Whether you’re after bright, glowing skin or looking to treat acne, exfoliating should be an essential part of your skincare routine. Exfoliating offers skin many benefits and can completely transform the appearance of your skin with consistent use. If you’re looking for an easy way to incorporate regular exfoliating into your routine, an exfoliating face wash is one of the best products to do it.
Exfoliating face washes offer your skin a number of impressive benefits. Not only are they specially designed to remove dead skin cells and impurities from your face, but they can also help reduce the appearance of acne, wrinkles, and scars. Excited to try one yet?
Selecting the perfect exfoliating face wash can be a little bit of a challenge, especially if you are new to exfoliating. To help you out, we’ve researched the best products out there and created a list for you to review. Read on to find out our top 10 exfoliating face wash picks!
- What You Should Know About Exfoliating Face Washes
- Top 10 Best Exfoliating Face Washes 2021
- 1. Best Overall Exfoliating Wash: Acure Brightening Facial Scrub
- 2. Best Premium Exfoliating Wash: M3 Naturals Himalayan Salt Scrub
- 3. Best Budget Exfoliating Wash: Clean and Clear Deep Action Exfoliating Scrub
- 4. Best Exfoliating Wash for Dry Skin: Aveeno Skin Brightening Facial Scrub
- 5. Best Exfoliating Wash for Oily Skin: Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser
- 6. Best Organic Exfoliating Wash: Era Organics Microdermabrasion Facial Scrub
- 7. Best Exfoliating Wash for Mature Skin: Olay Regenerist Advanced Anti-Aging Cleanser
- 8. Best Exfoliating Wash for Acne: Murad Clarifying Cleanser
- 9. Best Daily Exfoliating Wash: Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub
- 10. Best Exfoliating Wash for Sensitive Skin: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant
- Your Full Guide to Exfoliating Face Washes
- What Are the Benefits of Exfoliating?
- Who Should Use Exfoliating Face Washes?
- Can You Exfoliate Daily?
- When Should You Exfoliate?
- How to Use an Exfoliating Face Wash
- What to Use After Exfoliating
- How Long Does It Take to See Exfoliating Results?
- Can You Exfoliate Areas Other Than Your Face?
- Potential Side Effects of Exfoliating Face Washes
- Natural Alternatives for Exfoliating Skin
- Scrub Your Way to Flawless Skin
What You Should Know About Exfoliating Face Washes
There are several things that you should know about exfoliating face washes that can help you make the decision about which to purchase.
What Is Exfoliation?
Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells, dirt, and impurities that sit on top of your skin. This can be done using a variety of scrubs, face washes, or tools. The removal of this top layer of skin cells allows the new, younger skin underneath to show through.
You can exfoliate any of the skin on your body, though it is important to note that you should only use exfoliants designed for the face on your face. Many exfoliants designed for use elsewhere on the body have harsher ingredients and could damage the more sensitive skin on your face.
Exfoliator Face Wash Formula Types
There are two main types of face wash formulas that are designed to exfoliate your skin.
Physical exfoliators are those face washes that use small particles of rough, ground-up material to manually scrub and remove skin cells from your face. These particles can be created from grains, seeds, or even coffee grounds.
This type of exfoliant is one of the most popular, mostly because there is nothing more satisfying than the feeling of scrubbing your face. You should be able to see almost instant results when using a physical exfoliator, though they can be a little too rough on certain skin types.
Chemical exfoliators utilize alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid to penetrate into skin cells, dissolving dirt and dead skin from the inside out. This method may not give instant results like physical exfoliants, but it can be incredibly helpful when dealing with acne and hyperpigmentation issues.
Fruit enzymes, like the ones in Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant also work to exfoliate skin in this manner.
Ingredients to Consider
In addition to the main active exfoliating ingredients, your face wash may contain ingredients intended to treat acne, reduce aging, or moisturize skin. Look for things like tea tree oil, plant botanicals and essential oils, honey, and aloe vera extract. These are some of the most popular additions in exfoliating face washes that help to smooth out, hydrate, and brighten your skin.
