St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub May Be Harmful To You

St Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub skin care

I have some bad news to share about the beloved St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub.  This scrub has been on my list of favorites for many years but I have learned it is a product that contains toxic ingredients and can be damaging to our skin.

I spend a lot of time researching ingredients for skin care and I came across some information in a book called “The French Beauty Solution” by Mathilde Thomas, the founder of Caudalie.  In her book, apricot pits were indicated as one of the worst products for our skin.  Immediately, I thought of my St. Ives scrub and this prompted me to further research the ingredients in the product.  What I found was not good.  As a matter of fact, I threw the tube I had in my shower into the trash before writing this post.

St Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub bad
Into the trash!

Apricot pits and other ground pits or shells are found in many exfoliation products because they are course.  When used as a scrub, there is a sensation that the skin is being well exfoliated.  However, the effectiveness of exfoliation is not measured by how hard you have scrubbed.  As a matter of fact, abrasive products can cause irritation and a loss of hydration.  If you have experienced breakouts when using abrasive exfoliators such as the Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub, the product has possibly made you prone to breakouts due to microscopic tears in the skin from the abrasion.  I always felt my skin was really soft after using the St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub.  According to the St. Ives website, as of April 2015 this product was the number one scrub in America.  It’s certainly inexpensive and that probably should be a big red flag.

St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub Ingredients

Let’s take a look at the ingredients in the St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub (obtained from the St. Ives website):

Key ingredients St. Ives has indicated: Apricot, Corn Kernel Meal, and Walnut

The comprehensive lists of ingredients:


Concerning Information Obtained About Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub Ingredients

The most concerning information I came across is the rating this product has in the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.  EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting the environment and human health.  The EWG has been conducting and publishing research for over twenty years. Their site is an excellent resource to check when you want to take a deep dive look into the ingredients and safety of specific cosmetics and products.  St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub is rated a 6 out of 10 for overall hazard.  This indicates ingredients used are a moderate hazard.  The product received a rating of 6+ for use restrictions, allergies, and and immunotoxicity.  I’ve highlighted some ingredients in red that are indicated to have warnings according to EWG.

The fragrances used in the Apricot Scrub may lead to endocrine disruption, organ toxicity, allergies and contact dermatitis.  (WOW, not good, right?)  The synthetic fragrance Lilial is of particular concern.  Methylisothiazolinone is a preservative used in the Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub.  Animal testing suggests this preservative may be neurotoxic.  In other words, it may damage brain cells!  It’s a widely used preservative and has been associated with allergic reactions as well.  These are just a couple of the synthetic ingredients St. Ives has listed as ingredients.  There a several more that are indicated to potentially cause organ toxicity.  If that’s enough to look for something else, keep reading.

The second most concentrated ingredient in Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub is Juglans Regia (Walnut) Shell Powder.  While EWG has rated the walnut shell powder as safe, they also indicated they had limited data on the ingredient.  According to Paula’s Choice Cosmetic Ingredient Directory, walnut shell powder is not preferred in scrubs because it’s impossible to make walnut shell particles smooth.  The sharp edges can cause microscopic scrapes and tears in skin, damaging the skin barrier.  This also makes the skin prone to bacteria which exacerbates black heads and acne.

St Ives Apricot Scrub is harmful
Close up of product – Observe rough texture


St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub is cheap, it smells good, and it feels like it’s really doing something.   However, when taking a closer look, it’s full of chemicals that can cause damage to humans.  These ingredients are highlighted in blue in the ingredient list above.  The gravel feel that I previously mistook for being an effective exfoliator was actually scratching and aggravating my skin.  So, yes, it was certainly doing something just not something desirable.

When looking at the benefits St. Ives lists on their website, one thing they don’t indicate is that the product is non-comedogenic.  That’s because it isn’t.  More great news, right?  The Glyceryl Stearate SE, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol, Ceteareth-20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, and Cetyl Acetate are some but not all the comedogenic ingredients.  This scrub is compounded with pore clogging ingredients.  Even one of the key ingredients indicated by the brand, Zea Mays (Corn) Kernel Meal, is an abrasive that is both comedogenic and considered to be a skin irritant.

