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Having a face scrub in your beauty routine may keep your skin looking bright and clear. When used regularly in your skin care routine, a face scrub can help remove the top layer of dead skin cells, giving you a nearly effortless glow.
Frequent exfoliation can also have anti-aging (or, as we like to say, “pro-aging”) benefits by stimulating collagen production and sloughing away pore-clogging bacteria. However, you’ll want to make sure that you’re being gentle on the skin when using a face scrub. Regardless of your skin type, you should make small, circular motions using your finger in lukewarm water for only about 30 seconds.
How often you exfoliate depends on your skin type. For instance, if you have dry skin, you’ll want to stick to using a face scrub 1 to 2 times a week, but those with oily skin may opt for 2 to 3 times each week.
We looked at facial scrubs formulated for every skin type. Our recommendations are based on ingredient quality and high customer reviews.
We took into consideration skin type, the efficiency of these products, and any safety concerns users should be aware of. We also chose face scrubs for every budget.
Key features: Formulated for normal, dry, and oily skin types, this exfoliating gel has a mild scrubbing effect that works to clear pores and smooth skin. It contains natural microbeads that gently polishes away dead skin cells.
Main ingredients: water, diatomaceous earth (a naturally occurring sedimentary rock that’s been crumbled up), glycerin (an FDA-approved, odorless compound frequently found in skin care products), propylene glycol (a binder that pulls in hydration)
Safety considerations: While this scrub contains skin-soothing aloe vera and is unscented, it’s not specifically formulated for sensitive skin. So, if your skin is usually finicky with products, it may not be worth the risk of trying this one out.
Good to know: Amazon buyers generally loved this product, noting that it’s a mild exfoliant that works well when used a few times a week.
Key features: A favorite luxury face scrub, this product contains lactic acid and fruit enzymes to promote cell turnover and unclog pores. It also has vitamin E to keep skin feeling soft post-scrub. It’s recommended for those who are aiming to scrub away dullness or uneven skin texture.
Main ingredients: water, lactic acid (a chemical exfoliant), silica (a natural oxide that works as a gentle exfoliant), aloe vera
Safety considerations: A small percentage of reviewers found the formulation to be too harsh for sensitive skin, noting a burning sensation and breakouts.
Good to know: The high price point of this product can be a turnoff for people. A 2-ounce bottle is priced at $88.
Key features: This scrub has long been a cult-favorite by beauty editors, bloggers, and the like (it has a 4.4-star rating from more than 18,500 Google users, after all). It contains natural ingredients like walnut shell powder and corn kernel meal for its exfoliating effect. It’s free from oils and parabens (a chemical preservative designed to extend the shelf life of beauty products), and is certified cruelty-free. It provides a deep exfoliation and is harsher than other scrubs on the list.
Main ingredients: walnut shell powder, apricot fruit extract, water, glycerin
Safety considerations: Dermatologists have warned against using walnut powder on your face, noting that it could cause micro-tears.
Good to know: St. Ives scrub products have consistently high user reviews online, meaning that the formulation works for a lot of people.
Key features: With 2 percent salicylic acid, an ingredient that may help reduce breakouts, this dual-purpose scrub provides acne treatment and exfoliation. It’s designed to clear blemishes and improve overall skin texture, and even stop breakouts before they start. It uses Neutrogena’s MicroClear technology, a scientifically-backed blend of salicylic acid and sebum dissolvers (an oil that breaks down acne, breakouts, and clogged pores).
Main ingredients: salicylic acid, water, cetyl alcohol (a fatty alcohol that helps protect the skin from allergens), glycerin
Safety considerations: The previous formulation of this product contained microbeads, which have been banned in beauty products — a big win for Mother Earth.
Good to know: While the older version of this product may have been a bit unsafe for the environment, some reviewers say that they found it to be more effective than the current formula.
Key features: Cetaphil products are highly recommended by dermatologists. The brand’s Extra Gentle Daily Scrub has been clinically tested for people with sensitive skin. This scrub has gentle exfoliants aimed to help remove dirt, oil, and reduce blackheads and inflammation. Micro-fine particles work to buff away dry skin cells and support natural cell turnover.
