The 14 Best Face Scrubs for Instantly Glowing Skin

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Despite their almost instantaneous ability to reveal a glowing complexion, face scrubs are often approached with trepidation. Between the perpetual fear of sandpapering our faces to a pulp (ouch) and the environmental contamination of microbead exfoliants, it’s become too easy to throw the product into skincare’s ‘too hard’ basket. 

But not so fast. Not only have face scrubs evolved beyond using tiny pieces of plastic as abrasive agents, but the benefits of scrubs are impressively wide-ranging. By removing the dead cells our skin can’t clear out on its own, scrubs greatly increase cell regeneration and the efficacy and absorption of other skincare products. Whether you rely on heavy-duty anti-aging formulas, or simply relish a strong serum, exfoliation allows each subsequent product in your routine to perform at its full potential.

There is also a face scrub out there for every type, concern (blackheads, we're looking at you), and budget. Whether you want to scrub once a week or need to excavate clogged pores on the daily, there is a physical exfoliator for the job.

Ahead, we tapped board-certified dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman for her tips on picking the perfect scrub for your personal skin needs and rounded up the very best on the market.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Debra Jaliman is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. She’s the Assistant Professor of Dermatology Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and author of the book, Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist.

Our Top Picks
This super exfoliator is a cult favorite for its ability to brighten the skin, decongest pores, and improve texture.
This scrub gently sloughs off dead skin while keeping excess oil under control.
This affordable coffee and coconut face scrub is a fan favorite.
It contains both physical and chemical exfoliants to unclog pores.
This formula that aims to soften and purify without any harsh stripping effect.
This one is a true all-rounder, targeting breakouts, removing flakiness, and hydrating dry skin.
Reviewers claim this scrub not only perfectly preps your skin for makeup, but dramatically changes its appearance without it.
After buffing away dead skin, this product helps to hydrate and reduce irritation.
Polish away dirt and dead skin with this drugstore classic that's great for combination skin.
This sugar scrub gently removes dead cells while dousing your skin in vitamins A and D.
In This Article

Best Overall: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant
What We Like
  • Gentle enough for daily use

  • Fragrance-free

  • Evens skin tone and texture

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

This super exfoliator is a cult favorite, as well as a favorite of Dr. Jaliman. The formula contains a combo of licorice, grapefruit, phytic acid from rice bran, papain enzymes, salicylic acid, and colloidal oatmeal and can help to exfoliate and decongest pores while also balancing out redness. Licorice root has also been shown to have a brightening effect, which is a nice bonus.

Worth noting: This is a powder exfoliant, so it's a bit gentler on the skin. "The rice bran is milled into a fine powder that removes dirt and dead skin cells," says Dr. Jaliman. It foams up into a creamy paste upon contact with water, making it easier to spread across every nook and cranny of the face.

Type: Powder cleanser | Active Ingredients: Papain enzymes, salicylic acid | Size: 0.5 / 2.6 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

What Our Testers Say

Best Budget: Simple Smoothing Facial Scrub

Simple Smoothing Facial Scrub
What We Like
  • Soaks up excess oil

  • Gentle enough for daily use

  • Skin feels clean and refreshed

What We Don't Like
  • Strong scent

If you were once a fan of the former microbead cleansers and exfoliators, this is a great (environmentally-friendly) replacement. It's formulated with gentle silica particles and rice powder, and it can gently slough off dead skin while soaking up any excess oil. We can't forget to mention the awesome price point, too. Dr. Jaliman recommends this pick for those with sensitive skin.

Type: Scrub | Active Ingredients: Rice powder, silica, vitamin E | Size: 5 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Drugstore: St. Ives Energizing Scrub Coconut & Coffee

st ives scrub
What We Like
  • Smells great

  • Great value

  • Skin feels soft and smooth

What We Don't Like
  • May irritate sensitive skin

St. Ives is well-known for its range of scrubs, and this coffee and coconut face scrub is a fan favorite (literally, the combination was chosen by users). It's formulated with 100% natural exfoliants, including walnut shell powder, and helps to smooth out the skin. Use it a few times per week to treat your skin and your senses.

Type: Scrub | Active Ingredients: Walnut shell powder, caffeine | Size: 6 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Blackheads: Tula So Poreless Deep Exfoliating Blackhead Scrub

Tula Blackhead Scrub
What We Like
  • Contains both physical and chemical exfoliants

  • Balancing formula

  • Helps calm breakouts

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Physical exfoliants may suffice when all your skin needs is a quick pick-me-up, but if you really want to unclog those pores, reach for a formula that has chemical exfoliants too. The Tula Blackhead Scrub is the best of both worlds, combining chemical exfoliants lactic acid and hibiscus flower acid with granular ingredients like pink salt and volcanic sand.

