In regards to targeted skincare, I have a bit of a battle plan. Strategy is the key to victory, and I apply that to every aspect of my life. And for dealing with my skin, there's one treatment I prioritize above all else: exfoliation. My thinking goes that moisture is easy enough to add back in at will. Still, the compounding effects of a glow-boosting, daily exfoliant are invaluable to reaching my personal skincare goals.
Up to this point, the biggest challenge has been finding that daily exfoliant—ideally, one that's powerful enough to banish lingering dead skin cells and help keep acne at bay but not so drying that it's going to strip my skin (and have me burning through double my usual amount of moisturizer). Neutrogena's new liquid exfoliant—all three of them, but more on that in a second—solved that. After all, if the legacy beauty brand could handle my hormonal teenage skin, surely my late-20s issues would be a snap, too.
How It Works
The Neutrogena Skin Perfecting Liquid Facial Exfoliant ($15) is something of a Choose Your Own Adventure product, available in three different formulations to suit dry, oily, and normal/combination skin types. Unlike the usual one-size-fits-all liquid exfoliant, the percentage of active ingredients varies with each version. For example, while the combination iteration has a 9 percent AHA/PHA concentration, the dry skin version contains just 7 percent—plus a dose of hyaluronic acid to help mitigate hydration loss. Neutrogena ambassador Lana Condor seems to prefer the latter.
In the formulation for oily skin, you'll see the alpha-hydroxy acid subbed out for a 7-percent glycolic and citric acids blend focused on smoothing and clarifying. It's probably the closest you can get to one of those bespoke skincare services with custom products at the drugstore. And frankly, as someone who's tried both, this is undoubtedly equally effective.
To use the exfoliating liquid, cleanse your face like usual and let it dry before dispensing it on a cotton round or ball and sweeping it over your face and neck. Let it dry completely before following up with some moisturizer and, of course, SPF.
To put this exfoliant to the test, I requested the dry skin-friendly version. As much as I love the effects of an ultra-powerful, take-no-prisoners exfoliant, the colder weather means it's time to be careful—that chilly, bone-dry air exacerbates and magnifies the worst effects of dry skin. To help balance that out even further, I used this exfoliant in the evening, so I could follow it up with a heavier moisturizer and, on some days, skin slugging—and by the way, slugging fully lives up to the hype, and I can't recommend it enough.
I felt zero sensitivity, stinging, burning, or any other sort of painful reaction to the exfoliant, which is a significant plus. With any and all things that go on the face or head, make sure to do a patch test on your arm first to rule out any allergies or reactions. The brand suggests you use the exfoliant over your face and neck, but I added more all down my chest and on the backs of my hands.
The gentle formula and accessible price point means I'm not too worried about applying it anywhere, as often as needed. In many ways, the smoothing, cell-rejuvenating exfoliant reminds me of the now-iconic Biologique Recherche Lotion P50, which I've used extensively in the past. Both yielded remarkably smooth skin with a much more luminosity almost immediately. In the case of the Neutrogena liquid, it was only about three days before I could start seeing and feeling a difference in my skin's texture under makeup.
With a trio of individualized formulations for whatever your skin needs, Neutrogena may have just changed the drugstore skincare game for good—again.