On the other hand, you may want to avoid ingredients that are known to be more drying or prone to causing skin reactions. This includes things like parabens, sulfates, artificial colors and fragrances, and harsh preservatives. Using these ingredients on a regular basis could end up harming your skin in the long run. From our list, Acure Brightening Facial Scrub features a formula without these additives.
What About Microbeads?
A somewhat controversial ingredient typically found in exfoliating face washes, microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic that are used as part of cosmetic products to help exfoliate and scrub. However, when washed down the drain, they end up creating an environmental hazard for water sources and wildlife, most notably fish.
In 2015, microbeads were banned in the US thanks to the Microbead-Free Waters Act. Despite this act, you should still keep an eye out for labeling that indicates plastics are used in your face wash, especially on items manufactured outside the US.
Now that we’ve discussed the most important selection factors for finding an exfoliating face wash, let’s head straight into our list!
Top 10 Best Exfoliating Face Washes 2021
1. Best Overall Exfoliating Wash: Acure Brightening Facial Scrub
- Formula: Physical Exfoliant
- Important Ingredients: French Green Clay, Sea Kelp
Acure’s facial scrub is available in 3 different varieties – brightening, deep cleaning, and rejuvenating. Each one is formulated with ingredients designed to clear dull skin and leave your face soft and glowing. This product is great for all skin types, and perfect if you are looking for a brand with lots of variety available.
French green clay is the star of this face wash; it holds detoxifying properties and works hard to remove dirt, dead skin cells, and impurities from your skin. The formula of this product is also free of harsh chemicals and preservatives, including parabens, sulfates, and petroleum. It is a great choice if you want an effective, more natural exfoliating face wash.
This product is unscented, and because of this, it has a natural, earthy scent that some users may find unpleasant. It is not a sweet scent and may be too overpowering if you dislike strong, non-perfumed fragrances in your products. We recommend Aveeno Skin Brightening Facial Scrub if you prefer more gently-scented face washes.
- 3 different varieties available
- French green clay removes impurities
- Free of harsh chemicals and preservatives
- Great for all skin types
- Unpleasant natural scent
- Formula: Physical Exfoliant
- Important Ingredients: Himalayan Salt, Collagen
Himalayan pink salt has a number of benefits that include detoxifying skin, treating inflammation, and giving skin a rejuvenated appearance. This is due to the many antimicrobial and mineral properties of the salt. It is a good choice for anyone who wants to even out their skin tone and fight blemishes.
Collagen is blended into the potent formula of this face wash, promoting skin elasticity. The formula itself is designed to be non-irritating and can be quite hydrating to dry skin. If you are looking to make your skin more moisturized and more youthful, this product is a good option.
Unfortunately, this product is not the best for daily use due to its potency. Using it daily can result in negative side effects such as drier skin or sudden breakouts. If you want an exfoliating face wash gentle enough for daily use, we suggest Cetaphil’s Extra Gentle Daily Scrub instead.
- Himalayan salt detoxifies and rejuvenates skin
- Collagen promotes skin elasticity
- Non-irritating formula
- Good for dry skin
- Not the best for daily use
3. Best Budget Exfoliating Wash: Clean and Clear Deep Action Exfoliating Scrub
- Formula: Physical Exfoliant
- Important Ingredients: Menthol
For anyone shopping for an exfoliating face wash on a budget, this product is a good option. At under 10 dollars, it offers a good amount of product that is sure to last you. It is also easily found in many drugstores and shops offline if you don’t have the time to wait for shipping.
Menthol is blended into this formula and leaves a cool, tingly feeling on skin. This can be especially refreshing if you choose to use your face wash in the morning. Additionally, it is designed for deep pore cleansing and can help reduce the appearance of blackheads.