Type: Scrub | Active Ingredients: Probiotic extracts, volcanic sand, witch hazel | Size: 2.9 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Brightening: Acure Brightening Facial Scrub

Acure Brightening Facial Scrub
What We Like
  • Reduces excess oil

  • Skin looks calmer and clearer

  • Great value

What We Don't Like
  • May irritate sensitive skin

For those hoping to shine from the inside out, find your light with this scrub. If you love the way you look after the beach, you can imitate your skin’s after-sun glow with this formula that aims to soften and purify without any harsh stripping effect. It contains sea kelp, lemon, and French green clay and can help peel and address impurities.

Type: Scrub | Active Ingredients: Walnut shell powder, French green clay, sea kelp | Size: 4 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Dry Skin: Dr. Barbara Sturm Facial Scrub

What We Like
  • Balancing formula

  • Fragrance-free

  • Exfoliates without over-drying

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Contains parabens

So you’re looking for a facial in a bottle? No such thing exists, but this facial scrub is about as close as you can get without stepping into a spa. This one is a true all-rounder, targeting breakouts, removing flakiness, and hydrating dry skin. It contains antioxidant-packed jojoba oil, shea butter, and silk extract, but more importantly, it doesn't contain any synthetic fragrances. The formula aims to conquer any possible irritation while making dull, dry skin a thing of the past.

Type: Scrub | Active Ingredients: Jojoba oil, shea butter, silk extract | Size: 3.4 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Oily Skin: Fresh Umbrian Clay Mattifying Face Exfoliant

Umbrian Clay Mattifying Face Exfoliant
What We Like
  • Helps makeup go on smoother

  • Calms redness

  • Skin feels clean and refreshed

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Oily skin generally goes hand-in-hand with enlarged pores, and we don’t blame you for wanting a product that can tackle both. Reviewers claim this scrub not only perfectly preps your skin for makeup, but dramatically changes its appearance without it. Wave goodbye to grease and say hello to a new mattified visage.

Type: Scrub | Active Ingredients: Fuller's earth, kaolin, olive seed powder | Size: 3.3 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Sensitive Skin: SkinCeuticals Micro-Exfoliating Scrub

SkinCeuticals Micro-Exfoliating Scrub
What We Like
  • Soothes and hydrates

  • Gently exfoliates

  • Removes makeup

What We Don't Like
  • Not for daily use

If you’ve been on the lookout for an exfoliant gentle enough for everyday use, this is it. "This scrub contains a special mineral, hydrated silica, which helps remove dead skin," says Dr. Jaliman. "It also contains aloe, which has soothing properties, and glycerin, which helps to keep moisture in your skin." If you want a scrub to double as a daily cleanser, give this a try—and prepare for refined, renewed skin.

Type: Scrub | Active Ingredients: Silica, glycerin, aloe leaf extract | Size: 5 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Combination Skin: L'Oreal Paris Pure Sugar Scrub Purify & Unclog

L'Oreal Paris Pure Sugar Scrub Purify & Unclog
What We Like
  • Softens skin

  • Great value

  • Balancing formula

What We Don't Like
  • Not Byrdie Clean

Polishing away dirt and dead skin has never been this easy with the drugstore classic that incorporates three different types of sugar as well as real kiwi seeds and leaves you with baby-bottom softness. It also product boasts the capacity to rebalance oil without over-drying within one week.

Type: Scrub | Active Ingredients: Sugar, kiwi seeds | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Oriflame Sweden Milk And Honey Gold Set Scrub

Oriflame Sweden Milk And Honey Gold Set Scrub
What We Like
  • Nourishing formula

  • Helps prevent acne

  • Calms redness

What We Don't Like
  • Not cruelty-free

This Oriflame sugar scrub gently buffs away dead cells while dousing your skin in vitamins A and D, while lactic acid works to smooth the skin's surface. Honey is also chock-full of antioxidants, as well as an anti-inflammatory. This is a one-two punch to heal and prevent acne.