Main ingredients: water, cocamidopropyl betaine (organic compounds sourced from coconut oil), vitamin E, gylcerin
Safety considerations: This formulation is very gentle and designed to exfoliate even sensitive skin types. However, the brand recommends locking in hydration by following up with a moisturizer.
Good to know: If you’re looking for additional skin care benefits like anti-aging or acne prevention, you might need other products to target those issues since this scrub is so mild.
Key features: This scrub is formulated with volcanic sand, pink salt, and witch hazel to slough away blackheads and minimize pores, making it especially effective on the T-zone area. It provides a deep exfoliation that buffs away dirt and debris, revealing smoother and softer skin.
Main ingredients: glycerin, water, volcanic sand, silica
Safety considerations: While the ingredient list includes probiotic extracts, this scrub doesn’t actually contain live cultures. This means that your skin likely won’t reap the benefits that probiotics can bring simply by using this product.
Good to know: Although this Tula product has great reviews, some users found it to be ineffective since it’s a rather mild exfoliant.
Key features: Developed specifically for mature skin, this face scrub uses gentle jojoba beads to exfoliate and antioxidant vitamin C to brighten skin. The brand recommends using it twice a week to gently buff away dirt and dead skin cells. Its formula is hydrating and refreshing thanks to key ingredients such as rose absolute and cucumber extract.
Main ingredients: water, glycerin, jojoba esters, rose (a natural fragrance), cucumber
Safety considerations: This product has a strong rose fragrance, which some reviewers love. However, in general, fragrance isn’t an essential skin care ingredient and it can often irritate sensitive skin.
Good to know: It’s a gel formula, so it’s a much gentler scrub than others on the list. This means that most skin types can enjoy using this product since it’ll exfoliate the skin and maintain its moisture level.
Key features: This vegan scrub combines soothing jojoba oil formulated to moisturize and hydrate the skin. Meanwhile, all-natural coffee grounds exfoliate and eucalyptus oil combats dryness. The organic formula is conscious beauty certified, vegan, and made without harmful parabens or fragrances. (As a bonus, it also comes in 100 percent recyclable packaging.)
Main ingredients: coffee Arabica seed powder, sucrose (a monosaccharide that has hydrating properties), shea butter, jojoba oil, rosehip oil
Safety considerations: The coffee grounds used for the exfoliant component of this product could be too abrasive for some people.
Good to know: Some reviewers didn’t love that the product comes in a squeezable tube. Many users had trouble actually getting the product to come out, and when it did, it sometimes got all over the place.
Key features: A little goes a long way with this rice powder exfoliant. To use this scrub, you mix the formula with water, allowing you to control the intensity of the scrubbing sensation. It can help with dullness, uneven texture, and clogged pores. According to the brand, 100 percent of participants in a clinical trial saw improvement in their skin texture, radiance, skin softness, hydration, and the appearance of pores.
Main ingredients: Japanese rice bran (a finely-milled ingredient that gently exfoliates, softens, and smooths), silk, papaya enzymes
Safety considerations: Tatcha claims that the ingredients in this product are nonirritating, but you should do a patch test prior to using it on the face since the main additives, like Komenuka and hydrolyzed silk, aren’t frequently found in face scrubs.
Good to know: Since this product works when you mix it with water, it can take some getting used to as you figure out the liquid-to-product ratio. It’s also not a great option for those who wash their face in the shower since the product can wash away before you even get a chance to use it.
Key features: This face scrub has three different types of sugar — each of a different granule size — to polish skin without roughness, as well as finely crushed cocoa bean to promote softness. The formula is designed to make skin feel more refined, soft, and smooth within just 1 week.
Main ingredients: isopropyl palmitate (a moisturizer and thickening agent), sucrose, soybean oil
Safety considerations: If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, this one might not be the best choice for you. Some reviewers found the product to be too oily and said that using this scrub caused them to break out.