Because there is menthol in this product, it may be a little too drying for some skin types. It also contains parabens, artificial colorings, and artificial fragrances, making it a poor choice for someone who prefers a more natural exfoliating face wash. We suggest Era Organics Microdermabrasion Facial Scrub instead if you are looking for a more natural exfoliating product.
- Menthol gives cool feeling on skin
- Great for deep pore cleansing
- May dry skin out
- Contains parabens and artificial fragrances
4. Best Exfoliating Wash for Dry Skin: Aveeno Skin Brightening Facial Scrub
- Formula: Physical Exfoliant
- Important Ingredients: Menthol
Aveeno’s Skin Brightening Facial Scrub utilizes soy extract to help exfoliate and moisturize dry skin. Jojoba oil conditions skin, sealing in hydration with every use of the product. It is a great choice for both dry and sensitive skin types that need a gentler exfoliating wash.
This product is both soap-free and hypoallergenic, meaning it is less likely to irritate skin compared to its competitors. It lathers up well and leaves skin feeling soft and clean, without any trace of residue or a grease. It is perfect for using on skin that is prone to reactions induced by cosmetic products.
Because this product is so gentle, it is not the best choice for using on very oily skin. It does not exfoliate strong enough or cut through excessive grease well enough to leave this type of skin feeling especially clean. For an exfoliating face wash more suited to oily skin, check out Botanic Tree’s Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser.
- Soy extract exfoliates and moisturizes
- Great for use on dry skin
- Soap-free and hypoallergenic
- Leaves skin feeling soft and clean
- Not the best for oily skin
- Exfoliation is not very strong
5. Best Exfoliating Wash for Oily Skin: Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser
- Formula: Chemical Exfoliant
- Important Ingredients: Glycolic Acid, Tea Tree Oil
If you have oily, combination, or blemish-prone skin, Botanic Tree’s Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser may be the best product for you. It works well for oily skin, cutting through excess grease and deep cleaning to rid skin of dirt and dead skin cells. It reveals brighter, new skin within the first few uses.
Glycolic acid is the main active ingredient in this product. It is one of the best chemical exfoliants available and works quickly to dissolve dead skin, dirt, and impurities found deep in pores. It is also great for smoothing skin, and partnered with tea tree oil, can help reduce inflammation and acne.
There is a strong perfumed fragrance in this product that may be too overwhelming if you are sensitive to fragrances. It is quite floral and lingers on skin for a long time. If you have an aversion to this type of fragrance, the natural earthy fragrance of Acure’s Brightening Facial Scrub may be better suited for you.
- Works well on oily or acne-prone skin
- Glycolic acid dissolves dead skin and dirt
- Tea tree oil treats inflammation
- Strong perfumed fragrance
6. Best Organic Exfoliating Wash: Era Organics Microdermabrasion Facial Scrub
- Formula: Physical Exfoliant
- Important Ingredients: Manuka Honey, Aloe Vera
The Era Organics Microdermabrasion Facial Scrub features ground up walnut shells as an exfoliant. The product can be used like a typical face wash, or it can be applied to skin and left on as a face mask. It is a great choice for someone who values versatility in their products.
Aloe vera is blended into this product to help soothe skin as it is being exfoliated. Manuka honey has antibacterial properties that help to control acne and fight any bacteria that may be sitting on the skin. Most of the ingredients in this product are organic, making it a good choice for anyone who prefers naturally crafted face washes.
Due to the walnut shells in this product, it is a little harsher of an exfoliant. This means it is not the best for use on sensitive skin. It should also not be used with electric exfoliating brushes (which we talk about later), as this can be extremely harsh on your skin and may cause a negative reaction.
- Doubles as a face mask
- Aloe vera soothes skin
- Manuka honey stops skin bacteria growth
- Organic ingredients
- Cannot be used with electric exfoliating brushes
- Not the best for sensitive skin
7. Best Exfoliating Wash for Mature Skin: Olay Regenerist Advanced Anti-Aging Cleanser
- Formula: Physical Exfoliant
- Important Ingredients: Amino-Peptides
Amino-peptides are the star active ingredient of this face wash. As the wash exfoliates away your dead skin, the amino-peptides are absorbed into the new cells underneath, improving skin elasticity, reducing inflammation, and improving the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It is a great product for anyone with mature skin.
