The 16 Best Face Scrubs For Glowing Skin Of 2023, Per Experts
Sep 10, 2023
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Experts pick exfoliation products that remove blackheads and excess oil.
It seems like we're all on an endless journey for clearer, smoother, more radiant skin. That goal doesn't seem too out of reach, considering there's no shortage of skincare products on the market that address almost every need there is, but sometimes the answer to softer skin is pretty simple: a face scrub.
Face scrubs are a type of physical exfoliator. For the beauty newbies, exfoliation is a skincare technique that involves removing dead cells from the top layer of your skin. "By removing this layer of clutter off of your skin, exfoliation helps brighten your complexion, and allows your skin-care products to penetrate deeper into your skin," dermatologist Avnee Shah, MD previously told WH.
Meet the experts: Kseniya Kobets, MD, is a dermatologist and director of cosmetic dermatology at Montefiore-Einstein Advanced Care in New York. Leah Ansell, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University. Todd Minars, MD, is a dermatologist and the assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Avnee Shah, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist.
Ready for soft, supple, glowy skin? Read on for the 15 best face scrubs, according to dermatologists and rave reviews.
Clean pores, soft skin, and smooth texture? Check, check, and check! This micro-exfoliating scrub does it all. “This is a great physical exfoliator with gentle particles that don't over-strip skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Leah Ansell, MD. Plus, it delivers extra hydration to the skin’s surface without using parabens, sulfates, fragrances, dyes, or alcohols.
Rave review: "Absolutely love using this before bed. After washing, I use this micro-exfoliating scrub. Then apply my cream. I wake up looking radiant! I can't say enough about this product. I have sensitive skin and this really works well for me."
The microbeads in this cleanser clear your pores of dirt and gunk and leaves your skin baby soft sans irritation. It's also so gentle that you can use it daily if needed.
Rave review: "It is extremely gentle for my sensitive skin, especially after a laser treatment I had done a few weeks back. I use it just about every day, a little goes a long way, and I very much enjoy the fragrance. It’s very subtle and lovely. I highly recommend this product."
Unveil a smoother texture and radiant glow with this nutrient-rich face polish. With both physical and enzyme exfoliators, this face scrub buffs away dead skin cells, softens fine lines, and diminishes dullness. You can also leave the scrub on as a 10-minute mask for an extra deep cleanse.
Rave review: "This is an excellent product to pair with your regular regimen to get smooth skin. I have had to build up the frequency with which I use it but I can already tell a difference."
This scrub contains biodegradable clay spheres and minerals that absorb oils and other impurities in the skin, says Kseniya Kobets, MD, dermatologist and director of cosmetic dermatology at Montefiore-Einstein Advanced Care. It also has hydroxy acids to boost chemical exfoliation and promote detoxification, she adds.
Rave review: "I love that you can also use it as a mask for a little longer—like 10 to 15 minutes—to further increase absorption of oil which may help blackheads,” Dr. Kobets explains.
This daily cleanser is a favorite of dermatologist Todd Minars, MD for a reason. It brightens the skin while gently exfoliating and purifying excess oil, dirt, and pollution. Formulated with pearlstone, a natural exfoliant, this face wash smoothes and refines any skin type for a more radiant glow.
Rave review: "Ever since trying this nothing is the same, the quality of this is unmatched!"
Say goodbye to dull skin because this exfoliating cleanser gently refines and removes impurities while helping to visibly brighten and illuminate. It also contains bamboo spheres and smart sensing beads to slough off dead skin cells and boost luminosity.
Rave review: "I have very dry skin and this cleanser is perfect for me. My skin feels soft and clean after using it and it's gentle and non-irritating."
“This is a more intense physical exfoliant with magnesium oxide crystals that physically polish up the skin by removing excess skin and debris off the face,” says Dr. Kobets. Plus, the magnesium crystals double as an instant polish on the skin's surface to restore and instantly smooth texture. Just note that dry and sensitive skin may require less use, so start with a small amount once a week.
Rave review: "Love this stuff! It feels so good to rub it on my face and neck while my skin is exfoliating. It relieves the itching and helps to eliminate dead skin! I can’t do without it!"
“I love this AHA/BHA cleanser because it contains great chemical exfoliants that help remove debris from the top layer of skin as well as brighten the skin,” says Dr. Ansell. It also contains round, soft jojoba spheres for a gentle polish, while lavender extract tones and soothes inflammation. Another perk? The citrus oils minimize large pores for a refreshed complexion.
Rave review: "This cleaner is a MUST have for me! It gently exfoliates & leaves my skin refreshed. The bottle lasts for a very long time as a little bit goes a long way."
A natural exfoliating scrub that brightens all skin types? Yes please. “It contains smooth rice shell microspheres that are gentle, and also has other ingredients like colloidal oatmeal to calm the skin,” says Dr. Kobets. You can also expect some brightening effects since it contains olive leaf extract which is known to banish dullness.
Rave review: "Not too abrasive and my face feels wonderfully clean."