Good to know: The formula contains three types of sugar granules, which may irritate sensitive skin.
Key features: This 100 percent vegan product uses clay, sea kelp, and lemon peel to smooth and brighten skin. It’s free from parabens, sulfates, animal testing, or fragrance. It aims to exfoliate and cleanse, revealing a brighter and refreshed layer of skin. It also works to remove dead skin cells and soften and draw out impurities.
Main ingredients: water, aloe leaf juice, glycerin, walnut shell powder, French green clay, lemon peel, sage
Safety considerations: While this brand is super clean, some reviewers warned about getting knock-offs or open-package products when buying online. Be sure to inspect your package upon receipt and don’t use it if something seems off.
Good to know: Unlike most face scrubs, Acure recommends using this product 3 times a week to receive glowing results.
Key features: Dubbed as an all-in-one power product, this scrub includes organic aloe vera and vitamin C to keep skin smooth and clear. Its highly-effective formula deep cleans, attacks dirt and excess oil, and eliminates breakouts and acne. It also contains natural and organic ingredients, meanwhile, the brand claims that it can be used as a multipurpose product that tones, cleanses, and exfoliates.
Main ingredients: aloe vera, vitamin C, jojoba beads, salicylic acid
Safety considerations: This face scrub has a “fresh and aquatic” scent, but fragrant additives may be harmful to the skin.
Good to know: While many reviewers raved about how this product cleared up under-beard acne, some were displeased with the way the exfoliant beads got stuck in their facial hair.
Key features: Infused with clay, zinc, and almond oil, this soothing scrub can double as a face mask, allowing you to get some extra mileage out of one product. When gently buffed into the skin, this face scrub can help reveal a smooth, radiant complexion.
Main ingredients: water, almonds, cornmeal, oatmeal, kaolin (a rock from which clay mineral is derived from)
Safety considerations: Lawsuits have been filed against Mario Badescu for the brand’s failure to be transparent about full ingredient lists.
Good to know: Some reviewers mentioned that the almond pieces in this scrub are rather large and scratchy, and a little unevenly mixed in the product.
Most face scrubs are considered to be physical exfoliators, meaning that they “use gritty particles to physically remove cells from the surface of the skin,” explains Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.
This means that you can “control the level of intensity,” he says, by choosing a scrub that works best for your particular skin needs.
Here’s how to choose the right face scrub for you:
Use your face scrub after washing your face. Apply gently to the skin and rub in small, circular motions for approximately 30 sections. Then, rinse with lukewarm water. Be sure not to apply too much pressure and to avoid exfoliating if your skin is sunburned or has any open wounds. Because exfoliating your face can also have a drying effect, be sure to apply face moisturizer (and SPF for sun protection) afterward.
Finally, make sure you’re not overusing your product. While most experts advise using a face scrub 2 or 3 times a week, your skin may be too sensitive for frequent use.
“No exfoliation should cause any visible flaking or redness of the skin,” says dermatologist Dr. Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin.
If you notice any physical side effects, scale back and use your scrub once or twice a week. (If they persist, it may be worth seeing a dermatologist or scrapping the product altogether.)
Face scrubs can be beneficial in improving the overall texture of your skin, enhancing both how your skin looks and how it feels to the touch. Even if you’re short on time, you only need a few short exfoliation sessions a week to see and feel the benefits.
To get the best possible results, go easy on your face by choosing a formula that’s best suited for your skin type. If you need help choosing the ideal product for you, check in with your dermatologist to get the formulation just right.
Natasha Burton is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Livestrong, Woman’s Day, and many other lifestyle publications. She’s the author of What’s My Type?: 100+ Quizzes to Help You Find Yourself ― and Your Match!, 101 Quizzes for Couples, 101 Quizzes for BFFs, 101 Quizzes for Brides and Grooms, and the co-author of “The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags.” When she’s not writing, she’s fully immersed in #MomLife with her toddler and preschooler.
Last medically reviewed on October 12, 2021