This product comes packed with an Olay moisturizer that is also created with anti-aging ingredients. As we discuss in out full guide, it is important to moisturize after exfoliating. This set of exfoliating cleanser and moisturizer makes that easy, and makes this item a great choice for someone who loves complementary products.
The consistency of Olay’s Pore Scrub Cleanser may be a little too thick for some users. This thickness makes it hard to spread and can leave skin with a slightly sticky feeling after use. The best way to combat this is to use less of the product and make sure to fully lather it up with warm water when applying it to your skin.
- Great for mature skin
- Amino-peptides encourage wrinkle reduction
- Comes packaged with moisturizer
- Consistency is too thick
8. Best Exfoliating Wash for Acne: Murad Clarifying Cleanser
- Formula: Chemical Exfoliant
- Important Ingredients: Salicylic Acid
For anyone suffering from regular breakouts or blemish-prone skin, this exfoliating face wash is a great option. Salicylic acid is the main active ingredient of this product and has long been recognized as a powerful acne treatment. It works to dissolve dirt and skin, leaving skin clear after just a few washes.
A little goes a long way with this product, which makes it a great choice for someone who is more economically minded. A small, pea-size amount can lather up enough to be applied across your entire face. Additionally, the product comes in a bottle large enough to last a while.
This product may leave a slight film or dry feeling on skin after use. This is attributed to the salicylic acid, which often has skin dryness as a side effect. To combat this feeling, you can follow up each use with a quality moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated. Alternatively, you could invest in a more hydrating face wash like Aveeno Skin Brightening Facial Scrub if dry skin is a problem for you.
- Works well as an acne treatment
- Salicylic acid dissolves dirt and skin
- A little goes a long way
- Can leave film on skin
9. Best Daily Exfoliating Wash: Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub
- Formula: Physical Exfoliant
- Important Ingredients: Vitamin E, Bamboo Extract
If you are looking for an exfoliating face wash that is gentle enough for you to use every single day, this may be the perfect product for you. Cetaphil’s Extra Gentile Daily Scrub is a physical exfoliant, but it does not use any harsh plant materials included in it as a skin exfoliant. Instead, the exfoliants are softer and smaller, completely dissolving as you massage the cleanser into your skin.
Vitamin E is blended into this product, helping to condition and hydrate skin with each use. The entire product is dermatologist tested and approved, meaning it is unlikely to cause skin reactions or cause irritation in those users with sensitive skin or skin issues such as eczema.
This product is not the best choice if you are looking to exfoliate in order to clear breakouts or prefer more of a scrubbing feeling. The extra gentle exfoliation of this wash does not work as well to treat bacteria and inflammation. We recommend Murad’s Clarifying Cleanser as a better product for clearing breakouts and acne.
- Perfect for daily use
- Gentle exfoliating formula
- Vitamin E hydrates skin
- Dermatologist tested
- Not the best for clearing breakouts
10. Best Exfoliating Wash for Sensitive Skin: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant
- Formula: Physical Exfoliant
- Important Ingredients: Colloidal Oatmeal, Papaya Enzymes
This professional skincare brand was founded by a skin therapist who wanted to tailor products to be their most effective and most gentle. As a result, this product produces a rich lather and works fast to exfoliate skin; the formula is gentle enough to be used on even sensitive skin.
Colloidal oatmeal is a key ingredient in this product and works to soothe skin, reducing the occurrence of any itching or inflammation. In addition to a physical exfoliant, this product contains papaya enzymes to dissolve dirt and exfoliate deep in the pores. It makes this product a good choice for anyone who wants to experience the best of both exfoliating types.