If you’re looking for a more low-key ZO Skin Health option, Dr. Kobets loves the dual action scrub. “It’s gentler with the round wax beads which provide a gentler physical exfoliation, while chemical exfoliants like lactic acid and salicylic acid add to the overall effect,” she explains. The dual chemical and physical exfoliation is also great for clearing breakouts while leaving the skin soft and dewy.
Rave review: "I started using this system 9 months ago and I was suffering from hormonal ance at the age of 40. This system has truly saved my skin! The breakouts are minimal now and very controlled. I will be forever grateful to my provider who recommended this skin care routine."
If you’re looking for a chemical exfoliant, Dr. Ansell says to opt for the La Roche-Posay Effaclear Adapalene Gel. The adapalene helps turn over the skin for a radiant complexion and clears and prevents blackheads, whiteheads, acne blemishes, and clogged pores.
Rave review: "I needed relief from a stubborn cystic pimple I had. This product was recommended to me. I went home that night, used it as a spot treatment and woke up this morning with the pimple completely dried up and pain free. Highly recommend."
This salicylic acid cleanser is a classic for a reason, says Dr. Minars. It exfoliates deep into the pores to sweep away dirt, oil, and dead skin cells. The 2-percent salicylic acid is also great for targeting acne and preventing future breakouts.
Rave review: "I am in my thirties and have been using this for ten or more years! I rarely breakout because it helps prevent breakouts AND clear up breakouts. I never go without it. Highly recommend for oily or hybrid skin!"
Derived from lava powder, this deep cleansing exfoliator buffs away dead skin cells and debris to polish and brighten your skin. The sand microbeads also work to refine the skin’s texture without causing dryness or irritation. Topped with notes of grapefruit, mint, and sweet orange, this refreshing cleanse is a great addition to your beauty routine.
Rave review: "I've been told I need to exfoliate more during the rare times I've had facials. I don't spend a lot of time on my face and this product does the job quick and easy in the shower once a week or so."
Get ready for clear, vibrant skin with this water-activated powder exfoliant that gently removes surface buildup, debris, and dead skin cells. The fast-acting formula contains vitamin C, fermented pomegranate enzyme, and rice flour to smooth your skin for an instant glow.
Rave review: "I usually use a more chemical based exfoliant because the grainy ones are too rough for my skin. OSEA’s polish is gentle and makes my skin feel clean and glowy."
This sugar scrub packs a punch! With probiotic extracts and superfoods like pineapple and papaya, this exfoliating scrub smells like a beach vacation and works overtime to polish, soften, and revitalize your skin. Not to mention, Tula is a clean brand, so the scrub contains no parabens, sulfates, mineral oils, petroleum, or silicone.
Rave review: "I love Tula, but this was my first time trying the sugar face scrub. It was not harsh on my skin, but still did a great job exfoliating. Makes my skin look and feel great!"
It doesn’t get more refreshing than a lemonade exfoliating scrub, and this 2022 WH Beauty Award winner quickly and visibly rehabs the skin. With AHAs, lemon peel, and sugar, this face scrub is perfect for polishing away fine lines, wrinkles, dullness, and uneven textures.
Rave review: "Okay so this scrub is a holy grail. It smells like a lemon margarita (I want to eat it so badly) and it feels amazing scrubbing into skin. I highly recommend for combination skin and acne prone people."
For the past few months, Women’s Health editors, including beauty director Brian Underwood and beauty editor Danielle Jackson, have been researching the bestselling, most popular face scrubs. We consulted three board-certified dermatologists for expert opinions, and then evaluated thousands of customer reviews and ratings to narrow down the best face scrubs for a variety of skin types and needs.
“Exfoliation of the skin has several functions, including almost immediately, making the skin glow and appear luminous, which is what usually happens with physical exfoliators and scrubs,” says Dr. Kobets. “Additionally, exfoliating allows you to strip the skin of the dead skin layer and improve penetration of certain active products, such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, retinoids, and antioxidants over time.”
It’s always best to talk with your doctor about how often to exfoliate or use a face scrub, since it depends on your skin type and the other facial products you use, but generally speaking, exfoliating once to twice a week is sufficient, says Dr. Ansell.
If you notice redness or burning after exfoliating, reduce the amount of product or the frequency altogether, says Dr. Minars. If your skin feels dry or flaky, give the scrub a break and focus on moisturizing, especially if you’re using retinols, he adds.
Andi Breitowich is a Chicago-based writer and graduate student at Northwestern Medill. She’s a mass consumer of social media and cares about women’s rights, holistic wellness, and non-stigmatizing reproductive care. As a former collegiate pole vaulter, she has a love for all things fitness and is currently obsessed with Peloton Tread workouts and hot yoga.
Danielle is the beauty editor at Women's Health. Her apartment is currently littered with beauty products, but when she's not testing them all out, you can find her watching facial ASMR videos on YouTube, binge-watching The Golden Girls on Hulu, and reading rom-coms.
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