Type: Scrub | Active Ingredients: Lactic acid, honey | Size: 13.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Splurge: Valmont Purity Face Exfoliant

Valmont Purity Face Exfoliant
What We Like
  • Thick, rich texture

  • Ideal for dry skin

  • Skin feels refreshed

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

If you’re willing to spend top dollar on your skin, you might as well invest in a premier scrub. This restorative product is a favorite among A-list estheticians, mostly because its micro quartz crystals (yes, crystals) work for all skin types. Its texture is also so luxuriously thick it could almost double as a face cream—that’s when you know you’ve hit a new level of indulgence.

Type: Cream | Active Ingredients: Cellulose microparticles | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Multitasker: The Body Shop Tea Tree 3-In-1 Wash Scrub Mask

The Body Shop Tea Tree 3-In-1 Wash Scrub Mask
What We Like
  • Skin feels refreshed and purified

  • Reduces shine

  • Helps with blackheads

What We Don't Like
  • A little drying

Forever on-the-go and simply don’t have time to mess around with a dozen different products that each serve a different need? This mask-cleanser-scrub from The Body Shop might just be the skincare all-in-one of your dreams. Infused with tea tree oil, clay, and volcanic minerals, it promises to purify, exfoliate, and mattify the skin. Use this product any which way you like to reduce shine, tighten pores and banish blackheads for good.

Type: Scrub/mask | Active Ingredients: Tea tree oil, kaolin | Size: 4.2 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Runner-Up, Best Multitasker: Fur Silk Scrub Gentle & Exfoliating

Fur Silk Scrub
What We Like
  • Helps with ingrown hairs

  • Skin feels smooth

  • Contains both physical and chemical exfoliants

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Buff your way to your silkiest body ever with a scrub that’s also gentle enough to use on your face. And if you often worry about using products near your bikini line, this one is not only dermatologically tested but given the thumbs up from gynecologists to use pre- and post-hair removal. Leave on as a mask for 10 minutes at a time for a deeper exfoliation experience.

Type: Scrub/mask | Active Ingredients: Jojoba beads, glycolic and lactic acids | Size: 6 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Organic: Era Organics Revive Microdermabrasion Face Scrub

Era Organics Revive Microdermabrasion Face Scrub
What We Like
  • Gently exfoliates

  • Calms redness

  • Evens skin tone and texture

What We Don't Like
  • Packaging could be improved

This cult classic from Era Organics uses all-natural ingredients to gently exfoliate without tearing at the skin’s surface. Infused with walnut and manuka honey, it claims to work wonders on dark circles, acne scars, and general signs of wear and tear making for an uneven skin tone—yes, that includes stretch marks—while simultaneously purifying and nourishing your skin.

Type: Scrub | Active Ingredients: Walnut shell powder, manuka honey | Size: 2 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

What to Look For in a Face Scrub

Choose a Scrub Based On Your Skin Type

The first thing Dr. Jaliman suggests when shopping for a face scrub is seeking out a formula that works for your skin type. For example, she recommends that those with sensitive skin opt for products that only use very finely milled scrubbing agents. Have dry skin? Choose a formula with a creamy, hydrating texture.

Avoid Coarse Grains

Whether your skin is sensitive or not, you should always avoid coarse grains when it comes to a physical scrub. “You want something with a finer grain as this is the most gentle, and you won’t run the risk or irritation,” says Dr. Jaliman.

Physical Scrubs with Chemical Exfoliants

If you have normal, combination, or oily skin, Dr. Jaliman recommends reaching for a face scrub that also contains chemical exfoliants for extra skin-refining benefits. “Those containing acids such as salicylic or lactic acids are gentle enough for most people to use,” she says. “However, they can be a problem for those with sensitive skin or with conditions like rosacea or eczema, depending on the type of acid used.” 

FAQ
  • Are face scrubs bad for skin?

    No—as long as you don't overdo it or use a harsh scrub. Sensitive skin types should tread lightly with a finely-milled scrub, according to Dr. Jaliman. Additionally, using a face scrub every day or even every other day can be too much for many skin types. Start slow by exfoliating once per week and see how your skin tolerates using a scrub.

  • How often should I use a face scrub?

    In general, most skin types can handle exfoliation via a scrub two or three times per week. If you have sensitive skin, you might want to start once per week and see how your skin reacts.

  • Are face scrubs good for acne?

    They can be if they're gentle and contain acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid. If you experience acne breakouts, you'll want to look for a finely-milled scrub as well as ingredients that can help treat breakouts and soothe skin to counteract any potential irritation. As with sensitive skin, start slow to minimize irritation.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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