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Talk to any dermatologist out there and we guarantee they’ll sing the praises of regular exfoliation. The relatively simple skincare step makes a massive difference, removing the dead, dry skin cells that can not only leave your complexion looking dull and lackluster, but also clog pores. No, gracias.
When it comes to your exfoliating technique, sure, you could opt for a separate product and figure out a way to work it into your (likely already very extensive) daily or weekly routine. But there’s also a much easier way to reap the benefits on the reg. Enter the beauty of exfoliating cleansers, which both wash off dirt, oil, and makeup and also exfoliate simultaneously. They’re also gentle enough that they can be used daily, making exfoliating truly a no-brainer and easier than ever.
Whether you prefer a more scrub-like formula that sloughs off dead skin, or one that dissolves it using enzymes and acids, there’s something out there for everyone—and every skin type.
Take your pick from any of the best exfoliating face washes we can’t get enough of.
Best Overall: Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser
This standout uses apricot microspheres, kind of like that beloved apricot scrub from your teen years, but way better and gentler. They buff off dead skin cells, while a naturally-derived beta-hydroxy acid that comes from willow bark extract degunks pores. Couple that with an added moisturizing olive oil complex, and you’ve got yourself a formula that truly works on all skin types, a sentiment repeated by happy reviewers. Not to mention that the formula is also 100 natural and the packaging is recyclable.
Best Budget: Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser
With both gentle scrubbers and a potent combo of glycolic and salicylic acids, this would be a great product in and of itself…the fact that it rings in at such an affordable price point is just the icing on the cake. It’s also non-comedogenic and soap-free, choice for those who worry about cleansers drying out or stripping their skin.
Best Natural: Juice Beauty Exfoliating Cleanser
You won’t find any questionable, hard-to-pronounce chemical ingredients in here, just a long list of skin-loving, certified organic goodies. Jojoba beads (which dissolve completely and don’t have the same negative impact as synthetic microbeads, FYI) polish skin, while pineapple fruit acid dissolves and dislodges any leftover gunk or grime. Fans also rave about the pleasant, though not overpowering, scent.
Best Chemical Exfoliant: Holifrog Shasta AHA Refining Acid Wash
If you prefer to steer clear of scrubs and like acid- or enzyme-based exfoliation instead, this is your guy. From the new brand already getting crazy buzz all over the Internet, this option uses three different types of acids to clear away dull skin and pore-clogging gunk. The addition of two different oils work to combat the likelihood of irritation or dryness, and also give it its pleasantly creamy consistency. And while the exfoliation may technically be called “chemical,” the formula itself is clean and non-toxic.
Best Mechanical Exfoliant: Philosophy The Microdelivery Exfoliating Facial Wash
Fans who like scrub-like textures will appreciate that this utilizes itty-bitty micro-exfoliating beads that gently yet effectively slough off dead cells. Top tip: For the best results, massage it thoroughly into damp skin for at least 30 to 60 seconds to let it fully do its thing.
Best Drugstore: Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub
Dermatologists rave about this drugstore staple brand on repeat, and we couldn’t agree more. While the classic cleanser often gets all the love, this exfoliating option deserves some time in the spotlight, too. It’s just as gentle (we’re talking ‘dermatologist tested for sensitive skin’ gentle) but has the added benefit of micro-fine particles for exfoliating purposes. Added vitamins and conditioning ingredients ensure your skin feels ultra-soft afterward.
Best Brightening: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant
Any type of exfoliator will help to brighten dull skin, but this takes it one step further. Not only does it both scrub off and dissolve discoloration (thanks to rice bran and papaya enzymes, respectively), it’s also infused with licorice and bearberry, active ingredients known to help combat dark spots. Also noteworthy: Because it’s a powder, you can easily customize how intense it is. Add more water to make it slightly gentler, less to up the exfoliating prowess. Plus, there’s no need to worry about spills or it getting snatched up by the TSA when you travel.
Best Luxury: Lancôme Exfoliating Rose Sugar Scrub
Everyone thinks of face masks when they think of self-care skincare, but with this, face washing can have an equally relaxing and indulgent effect. This sugar-based scrub warms upon contact (always enjoyable) and contains skin-softening rose water that it also gives it its luxurious scent. It’s an easy way to transform run-of-the-mill daily cleansing into a truly spa-like experience.
Best for Dry Skin: SkinCeuticals Micro-Exfoliating Scrub
Dry skin can most definitely benefit from regular exfoliation; after all, all those dry patches make it much harder for any moisturizer to penetrate. But it’s a fine line since over-exfoliating it can actually end up exacerbating dryness. But there’s no need to worry about that with this formula, though. It uses a unique scrubbing ingredient, microbeads made from diatomaceous earth, for mega-gentle exfoliation, and is also loaded with glycerin and aloe to lock in hydration.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Neostrata Mandelic Clarifying Cleanser
The stars of the show here are gluconolactone, a PHA (poly hydroxy acid) and mandelic acid, an AHA, both of which are known for being notably more gentle than other exfoliating acids. This gel is also free of fragrance, a common irritant, as well as soap-free, so there’s no need to worry about over-drying or further stripping stressed skin. Still, it’s effective enough that oily skin types can use it, too.
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Acne Clearing Charcoal Cleanser
If you’re constantly battling blemishes, regular exfoliation is a must for both helping to combat existing breakouts and warding off new ones. In this cleanser, a 2% concentration of salicylic acid (the maximum you can get over-the-counter) dissolves and dislodges excess oil and dead skin trapped in pores. Charcoal and kaolin clay take the cleansing process one step further, acting like magnets to pull out even more nasties that may be trapped deeper in your skin. Rounding out the show? A probiotic-rich yogurt extract to ensure your complexion stays balanced.
Best for Combination Skin: Alpyn Beauty PlantGenuis Creamy Bubbling Cleanser
This strikes the perfect balance, effectively exfoliating any oily spots, without stripping the normal or dry areas of our complexion. Credit a combo of gentle exfoliants—fruit extracts plus glycolic and lactic acid—that smooth out the texture and even out the tone of your skin. On the flip side, hyaluronic acid and ceramides add and lock in hydration. All that in a vegan, cruelty-free formula, free of a long list of questionable ingredients. We’re also big fans of the consistency, which transforms from a silky lotion to creamy foam as you mix it with water.