review mac volcanic ash exfoliator

Remember how hard it was to get your hands on MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator?

This scrub achieved cult status so soon, it was sold out in a matter of hours every time it was released! WTH was so special about it?

Hype. That sells more skincare products than good ingredients. *Sighs*

These days, getting your hands on this scrub has become a lot easier (MAC got the hint and added it to the permanent collection).

But that doesn’t mean you should head out to your nearest store and fork out $33.00 for a bunch of ash and sugar.

Yep, there’s not much else here….

What’s In Mac Volcanic Ash Exfoliator?


Here comes the hype part…

Volcanic ash is one of those magical powders brands swear can do anything. Boost collagen. Absorb excess oil. Draw out toxins from your pores. Take 10 years off your face. Make you tea.

The truth?

Volcanic ash is high in minerals, such as magnesium, silica and iron. Silica, for example, is a good oil-absorber. But that’s pretty much it.

Underwhelming, isn’t it?

And to add insult to injury, volcanic ash isn’t even black! MAC just added a black pigment to give MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator a dark colour that makes you think of volcanoes (and stains everything it touches). 🙄


Volcanic Ash may get all the glory, but it’s sugar that does the exfoliating job. Sucrose, to be exact.

As you massage it, sugar gently removes the dead cells on the surface of your skin, making it smoother and brighter.

If you’ve read this blog for a while you know that I prefer chemical exfoliation to scrubs. But if you’re a fan of scrubs, go for the sugar ones like MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator.

While apricot kernels and salt have jagged edges, sugar particles are round so they don’t scratch the skin. Having said that, there’s so much sugar here that the texture feels gritty so be gentle with it!

Related: Why I Ditched Scrubs For Chemical Exfoliants


Gritty. Blame it on the sugar. It doesn’t make everything sweet…


Rich and earthy, not too herbal. Kinda like you’d expect volcanic ash to smell (minus rotting sulfur… phew!).

How To Use It

After cleansing, massage a small amount of product onto moist skin. Rinse off with lukewarm water. Don’t use more than 3 times a week.

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Performance & Personal Opinion

MAC Volcanic Ash feels like thick, granulated goop. It spreads ok, but doesn’t glide on as smoothly as I like. Frankly, I just hate anything slightly gritty on my face…

But how does it work? A little too well. It does a great job at removing dead cells off my skin, leaving it softer and… a bit red.

Redness is a sign the scrub is a little too harsh for my skin type. Or that I simply used too much product. The less you use, the better.

But you can say that for any scrub. If you use too much product or exfoliate a minute too long, you may remove more dead cells than you should and end up in Irritation Town.

Bottom line: use this only if you have very resistant skin that’s not upset by scrubs.

mac volcanic ash exfoliator a review

Who Is This For?

Personally, I don’t recommend scrubs to anyone. Get yourself a chemical exfoliant, ladies! But if you really can’t do without a scrub, this is most suitable for combination, resistant skin.

Who Is This Not For?

Again, I don’t recommend this to anyone. But you MUST stay away from it if you have sensitive or dry skin.


MAC Volcanic Ash comes in a dark, blackish tube that reminds you of Volcanic Ash. It’s hygienic, too.

Does MAC Volcanic Ash Lives Up To Its Claims?

Highly effective, the mineral-rich, concentrated formula foams on to refine and unclog the skin and add instant moisture, leaving skin feeling soft and comfortably clean.It’s not moisturising and doesn’t unclog pores as well as salicylic acid.
Exfoliates skin.True.
Controls oil.It helps a little with this.
For all skin types.Absolutely NOT! Do not use it if you have dry or sensitive skin.

Price & Availability

$31.00/£23.00 at Asos, Nordstrom and Selfridges

Do You Need It?

No. Enough said.

Dupes & Alternatives

Have you tried MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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)