Check Out The St. Ives Website

While perusing the St. Ives website, I found it to be misleading.  The company implies the products are natural but only specific ingredients are and as you can see from the ingredients list, that is not many!  Their natural claims are carefully worded.  The synthetic ingredients and chemicals outweigh anything that is natural and admirable in the product.  The apricot fruit extract where the product gets it’s name, is the last ingredient in the list.  I wonder how much is even in the product since what we actually smell are toxic synthetic fragrances.  Better exfoliators dissolve dead skin or gently slough it away as opposed to harshly scrubbing it away.   I am currently testing an all natural product from one of my favorite lines Repechage.  Interestingly, the Repechage product was specifically developed because people over exfoliate and scrub with harsh products leading to skin damage.  It’s just a coincidence I happen to get the product a few weeks ago.  I’m so glad I did as you can see where my St. Ives product has now landed.  Right in the garbage.

St. Ives Apricot Scrub toxic and bad
My scrub is on it’s way out!

I’ll be sharing details on the Repechage product in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, please think twice if you are one of the many users of the St. Ives Fresh Skin Scrub.  There are many other products on the market that are safer, more effective, and healthy for your skin.

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30 thoughts on “St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub May Be Harmful To You

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  2. I have used this product off and on most of my life. I am 48 and about 3 years ago I began using the product daily and sometimes twice daily to “help with some scars that I have on my back and shoulders”. I was using it so often that the walnut shells and other course particles began to build up under my skin and initially I was unaware until I had incredible pain and inflammation. I was in so much discomfort that I would soak in a bath for an hour or more until one evening I began to rub my neck and upper back and my skin split about a half inch and what appeared to be the same particles and a clear fluid literally poured from the openings. It was very disturbing releasing this from my swollen neck and back and shoulders but it also relieved the pressure and the burning and poking sensation once most of it was gone from my body. I believe that even as sick as this product is making me it has become somewhat of an obsession to continue using it. In fact, I am having the worst swelling and breakout that I have ever experienced and that is what led me to search the internet for information and how I found your website. I am very concerned with how poorly I am feeling and the scrub and inflammation actually extruded from three openings on my back as well as one at the top of my spine at the base of my hairline and both armpits and one on each side of my neck. I tried to discuss this issue a year ago with a doctor but she didn’t quite believe me as I was asymptomatic at the time. I have an appointment with a doctor that I trust and will see her tomorrow. I am going to make every effort to remove this product from my life beginning now.

    1. OMG, that’s awful. I’m so sorry that happened to you. There is actually a class action lawsuit that was filed but more recently dismissed in court.

      There are a lot of wonderful scrubs out there if you like using a scrub for your skin. After you see your doctor, maybe he or she can recommend something. If you are looking for something affordable, I like the DermaE line. Also, NOW Foods has a natural beauty line and they may have a scrub. And of course, it’s really fun to make your own using salt or sugar and different essential oils.

      I hope everything clears up for you quickly and you are feeling. My family stopped using the St Ives product several years ago.

  3. I have been very blessed all my life with pretty great skin (all genetics). Last week I used the equivalent of St Ives scrub on my face and I now have a huge breakout/rash all over my chin and right cheek. Any suggestions on how to treat? Do you know if others who have had this reaction have had long lasting issues from one use? I am hoping just never using again anf returning to my regular regime will clear it up permanently, but so worried I have ruined my skin for life!

    1. This sounds just awful. This scrub has been problematic and I think there are few dupes out there that are made the same way. You could have a few different things going on so I would see a dermatologist and have them take a look at your skin. Those walnut shells in the formula cause tiny abrasions which can get bacteria in there and a break out that a topical antibiotic might clear up. But you could have had an allergic reaction and maybe need something else. I haven’t heard of anyone having any long lasting issues from any cosmetic product that didn’t agree with their skin. So, I don’t think you need to worry about that. Lots of people try even the highest end products and can get a rash or a breakout. It clears up. But you can get rid of it faster by having a doctor take a look and confirm what it is. In the meantime, you could just gently wash your skin with something super mild like Cetaphil and I don’t think it would hurt to put a little over the counter hydrocortisone cream on it.

