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Finding the best face exfoliator involves more than just picking the product with the most appealing packaging. Scrubbing away dead skin cells can reveal a fresh glow, but to truly put your best face forward, follow the advice of the pros. The skincare experts at the American Academy of Dermatology Association say that choosing exfoliation products should include consideration of your skin type and any existing skincare challenges.
So, the first step in choosing an exfoliator is deciding your skin type. If you aren’t sure which type you have, skincare YouTuber extraordinaire Hyram — who has over 4 million subscribers — suggests using a gentle cleanser, waiting an hour, and then taking note of how your skin looks and feels. The results should determine whether you have dry, oily, combination, or normal skin (via Youtube).
The next step in your quest to better understand how to exfoliate your face at home involves deciding between a face scrub or mask with a gentle gritty texture or a chemical-based product — something that has ingredients such as alpha and beta hydroxy acids. Both offer the exfoliation benefits of sloughing off dead skin cells and unclogging pores. Plus, as esthetician Renée Rouleau tells Brydie, “As you increase your exfoliation, you are tricking the skin into acting young again.”
Wait a hot second here. Glowing, youthful skin — even after an exhausting week? Yes, please!
Each of our face exfoliator recommendations is based on research that includes a variety of crucial skincare considerations. Of course, general popularity plays a role, as products usually amass cult followings for good reason.
Along those lines, we considered user reviews and media coverage. Coupled with skincare advice from dermatologists such as those interviewed by Cleveland Clinic, the face exfoliators included here offer recommendations for all skin types as well as both mechanical (gritty) and chemical face exfoliators.
From there, the criteria consist of the most sought-after face exfoliation benefits. For example, categories include best exfoliators for dry skin, clogged pores, and acne-prone skin. Lastly, we included products that support consumer-driven preferences, such as organic, vegan, and inclusive skincare.
The end result of these considerations is a stellar list of the 20 best face exfoliators to buy in 2022. Whether you’re looking for the best exfoliating face wash or a celebrity-fave splurge, a little scrub goes a long way.
If you want to exfoliate daily, a leave-on treatment is a great option. WLDKAT’s Yucca + Lactic Acid Liquid effectively removes dead skin cells and builds a beautiful complexion. Healthline recommends lactic acid as a gentle, effective way to improve the appearance of the skin’s pores and overall skin tone. This 11% lactic acid formula certainly gets the job done.
Additionally, it includes a boost of yucca — a plant native to southern North America — which is often used for its skin-healing properties (via WebMD). In other words, this plant-based formula gets the green light for gentle, daily face exfoliation.
Not only is ACURE’s Brightening Facial Scrub 100% vegan and cruelty-free, but it’s also free from parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, petrolatum, and formaldehyde. In addition, its French green clay and lemon peel brighten and purify the complexion, while walnut powder sloughs off dead skin cells.
Hailed by Healthline as a go-to vegan beauty staple, this tube of exfoliating sunshine also gets two thumbs up from Youtuber Nicky Mae. But the reviews are just as enthusiastic as they are positive. In fact, one reviewer declared that she would “cry if they stopped making this scrub.”
Priori’s LCA – 2xFoliant Peel + Scrub is up to the task if your goal is to de-gunk your pores. It combines the mighty but mild power of lactic acid with gentle micro-beads. And guess what? The brand only uses marine-friendly biodegradable microspheres, so it’s a win for the skin and the environment.
Priori’s range of products garner shining reviews from Refinery29 and Good Housekeeping, and reviewer Stacey D. raves, “Noticed a huge difference within two weeks of using this product!” Plus, if you’re looking for genderless skincare, Editorialist applauds the product’s broad reach.
Your daily schedule is jam-packed; we get it. So take the advice of the skincare enthusiasts at Allure and let SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight exfoliating treatment work the night shift. Not only does it pack 10% glycolic acid, but it also improves the skin’s brightness with its additional 2% phytic acid.
Moreover, the overnight treatment is lauded by Dr. Kim Nichols, a Greenwich, Connecticut-based dermatologist. In her Youtube tutorial, she suggests adding it into your current skincare routine, especially if you experience skin discoloration.
Nylon has celebrated Elina Organic’s use of natural ingredients, and true to form, its Cranberry Rose Skin Refiner is loaded with nature’s goodness. The formula’s manuka honey will quench your dry skin’s need for moisture while the crushed rose hips slough away dead skin, reduce hyperpigmentation, and calm irritated, red patches.
