Is MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator The Best Scrub Ever?

mac volcanic ash exfoliator

MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator achieved cult status as soon as it was released, all the way back in 2008. I was very eager to get my hands on it too, but, because back then it was limited edition, I was never able to. It always sold out too quickly! And when it finally joined the permanent range, I always put off buying it.

There isn’t a MAC counter near me, and I didn’t feel like purchasing it online, and paying P&P for just one product. Sure, I could get something else, but it’s been ages since a MAC collection has caught my eye. So, I waited. And waited. And waited some more.

And then I tired of it. It was time to either buy it or forget about it. So, to help me make a choice, I took a look at the ingredients to see what makes this stuff so awesome, and if it is really worth the hype. And when I did, I was glad I hadn’t made the splurge yet. Here’s why.

What MAC says

A highly effective, dual-purpose foaming, cleansing and exfoliating scrub blending natural Volcanic Ash with fine sugar crystals. Refines and unclogs the skin, adds instant moisture: leaves skin feeling soft and comfortably clean. Mineral-rich. May be used effectively on any part of face or body.

Full Ingredient List

Sucrose, Lauramidopropyl Betaine, Methyl Gluceth-20, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Volcanic Ash, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Silica, Ethylhexylglycerin, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Disodium Coco-Glucoside Sulfosuccinate, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Fragrance (Parfum), Phenoxyethanol, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499).

Ingredient Analysis

volcanic ash

Volcanic Ash

Volcanic Ash is touted to be a miracle ingredient that does everything, from stimulating collagen production to absorbing excess oil and drawing out toxins and impurities hidden in the pores. According to its fans, its beneficial properties are due to the high number of mineral compounds, such as magnesium, silica, and iron, it contains. The problem is, though, that there are no studies confirming that volcanic ash has any benefits for the skin whatsoever. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have any.

But if it does, which of the many compounds in it are responsible for them? What concentrations of these substances should volcanic ash contain, and how big should their particles be, to be effective? We don’t know yet. That’s why volcanic ash, despite giving its name to the scrub, is not its active ingredient. Hey, it’s not even what gives it its colour! Volcanic ash isn’t always black! Instead, MAC added some black pigments to the formula to give it that dark colour that just stains everything it touches.



So, if Volcanic Ash isn’t the active ingredient, what makes this stuff work so well? Sucrose. That’s just sugar. As you massage it gently on the skin, it removes the dead skin cells on the surface, exposing the brighter and smoother skin underneath. Because sugar particles are round, they are usually gentler than other types of natural particles such as apricot grains or salts, making them a better choice for people with sensitive skin.

Final considerations on the formula

MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator is a sugar-based scrub with a nice fragrance and a few pigments to give it its black colour. The formula also contains a few emollients and humectants to bind the ingredients together. It feels quite gritty, which is due to the high sugar and silica content, so use it gently, and make sure you wet your skin beforehand.


MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator is available at Macy’s and Nordstrom. A 100ml tube will set you back $28.00.

The Bottom Line

MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator is just an expensive and hyped-up sugar scrub. If it works well for you, and you don’t mind paying so much for a simple formula with a fancy ingredient whose benefits haven’t been scientifically proven yet, keep using it. But you can get pretty much the same results with any well-formulated, even homemade, sugar scrubs. Or, better yet, stick to a chemical exfoliant with Glycolic Acid or Salicylic Acid. The provide more precise results, and are even gentler on the skin.

Have you tried MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator? If so, what did you think of it?

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  1. says

    I’ve used up two bottles of this already and I have a third stashed away. It’s definitely my Holy Grail exfoliator! What I’ve found is that when you massage it, the sugar melts in a few minutes and you’re left massaging a creamy gray paste on the skin. This means there’s much less risk of over-exfoliating because the abrasive material (the sugar) melts away!
    patuxxa´s last blog post ..Março numa dúzia de imagensMy Profile

    • Gio says

      Patuxxa, thanks for the tip! That’s very helpful. I believe this is a great sugar scrub, just overpriced. I also wish that MAC marketed it as what it is, a sugar scrub, rather than focusing on a fancy ingredient that does nothing. Still, they must have formulated really well if so many people, like you, love it so much. :)

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