      If you don’t have time to go the doctor, try Doctor on Demand. It’s an app and you can see the doctor on line. They take most insurance plans but even without insurance, it’s not much for a visit (maybe 65.00?) with my insurance as i use it often it’s like 4.00 and you can get to a U.S. based MD within the hour.

      1. Thank you SO much. This was so helpful and comforting! I’ve never reacted to anything like this before so it was a bit shocking! I”m a lifetime lover of cetaphyl and have just been using that and using my regular moisturizer with SPF. Hoping to just gently coax my skin back to normal – will try the OTC hydrocortisone too! And if it doesn’t clear up by next week will make an appt with the derm.

        1. I can’t totally understand – it would freak anyone out! But don’t obsess, it should definitely clear up and if not, a dermatologist will come to the rescue! =)

  4. I haven’t used this product, but I think I should be more careful in the selection and use the same products. Thanks your good review

  5. I thought I finally found my dream product but I started breaking out shortly after using this product as well. I was fooled by the label and tossed it out. You just confirmed everything I was feeling about this product.

    1. I had been using it for years (like 20) and I was horrified when I found out what was in it – which is basically chemicals and some stuff to literally shred your skin. I was shocked, disappointed…. pissed… There are some very nice products on the market that are not expensive and even better, you can make some simple DIY exfoliators that are very cheap. I really love the exfoliator from Farmacy. Maybe you can get a sample and try it. Very natural, gentle, but effective!

  6. Wow!! I just got this in one of my beauty subs. I was excited to try it until now!!! Glad I never got around to it. Thanks for the info!!!

  7. So glad you wrote this post! I’ve used this several times in the past few years, as has my mom! Love you skincare blogs!! 🙂

    1. My mom uses it and I think my sister does too! I have bought lots of products but I’ve always keep this one in my shower and I’d use it. I was heart broken when I really paid attention to what was in it. I hope the information was helpful to you. I’m thrilled you enjoy the posts! Thank you so much! =)
      Have a great weekend!

  8. Thanks for letting us know about this! Very informative. I have used this scrub before – a long time ago. I still know people who use it & will send them to this post. Everyone should be warned. The EWG website is great. I am definitely interested in healthier, safer ingredients in my cosmetics and beauty products. If I sat down and went through the list of all ingredients I use on my face, it would probably be in the hundreds. Scary to think some of them might be toxic.

    1. I was so happy to find EWG and at first, I thought Paula’s Choice was biased but I realized they were not and also a good source. Considering this product is the number 1 seller in it’s category means a lot of people use it and have no idea it is mainly crap in the product. It’s cheap and it’s been around forever but I think people are becoming more aware of these types of issues with products. This one is particularly bad though. I had a hard time finding anything of value in the product. I look at a lot of products, even cheap ones, and I don’t usually see anything this bad. This one was a shocker especially because it was in my shower!!! OMG!

  9. Yes the walnut shell powder isn’t good either. It’s because they’re not regularly shaped but jagged bits that, like you said, causes micro-tears on the skin. I used to use this years ago but I was instructed by my aesthetician not to use abrasive scrubs because I have “thin skin”. Since then I stick with chemical exfoliation or if I do any manual / physical scrubs, I make sure they’re very gentle.

    1. And I was scrubbing away in my shower with this stuff.. Now it’s been taken out to the trash where it belongs! I have so many beautiful products but I’ve always bought this one and kept it around because I used it like 20 years ago! The smell would remind me of all sorts of things but I had to break up with it forever!

  10. I stopped using St Ives years ago. I was going through hormonal changes after stopping breastfeeding my first child and my skin was a mess. I went on the Proactiv system (stopped using that too) and in the info book they give with your first kit they explained how rough exfoliaters damage skin leaving it prone to breakouts. It makes total sense when you think about it. It’s like using sand paper on your face..ouch!

    1. Yes, and this one in particular has the sharp edges from the walnut shells. I was shocked at the toxicity levels of the fragrances used as well. A real eye opener.

  11. Aha! I’ve noticed that I sometimes break out after using this, but I always thought it was my foundation! Yikes. =( Thanks for the heads up… I’ll be sticking with sugar, olive oil, and honey in a pinch.

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