Among the glowing user reviews, one smitten fan wrote, “OMG!!! Love this product! My skin feels like baby skin-not bad for a 64-year-old!”
When the folks at Buzzfeed interviewed skincare experts, they were sure to include Tami Blake. She’s a licensed esthetician and founder of the skincare line Free + True, which also has the backing of Vanity Fair.
So, if your skin is too sensitive for exfoliating acids, you can feel confident buying the brand’s soft powder exfoliant. Together with a bit of water, the coconut milk, banana, and colloidal oat micro powder lather into a gentle, profoundly exfoliating cleanser.
The skincare gurus at Korres source ingredients from Greek organic farmers, optimizing the benefits of the islands’ unique plants. In an interview with Byrdie, Lena Philippou Korres, a chemical engineer and the company’s co-founder, explains that “based on our knowledge of more than 3,000 herbal remedies,” the brand creates apothecary-inspired, all-natural skincare.
The Pomegranate Triple Dose Resurfacing Mask targets oily skin directly, using the Healthline-recommended kaolin clay to draw excess oil and impurities from the pores. Not to mention, it’s is a fan-favorite, inspiring scores of Amazon reviews.” I am very impressed,” one user wrote. “Smoothes out the congestion on my forehead after two uses.”
The Today Show named SeroVital on the best anti-aging products on Amazon. The ComfortBead Cleanser is designed for the unique needs of people over the age of 45 and serves as an all-in-one skincare solution. With this in mind, the formula is a gentle cleanser, exfoliator, and moisturizer loaded with exfoliants, including jojoba, bamboo, and glycolic and lactic acids.
The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that skincare in your 40s and 50s should include gentle, twice-daily cleansing as well as a regular moisturizer. Luckily, this mature skin exfoliator does both!
Don’t exclude the drugstore in your quest to quell your skincare slump. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Exfoliating Cleanser is mild enough to use daily, and it’s serving up a hearty dose of hyaluronic acid — known for keeping skin hydrated and wrinkle-free (via Healthline).
It’s no surprise then that it’s a user-favorite, with no shortage of rave reviews on YouTube. One such video has garnered more than 220,000 views.
Clearly, this exfoliating face wash is swoon-worthy; it even made it onto Brydie’s list of Best Dermatologist-approved Face Exfoliators!
With over 200,000 likes at Sephora, the Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment is always a contender for shout-outs on skincare reviews. Formulated for various skin types, this lactic acid serum comes highly recommended by The Cut.
The product’s claim to fame — reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles in just 3-minutes — is backed by purified lactic acid, licorice, lemongrass, arnica, and prickly pear extract. But does it deliver? One Sephora client’s 5-star review sums it up best: “Life-changing. No joke.”
You may not associate bohemian hippie culture with chemicals, but this product is a great reminder that many chemical face exfoliants are naturally derived. Mad Hippie MicroDermabrasion Facial is crafted with plant extracts to deliver five alpha hydroxy acids.
As if that weren’t enough, it rounds out the ingredients with mandelic acid, probiotics, hyaluronic acid, and even a bit of volcanic ash for a soothing sloughing grit. The cheery-looking jar is a loving jolt of skin renewal and even claimed a spot on Medical News Today‘s Best Face Scrub list. Peace out, dull skin!
Made in Korea and inspired by the K-beauty trend, Sweet Chef provides some serious complexion-clarifying exfoliation. The brand’s Carrot Ginger + Salicylic Acid Pore Cleanser uses its signature salicylic acid to purge the pores of dirt and congestion. At the same time, ginger and carrot support the complexion by contributing major antioxidant-action for that freshly-exfoliated glow.
Notably, InStyle recommends it for clearing up the dreaded maskne, but we’re also impressed with its free-from list. Sweet Chef is vegan, cruelty-free, and free of parabens, mineral oil, sulfates, silicones, phthalates, drying alcohols, essential oils, soap, synthetic dyes, and fragrances.
Created in the French Cosmetic Valley, this skincare brand landed the top spot on Cosmopolitan‘s “28 Black-Owned Skincare Brands That Should Be on Your Radar.”
