Along with the Volcanic Thermal Mask, the MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator ($28/3.4 oz) has received astronomical or should I say VOLCANIC levels of rave from a lot of people. Well, I’m not one of them. And the main reason as to why I haven’t reviewed these products is because until a few months ago, they were limited edition, which is probably the most ridiculous concept when it comes to skin care… But, I do understand the financial motivations behind such troll-like decisions.
I’ve never possessed much faith in the “healing powers of volcanic ash.” Should you?
The Basic Formulation
The product itself is a somewhat gritty paste. The high sugar (and to an extent the volcanic ash and silica) contents are responsible for the gritty texture, which is what manually exfoliates the skin. The binding agents of these minerals include several emollients and humectants that provide a sufficiently-strong matrix in which these minerals can be suspended. To add a few cherries on top, a dash of fragrance and three mineral pigments were included to the formulation. The vehicle type is common throughout the market, except that it doesn’t contain water. Therefore, be sure to wet the skin before application. And if necessary, continue mixing water into the product so as to not stretch the skin.
Overall, this is basically an expensive sugar scrub. You’ll get similar results mixing sugar with olive oil. Still, it has its proponents who claim that this product is simply, the best. According to them, “You may get similar, but not identical results. The secret lies within the volcanic ash.”
Let’s see if that’s true.
Volcanic Ash Research and Discussion
The idea that volcanic ash is hugely beneficial for the skin comes from the belief that it contains dozens of minerals that help the skin in a myriad of ways. Whether it’s absorbing excess oil, drawing out “impurities,” or stimulating collagen production, people genuinely believe that volcanic ash is magical. I mean, it comes from the very earth onto which we are born. You know, that New Age stuff.
But the defining characteristic of our history has always been our intelligence and ability to reason. So let’s look at the facts.
Yes, volcanic ash does in fact contain dozens of mineral compounds, and are smaller than 2 mm. And because it is basically fragmented magma, it would make sense that the two has similar mineral compositions. Magma contains high amounts of silica, iron, magnesium, and many others elements. A total of fifty-five different ionic compounds have been discovered in volcanic ash. But does this have any relevance to skin care?
Well maybe, but not in a way that affects normal people. This lone study done in Africa, suggests that volcanic ash can increase the risks of classic Kaposi’s Sarcoma (cKS), which is caused by the HHV8 virus) by either bathing in volcanic ash-rich water or drinking said water. However, while the results did indicate an increase in risk, they were not statistically significant. Due to so many other potentially affecting factors, it seems logical to conclude that volcanic ash has no detrimental effect on the skin. However, if you have some type of serious skin condition, it’s probably best to avoid using this product (for more than this reason).
In terms of volcanic ash having a beneficial effect on the skin, if any exist, it isn’t documented. And that makes sense since it is comprised of so many different types of minerals. Even if volcanic ash turns out to be some magical ingredient, it’d be difficult to pinpoint which mineral is responsible. Furthermore, what about where it came from? Does particle size matter? What about crystallization tendencies? The unknowns go on and on.
MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator Overview
But as it turns out, volcanic ash is simply another fad; another lie that marketing teams spin to the masses. In fact, volcanic ash isn’t even always black! Why do you think the manufacturers added black pigments? It’s to darken and intensify the depth in color: just another lie. The workhorse here is the sugar content, which is the first ingredient. But like I said before, you’ll get similar results by mixing some type of non-fragrant plant oil with sugar.
But if you intend on using pricey scrubs to satisfy your exfoliation requirements, go right on ahead. And while I don’t use any kind of grainy scrub in my regular routine, of the ones I’ve tried, which include this one, the Laura Mercier Face Polish is my favorite by far. The round plastic beads are very fine, and the texture is pliable, but not overly thin. This allows the product to smooth over the skin with ease. And the smell is also wonderfully light and pleasant. I’d definitely recommend this over the MAC one.
Have you tried the Volcanic Ash Exfoliator or corresponding Thermal Mask? Feel free to share your experiences.
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).