On the downside, this product is rather expensive; the full size of the product comes in at over 50 dollars. Additionally, it is packaged in a powder that you then have to mix with water in order to apply. This can make it difficult to use and annoying for anyone who doesn’t want to take this extra step before using their cleanser.
- Professional skincare brand
- Lathers well
- Colloidal oatmeal soothes skin
- Papaya enzymes exfoliate deeply
- Hard to use
Your Full Guide to Exfoliating Face Washes
Need to know more about the wonders of exfoliating face washes? Read our full guide to find out everything you need to know.
What Are the Benefits of Exfoliating?
Exfoliating has a number of skin benefits that help you obtain the best-looking skin of your life. Below, we’ve listed some of the most important ones.
At the top of many people’s beauty wish list is brighter, glowing skin. Exfoliating face washes can help you achieve that by removing the dead skin cells and any dirt that keeps your skin looking dull. After this top layer of skin is gone, new brighter and healthier skin can show through, making you look your best!
By removing dirt and impurities and helping to keep your skin smooth, an exfoliating face wash can help you fight acne. Since pores will be overall less clogged, you have a lower chance of developing breakouts. Additionally, with the dead skin cells gone from your skin, there will be nothing for the bacteria that causes acne to live on.
Regular exfoliation encourages your skin to keep producing new, younger cells. This can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines as your skin regenerates itself.
Without any dirt, impurities, or dead skin cells blocking them up, your pores are likely to shrink and become less noticeable. Consistently exfoliating with a daily use product like Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub is great for achieving this.
Better Product Absorption
Exfoliating away the top layer of your skin can lead to much better product absorption. Without a layer of dead skin cells and dirt in your way, your skin can full enjoy the benefits of any moisturizer, toner, or other cosmetic you apply to it.
Who Should Use Exfoliating Face Washes?
Pretty much anyone can use an exfoliating face wash. You should only be cautious about using one of these washes if you have extremely sensitive skin that cannot stand to be rubbed or have things such as glycolic acid applied. Additionally, if you have a skin condition like eczema on your face, an exfoliating face wash has the potential to irritate your skin more.
Can You Exfoliate Daily?
You may have been told that daily exfoliation is a recipe for disaster. While this has an element of truth to it, this popular beauty notion is not completely correct. Daily exfoliation can be a good idea for someone who has very acne-prone or oily skin. This type of skin can handle a more rigorous exfoliating routine.
Users with sensitive skin may want to stick to only exfoliating 2 to 3 times a week. Sensitive skin can also benefit from more gentle exfoliating face washes, such as Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant.
If you do choose to exfoliate daily, select a gentle cleanser or something that is designed for daily use. You should try and stay away from using more intense scrubs such as M3 Naturals Himalayan Salt Scrub on a daily basis. Using a harsher scrub on a daily basis can increase your risk of developing side effects from your face wash.
When Should You Exfoliate?
You can exfoliate any time of the day that you like. When deciding which one to go with, you can think about a few different factors.
Using your exfoliating face wash in the morning may be a benefit if you wake up with oily skin or you have a full skincare routine you apply every morning. Morning exfoliation can help wake you up, give your skin a subtle glow, and allow your skin to absorb the full benefits from your products.
Night time exfoliation can be especially helpful if you wear makeup throughout the day. Your face wash can help you gently cleanse and remove the makeup while preparing your skin for any night time skincare routine you may have.
How to Use an Exfoliating Face Wash
If you’ve never tried out exfoliating or an exfoliating face wash before, you can follow this step-by-step guide to get you started.
- Wet your skin with lukewarm water; water that is too hot can cause you to have dry skin.
- Apply a small amount of your face wash to your fingertips.
- Begin rubbing the wash on your face gently. Massage the product in a circular motion, starting from your cheeks and jawline and working up towards your forehead. Make sure to avoid getting the product too close to your eyes.
- Once your face has been completely covered, you can wash off the face wash with lukewarm water and pat your face dry.