The brand 4.5.6 gets its name from the darker skin phototypes — or melanin-rich skin tones — that are celebrated by the brand. What’s more, the exfoliant mask can be customized, allowing you to choose your skin phototype, hydration needs, and areas of concern.
In an interview with Vogue, 4.5.6 cofounder Carlos A. Charles, M.D. remarked, “As a dermatologist who takes care of skin of color, I see a lot of aggressive exfoliation.” Therefore, this mask is designed to be as calming as it is effective.
Behold, a little pot of Golde! Golde brand Papaya Bright Exfoliating Face Mask, that is. Undeniably awesome, this organic wonder relies on natural papaya enzymes for a potent dose of skin-sloughing exfoliation. Which, it turns out, offers benefits beyond just a goddess-like glow.
According to dermatologist Dr. Emily Arch, “Proper use of exfoliants ideally creates a smoother, brighter complexion and allows skincare product and makeup application to be more effective and even” (via Brydie). On the whole, this powder-to-gel mask smells like a tropical paradise, is travel-friendly, and delivers its promise.
You can’t flip or scroll through your trusted beauty resources without seeing Kate Somerville Skincare. From Vogue to Marie Claire, beauty experts often rely on the brand’s Exfolikate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment for dewy, luminous skin.
In an interview with Vogue, celebrity makeup artist Brigitte Reiss-Andersen – who works with stars like Jennifer Coolidge and Rose Bryne — recommends using this splurge-worthy treatment as part of your skin prep routine. The two-minute scrub has over 1,200 5-star reviews, and you can have red-carpet-ready skin for $28 — if you want to score a half-ounce trial-size tube, that is.
Exfoliating pads and wipes earn bonus points for being travel and handbag-friendly. Much more than that, though, the two-step Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel from Dr. Dennis Gross earned itself a coveted spot on Byrdie’s “Best Dermatologist-Approved Face Exfoliators.”
If you’re new to exfoliation and peels, consider this individually packaged skincare wipe your personal invitation to join the dewy complexion club. Unquestionably easy, it’s also worth checking out the impressive before and after images fans share.
Drunk Elephant is basically exfoliation goals. The T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial Mask brings a spa-level chemical exfoliation mask to your fingertips. Clearly a heavy-weight contender, the chickpea and pumpkin mask offers glycolic, tartaric, lactic, citric, and salicylic acids — 25% alpha hydroxy acids and 2% beta hydroxy acids in total.
A quick glance at the product page reveals that this powerhouse complexion savior is dripping with beauty awards from the likes of Bazaar, InStyle, and Women’s Health. Meanwhile, the beauty junkies at Allure swear by its gentle oomph.
Stay focused. Don’t get distracted by visions of Kylo Ren-famed Adam Driver on this one. In this situation, Ren Clean Skincare saves your skin from the dark side with its Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic, as seen in the before and after images.
The tonic has a loving YouTube fan base. Notably, it was featured in a Youtube review posted by Mixed Makeup and has just shy of 600,000 views. Combine that with love from the Chicago Tribune, and it’s clear that this cruelty-free toner is a winner.
Arguably one of the it girls of the skincare industry, this list of best face exfoliators wouldn’t be complete without Paula’s Choice. The Skin Perfecting BHA Liquid Exfoliant addresses the challenge of exfoliating delicate acne-prone skin. Overall, the daily serum has over 50,000 reviews on Amazon and has a cult-like following, according to Insider.
Sure, being uniquely you is a worthy life missive, but this is one bandwagon you’d be well-advised to hop aboard on. Don’t let the low-key packaging fool you, says Glamour, Paula’s Choice is a skincare line that sets industry standards.
If you’re a minimalist and want exfoliation without any extra steps, we hear you. So, let the Cleanse Glycolic Gel from The A Method do all the resurfacing work. Byrdie recommends using glycolic acid because it deeply penetrates the skin’s layers. At the same time, you’ll get the benefit of fending off the dreaded maskne.
The brand was founded by Dr. Tina Alster, professor of dermatology at Georgetown University Medical Center. In an interview with The Every Girl, she explains, “mask[s] hold in bacteria, sweat, and moisture, causing the bacterial organisms to overgrow, resulting in inflammation and breakouts.” Thankfully, with one of these face exfoliators in your arsenal, you won’t have to spend another second of 2022 worrying over such skincare woes.