Grainy stuff in soap/cleansers - do they actually do anything?

I’ve noticed that all kinds of soaps and cleansers now are full of those little granules that make you feel like you’re washing with sand. Twenty years ago that stuff was only in women’s face cleansers. Now, they’re in everything, including in products marketed specifically to men, like the bottle of liquid body soap I’m using now. I can’t believe that they actually are doing anything besides making me feel like I’ve been to the beach and haven’t gotten all the sand off.

Do they actually do anything or is it just marketing hocus-pocus?

And Lava soap, with pumice.

They do exactly what you think they do: They’re abrasives.

To what end? If you’re really trying to abrade something, you’d need a lot more abrasive, like sandpaper. What is a few dozen grains in two tablespoons of soap capable of doing to any effective end?

Exfoliate - removing excess dead skin. Smooths the surface. You wouldn’t want something as abrasive as sandpaper, ferfuckssake.

True, although I’m not sure why exfoliation has come into such high fashion in the last decade or so. Your skin pretty much knows how to take care of itself and doesn’t really require exfoliation to be healthy, although I think dermabrasion has been used as a medical treatment for acne. I think exfoliation is pushed by spas, and falls into a similar category as colon-cleansing treatments.

But a loofah or washcloth, maybe or other mild abrading material that has the ability to actually rub against some defined area of your skin. I don’t believe a few granules floating around for a second or two and then washed away would get much of anything off.

Well, in my experience they do, especially with substances like oil or paint that:
(1) adhere well to the skin, and
(2) are not easily soluble in water, even with soap/detergent added.

Removing dead skin. And you’d be surprised what even a small quantity of abrasive particles can do in a tribological fluid.


Exfoliation helps avoid clogged pores, which is nice if you have blackheads or acne. It also makes the skin look a little more fresh and thus “younger.”

I prefer stuff like BHA (salicylic acid) in small concentrations, rather than physical abrasion, because the latter can cause irritation by roughing up the skin and causing tiny scratches beyond the outer dead bits of skin.

The pumice they use in such products does help slightly with heavy grease from the car. I avoid using it because I don’t want that abrasive on my hand or the rag in case I’m working with a bearing or something and it contaminates it. This is my personal issue where I feel better with less risk.

It may be via some method other than abrasion - Zep TKO uses round plastic micro-beads and cleans better than any abrasive cleaner I’ve used.

I’m not sure of the efficacy in bath soap (unless you’re a mechanic or skilled tradesman), but in hand cleaner, after dirty jobs, that stuff works wonders.

When your hands are all over engine grease, Lava soap is the only thing. But it kinda sucks in the shower.

In my experience, after working on anythign greasy, like cars or motorcycles or lawn equipment, Lava or GoJo soap-- with the little granules in it --works much better than any other hand soaps or even dishwashing soap (which is also formulated to break down grease). I can get my hands cleaner with some GoJo and paper towels in 2 minutes than 10 minutes of washing and rewashing and rewashing with any other kind of hand soap. And because I dont wash several times, it doesn’t leave my hands quite as devoid of their own natural oil, either.