This technique will work for both physical and chemical exfoliating washes. It is important to note that oily, combination, and normal skin types benefit more from physical exfoliation, while dry and sensitive skin may be better suited to chemical exfoliation.
There are several accessories available that can help you step up your exfoliating game. These products can help you get a more even, more effective exfoliation, time after time.
One of the most powerful exfoliating tools, electric brushes have spinning brush heads that work to deeply clean your skin. You can pair them with your favorite exfoliating face wash for extra deep cleaning.
Soft facial sponges are made with a material that is designed to gently remove skin cells without being too harsh on the face. They make a good next step up from exfoliating with just your hands.
Silicone scrubbers are similar to soft sponges, with the main difference being that they are reusable. The soft silicone bristles are perfect for more sensitive skinned individuals that want a deep clean.
What to Use After Exfoliating
After exfoliating, it is important that you take good care of your skin; your skin will be slightly more sensitive and has a higher potential for being damaged immediately after exfoliating. To help protect and boost your skin’s health, you should be using a quality moisturizer or facial toner after each use of your exfoliating face wash. These products can help hydrate and soothe your skin while minimizing pores.
How Long Does It Take to See Exfoliating Results?
Unlike many cosmetic products, exfoliating face washes can offer you immediate results. If you have a physical exfoliant, it is likely that you will start to see your skin become clearer and feel softer after the first use. For more long-term and highly noticeable results, it could take between 6 and 8 weeks of a regular exfoliating routine.
With chemical exfoliants, you will start to notice small differences after a week or so, with more noticeable results appearing within 8 weeks.
Can You Exfoliate Areas Other Than Your Face?
It is totally possible to exfoliate everywhere you find skin! Keep in mind that exfoliation washes designed for the body will be much harsher and feature larger granules than washes designed for the face. If you wish to exfoliate the rest of your body, it is recommended that you purchase a separate product for this.
Potential Side Effects of Exfoliating Face Washes
Exfoliating face washes do not come without their own set of precautions. When using one of these products, it is important to do a skin test somewhere on your forearm at least 48 hours before your first use. This can help determine if you will have a poor reaction to the face wash or not.
Additionally, overusing an exfoliating face wash or using too harsh of an exfoliator for your skin type could lead to dry skin, skin redness, inflammation, irritation, small breakouts, or an increased sensitivity to other skincare products.
If you suspect that you are exfoliating or using the wrong product for your skin, stop use immediately and wait to see if the reactions disappear. If they do not, you may need to consult with a doctor or dermatologist for answers.
Natural Alternatives for Exfoliating Skin
There are many natural alternatives available for exfoliating your skin. These can be found in items such as coffee grounds, finely ground sugar or almonds, oatmeal, cinnamon, and finely ground sea salts. All of these natural items can be combined with other skin-friendly ingredients to create homemade exfoliating face washes and body scrubs.
DIY Exfoliating Face Washes
One of the most popular DIY recipes, an exfoliating face wash is a simple, limited ingredient recipe that you can create at home without much trouble. Try out our basic exfoliating face wash recipe below to see if you love what exfoliation has to offer.
- You will need: 2 tsp brown sugar, a whole kiwi (peeled and mashed), and a few drops of olive oil.
- To create: Stir all of the ingredients together, making sure to mix thoroughly. Place your face wash in a plastic or glass container. Use it according to our instructions above.
This face wash recipe will create a rather mattifying effect on skin after use. It is great for anyone with oily or blemish-prone skin. For more DIY exfoliating face wash recipes, you can check out this article.
Scrub Your Way to Flawless Skin
Smooth, clear skin may seem like a dream, but the reality of it is closer than you think. An exfoliating face wash may be just the thing to help you rid your face of dirt and impurities and allow new, bright skin to show through.
Simply keep in mind the type of exfoliating formula and important ingredients you prefer when selecting a product, and you will be scrubbing your way to flawless skin in no time.