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25 Best Facial Scrubs and Exfoliators for Glowing Skin

Want to look effortlessly gorgeous and glowy? Experts say adding a facial scrub to your beauty routine is the skin care secret you're missing.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

Facial Scrubsvia sephora.com, via amazon.com, via skinceuticals.com

The key skin care step you’re missing

In our quest for a gorgeous glow and younger-looking skin, we’re willing to plunk down a pretty penny for the best anti-aging face creams and retinol serums. After all, if they work, they’re worth it. But what if we told you that they weren’t working as well as they could because you’re missing an essential step in your beauty routine? Without the best facial scrubs and exfoliators, these miracle products won’t be able to penetrate your skin fully and do their jobs effectively.

“Exfoliants are an important part of a skin care regimen, as they help to unclog pores, promote cell turnover, and cleanse the skin of excess sebum and bacteria,” says Kim Nichols, MD, founding director of NicholsMD in Greenwich, Connecticut. “[They’ll give you] a healthier, clearer, and more radiant complexion.”

There are two types of products in this category to choose from. The first are physical scrubs, which contain microparticles like sugar or plant-based ingredients that manually remove dead skin; they are similar to the body scrubs you might already have in your shower. The second are chemical exfoliants, whose active ingredients include things like glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acid, which break apart the bonds that hold together dead skin cells and dissolve them.

How we chose the best facial scrubs and exfoliators

There are a ton of facial scrubs on the market, and depending on the formulation you choose, they can help minimize breakouts, shrink pores, smooth fine lines and wrinkles, increase moisture for dewy skin, and more. The “best” one really boils down to what you want, the type of exfoliant you prefer, and just how much multitasking you want your product to do.

Since we don’t mess around when it comes to skin care, we went straight to the experts and asked dermatologists to give us the scoop on the best of the best—the ones they recommend to their patients and use themselves. Scroll through to find your specific skin type or skin need and choose accordingly. Then, round out your skin care routine with the best sunscreens and anti-aging eye creams worth your money.

The DefenAge 2-Minute Reveal Masquevia defenage.com

The DefenAge 2-Minute Reveal Masque

Best for: Cleaning clogged pores

This award-winning exfoliating mask contains fine sugar crystals that slough away dead cells and debris to leave the skin feeling smoother. “It is gentle for all or most skin types and has a warming sensation,” says Bryan G. Forley, MD, a New York City plastic surgeon. “It also helps to minimize the appearance of pores and enhance skin radiance.” The best part? It takes just two minutes to get real results.

Here’s how to do it: “Once or twice a week after cleansing, dry skin thoroughly and apply a dollop to your face and jawline,” says Dr. Forley. “Using dry fingertips, gently massage it in a circular motion for about 20 seconds, then wait two minutes and massage until the crystals are completely dissolved. Then rinse your face.” Follow with the best moisturizer for your skin type.

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Yes To Tomatoes Daily Cleanservia amazon.com

Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Daily Cleanser

Best for: Budget-minded shoppers

You don’t need to shell out big bucks for a face scrub to see big results. Dr. Nichols is a fan of this Yes to Tomatoes noncomedogenic scrub, and it costs less than $5. “This facial scrub contains three active ingredients,” she notes. “Salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that loosens up dead skin cells and sebum in your pores; detoxifying charcoal to remove impurities; and tomato extract, which is a natural source of antioxidants.” It also contains natural jojoba beads, which allow for a gentle physical exfoliation.

Start using this scrub as your cleanser one to two nights a week. After several weeks, if your skin tolerates it well, you can start adding in more often. “Eventually, it may become your daily cleanser, especially if you have oily and blemish-prone skin,” says Dr. Nichols. Follow up with these moisturizers for oily skin that can work wonders on your complexion.

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Environ Facial Cleanservia amazon.com

Environ Sebu-Wash Gel Cleanser

Best for: Acne-prone skin

This foaming gel cleanser was literally made for people with acne, says Anne Chapas, MD, medical director of UnionDerm in New York City. It packs a one-two punch against breakouts. “Salicylic acid helps to open the pores, and tea tree oil helps to reduce inflammation,” she explains. Plus, while it removes dirt and excess oil, it does so gently and without overly drying out your skin.

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Tracie Martyn ExfoliantVia Traciemartyn.com

Tracie Martyn Enzyme Exfoliant

Best for: Skin brightening

This scrub has lots going for it, including its mesmerizing turquoise hue. Natural exfoliators like bromelain from pineapples, alpha hydroxy acids, and beta hydroxy acids slough off dead skin cells, revealing a fresher and brighter you. Kojic acid and volcanic minerals add some extra oomph to this best-selling scrub. You’ll love how clear skin enhances a natural makeup look.

