute to the effectiveness of the following treatments?

The secret of pre-treatments is quite simple: they prepare the skin and body for the upcoming treatment so that it can be more efficient. Some spas offer so-called “warm-up treatments”, e.g. Vichy showers combined with scrubs; others use dry scrubs and wash it off with steamed towels. Some offer standalone exfoliators or a combination with seaweed wraps as well as scrubs with a massage. The universal importance of pre-treatments is that they definitely result in a much younger, more beautiful and healthier skin. There is some interesting evidence, by the way, that our body needs more exfoliating than our face does. Not just because there is more skin but also because the body drops dead cells faster. If you do not exfoliate regularly dead skin cells might remain on the skin’s surface and not just clog its pores but block moisture from reaching deeper levels.

In this post we will focus on scrubs and exfoliators because of this simple fact:

All scrubs are exfoliators, but not all exfoliators are scrubs…


Why use exfoliator as pre-treatment in spas or at home?

For our wellbeing and a healthy appearance we must take care of our skin, too. Exfoliating is a cosmetic process where dead skin cells of the top layer of the skin are removed. It is applied right before a spa treatment as it prepares the skin for wraps, masks, creams, and massages.

Scrubs and exfoliators do not only serve a beauty aspect but also support the inner structure of the skin; therefore they balance the body.

They also

  • Cleanse the pores and prepare the skin for the treatments
  • Help the skin in its natural cleansing process
  • Make the skin radiant, glowing and healthy
  • Improve circulation
  • Result in smoother, softer touch
  • Prepare the skin for moisturizing
  • Improve the texture of the skin
  • Help active agents and essential oils to penetrate easier into the blood stream
  • Stimulate the lymphatic system (mainly in case of brushes)
  • Help eliminate dry skin
  • Make skin look younger
  • Tone the skin
  • Help prevent breakouts
  • Reduce dark spots and aging signs
  • Make the hair removal process easier
  • Reduce stress
  • Refresh
  • Support tanning to last longer
  • Beneficial for pigmented skin
  • Promote general wellbeing
  • Feel good!


Types of scrubs and exfoliators:

There are several exfoliators/peelings available and they offer a wide range of possibilities. Generally, physical exfoliators are more commonly used on the body, while chemical ones are used on face and décolleté.


1.)   Physical

  • Salt scrub: The most widely used body peeling. Especially sea salt or dead-sea salt is applied. Frequently salt crystals are combined with essential oils, which leave the skin smooth and fragrant.
  • Sugar scrub: It is not as rough as salt crystals but it has almost the same exfoliating effect. Sugar does not mineralize during the treatment as salt does but on the other hand it contains AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acids), which support the cleansing process.
  • Brossage: A very gentle body polish using salicylic salt and brushes to fine-tune the skin.
  • Herbal powder/scrub: Uses dry or wet herb powder, typical for Ayurveda treatments.
  • Loofah: It’s a natural sponge that can be used on its own or mixed with salt or sugar scrubs.
  • Crushed, grained nuts shells, coffees: Used for scrubs.
  • Exfoliating gloves/brushes: Popular at home as it is very easy to use. Highly stimulates circulation.
  • Javanese Lulur: Body scrub and skin polishing treatment, which uses a mix of spices, herbs, and plants.
  • Boreh: Ancient Balinese mask prepared from spices and herbs, rice powder, nuts, peppers and curcuma and applied to warm up the body.


2.)   Chemical

Chemical exfoliators, which are primarily used before face and décolleté treatments, include low percentage of gentle acids to get rid off skin impurities and make way for new skin cells. They can be cleansers, tonics, serums and peelings. Recently, chemical pre-treatments have become more popular than traditional scrubs as they are said to be safer for sensitive skins.

  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA): excellent for pigmented, aging or sun-damaged skin.
  • Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA): commonly used for acne and problematic skin as it has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Enzymes: They have the ability to digest the protein-based dead skin cells. As they have bioactive components (most of them are extracted from Papaya, Pineapple or Pumpkin) compared to scrubs and other chemical exfoliators enzymes are very gentle to sensitive skin.


3.)   Microdermabrasion

Applied mainly before face and décolleté treatments but can also be a self-sufficing treatment. It uses exfoliating crystals and is extremely helpful and efficient for dark spots, sun damaged skin, acne spots and scars. It refreshes the skin by removing the outer layer, which results in a younger and significantly radiant look. Microdermabrasion is also quite popular for its ant-aging effects.



As all other spa treatments, scrubs and exfoliators also have their specific rules how to apply and when not to apply them to avoid harm and damage:

  • Sunburn
  • Eczema
  • Inflammatory skin
  • Sensitive skin with break-outs
  • Cuts, abrasions
  • Allergy to ingredients used (Nuts, seeds, aromas…)
  • Thin skin (Use only mild products)
  • After shaving (Avoid exfoliation with salt)

Please also note: Do not use mechanical and chemical exfoliation at the same time!



The process of exfoliation increases circulation and removal of toxins from the skin. This is why you should drink plenty of water after these pre-treatments, which will support the new skin cells to come through. Also apply moisturizer to hydrate the skin and avoid sunbathing for upcoming 24 hours. To be on the safe side, before using an exfoliator, always read the warnings and the detailed list of ingredients of the given product.


Photo credit: © SPA VILNIUS Druskininkai

Written by

Anett Wellesz

Anett Wellesz, has been a Certified EuropeSpa Consultant since May 2015. She has over 15 years of experience in marketing, branding and hospitality. Graduated as an Economist she holds a Spa Management degree from the prestigious University of California Irvine. Anett, parallel to her operation, as a Head of Marketing Read More