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Neogen Dermatology Pore Tight Peeling Moussevia amazon.com

Neogen Dermatology Pore Tight Peeling Mousse

Best for: Pore tightening

Credit TikTok for this mousse’s soaring popularity. After going viral on the social media channel, the Neogen Pore Tight Peeling Mousse became a must-have skin care product for the masses, with good reason…it works. This mousse pulls dirt out of your pores using ingredients from the sea, including red algae, as extracts from purple sea urchins tighten sagging skin.

As one Amazon reviewer writes, “Tiktok brought me here LOL but!! They weren’t lying when they said this product works! Used it as part of my evening skincare routine one evening, and I could immediately tell the difference it had on my skin. Come the next morning, my face was G L O W I N G, super moisturized, and my pores were sizably smaller.”

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Slurp Decalt 150mlVia Slurplaboratories.com
Slurp Decalt 150ml

Slurp Decalt 150ml

Best for: Clearing congestion

This scrub packs a wallop against the blackheads, whiteheads, acne, milia, and papules that cause skin congestion. It contains salicylic acid and gentle polyhydroxy acid, which work together to dissolve excess sebum and the bond that holds dead skin cells together, for easier removal. Add a pinch of Volcanic Ash to draw impurities to the surface and you’ve got a cleaner, clearer complexion…just like that. Decalt 150ml can be used up to four times per week, but make sure to start slowly and build up to greater use. You’ll also want to apply your skin care products in the right order for best results.

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InnBeauty Project's Down to Tone Resurfacing Tonervia sephora.com

InnBeauty Project’s Down to Tone Resurfacing Toner

Best for: Minimizing dark spots

Yes, a toner can double as an exfoliant—and that’s exactly what you’ll get with this InnBeauty Project toner, which is infused with chemicals that get rid of pore-clogging dead skin cells.

“This alcohol-free blend of six acids (phytic acid, malic acid, gluconolactone, lactic acid, salicylic acid, and citric acid) exfoliates, clarifies, and brightens the skin,” says New York City dermatologist Hadley King, MD, a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. “It also contains niacinamide to improve tone and texture and support the skin barrier to keep moisture locked in.” Speaking of keeping moisture locked in, read up on the latest TikTok skincare trend that’s a moisture booster: slugging.

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Renee Rouleau Rapid Response Detox MasqueVia Reneerouleau.com

Renee Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Masque

Best for: Preventing breakouts

This scrub stops your breakouts before they happen with bacteria-thwarting tea tree oil, exfoliating salicylic acid, plus soothing Chinese licorice and allatoin. For best results, use Rapid Response Detox Masque once a week. Leave on 15 minutes and rinse thoroughly. This masque’s gel-like consistency cools redness and inflammation too, so there’s no downtime or irritation.

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Herla Beauty Kakadu Plum Brightening and Revitalizing Exfoliating Scrubvia amazon.com

Herla Beauty Kakadu Plum Brightening and Revitalizing Exfoliating Scrub

Best for: An antioxidant boost

Antioxidants help sop up damaging free radicals that cause skin aging, and this Herla Beauty exfoliating scrub offers antioxidants in spades with Kakadu plum, rooibos tea, and gingko biloba. “Plus,” adds Dr. King, “this very gentle exfoliator contains caviar lime, which helps to remove dead skin cells and even out skin pigmentation.” Using a scrub like this is just one of the everyday habits that can make you look younger.

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Scaf Facial Scrubvia schafskincare.com

Schaf Facial Scrub

Best for: Vegan beauty fans

This vegan scrub contains a blend of ultra-gentle bamboo beads that manually remove dead cells from the surface of the skin, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, an associate professor of dermatology and the director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Shea butter and hyaluronic acid keep the skin hydrated and plump,” he adds. Some of the best moisturizers on the market also contain shea butter.

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Charlotte Tilbury’s Super Radiance Resurfacing FacialVia Charlottetilbury.com

Charlotte Tilbury’s Super Radiance Resurfacing Facial

Best for: Oily combination skin

This scrub’s magic is due to its blend of three hydroxy acids: AHA, BHA, and PHA. Start off by using it for five minutes and gradually build up to 20 to see what all the hype is about. Ninety-nine percent of people agree that their skin feels instantly smoother, according to company studies.

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Neutrogena Face Wash via amazon.com

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash

Best for: Daily use

This Amazon’s Choice scrub won’t let you down. It contains salicylic acid to help clean and exfoliate your pores, plus MicroClear Technology to make sure the salicylic acid gets where it is needed most. Meanwhile, a sebum dissolver prepares the skin to better receive the salicylic acid.

Verified Amazon reviewer Asia is just one of the 5,600-plus reviewers who gave this Neutrogena scrub five stars. She raves: “Even on the first use, I saw a huge difference in my skin. It made it brighter and eliminated the roughness. I also suffer from discoloration and severe acne on my chin, [and now] my chin has significantly cleared up, and I don’t feel the need to wear makeup over it anymore.”

If you still need a little help while this product works its magic, try this redness-reducing concealer with more than 18,000 five-star reviews.

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Bliss Jelly Glow Peel via ulta.com

Bliss Jelly Glow Peel

Best for: Super gentle exfoliation

This gentle, non-abrasive exfoliator has a bouncy jelly base that promises to nourish and hydrate skin. It contains pineapple and papaya enzymes to exfoliate your skin, plus coconut fruit extract and pro vitamin B5 to seal in hydration. One five-star reviewer notes, “Unlike other exfoliants, it is not a mask—it doesn’t technically ‘peel off.’ And it doesn’t contain any of those annoying sharp kernels that are supposed to scrub your face but never do.” These makeup removers are also excellent for sensitive skin.

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Alpa H Glycolic Acidvia sephora.com

Alpha-H Liquid Gold Exfoliating Treatment

Best for: Nighttime use

It’s not just what you do when you’re washing your face that can improve your skin and reduce signs of aging. Apply this Alpha-H Liquid Gold Exfoliating Treatment before bed and leave it on overnight. Its highly concentrated, low-pH glycolic acid will work some serious magic while you sleep.

“Besides improving the glow of the skin, it can minimize the appearance of wrinkles and brighten dark spots,” says Dr. Zeichner. In general, he recommends using exfoliating products at night because that’s when skin-cell turnover is at its highest. You may not even need your favorite foundation after using this regularly, but for the times you do want to wear it, these treatments will help it go on more smoothly.

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Alpharet Exfoliating Peel Padsvia skinbetter.com

AlphaRet Exfoliating Peel Pads

Best for: Smoothing fine lines and wrinkles

These exfoliating pads feature SkinBetter Science’s AlphaRet, which is composed of a retinoid plus a triple-acid blend of glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acid, says Dendy E. Engelman, MD, the director of dermatology, Mohs surgery, and laser medicine at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City.

These are all powerful anti-aging ingredients, but this formulation is gentle on skin. “The pads improve the appearance of skin smoothness, clarity, lines, and wrinkles,” says Dr. Engelman. “As a pro tip, I often tell patients to use the pads on their face and—before they throw out the pad—to wipe their upper arms with the peel pad in order to help get rid of keratosis pilaris bumps.”

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Skin Medica Aha Bha Exfoliating Cleanservia skinmedica.com

The Skin Medica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

Best for: Regular cleansing

This Skin Medica cleanser is a favorite of New York City plastic surgeon David Shafer, MD. “The benefits of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA) are improved skin texture, tone, and smoothness, leaving skin feeling refreshingly clean,” he says. It’s also gentle. “I have found that even though I am exfoliating, my skin does not feel traumatized or irritated.” For best results, use in the morning and evening, as tolerated.

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Zo Skin Health Scrubvia zoskinhealth.com

ZO Skin Health Dual Action Scrub

Best for: Whole-body polishing

This two-in-one product, which is a physical and chemical exfoliator, can also be used on your body, shares Michael Somenek, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in Washington, D.C. “Key ingredients include lactic acid and salicylic acid to exfoliate debris and purge congested pores,” he says.

It also contains fine wax beads for non-abrasive sloughing without irritation. “It is great for my acne-prone patients and is equally powerful to exfoliate other areas like your arms and legs.” Keep in mind that if you’re applying self-tanner, you’ll definitely want to exfoliate first, so this multitasker will come in handy.

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SkinCeuticals Micro-Exfoliating Scrubvia skinceuticals.com

SkinCeuticals Micro-Exfoliating Scrub

Best for: All skin types

This SkinCeuticals facial scrub purifies pores while simultaneously hydrating, so it’s gentle enough for daily use, says Dr. Nichols. Its power comes from hydrated silica, glycerin, and aloe extract, which work synergistically to clean out pores, promote a healthy skin barrier, and give skin a moisture boost. Use two or three times per week for best results.

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GOOPGLOW Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliatorvia goop.com

GOOPGLOW Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliator

Best for: Getting your glow on

A popular in-office cosmetic treatment, microdermabrasion involves spraying tiny crystals across your face to remove the top layer of your skin for glowing complexion. GOOPGLOW Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliator offers the same benefits from the comfort of your home. It’s packed with microexfoliating minerals, including quartz, garnet, alumina, and silica, plus glycolic acid to help slough off dead skin cells.

As one Sephora reviewer puts it: “My skin legit felt like a porcelain doll. SOOOOO SMOOTH! I get all the hype now! I’m totally obsessed! Oh and a little goes a long way! Most definitely worth every penny!” (If you’re a Goop fan, you can steal Gwyneth Paltrow’s other skin detox tricks, too.)

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Colleen Rothschild Mandelic Acid Radiance SerumVia Colleenrothschild.com

Colleen Rothschild Mandelic Acid Radiance Serum

Best for: Mature skin

Mandelic Acid Radiance Serum gently exfoliates, dissolves, and breaks down the bonds that hold dead skin cells together and cast a dull, grayish hue. Made from almonds, Mandelic acid is a gentle AHA. The benefits of regular use? Reduced fine lines, acne, and dark spots, plus an improvement in overall skin texture. Though Colleen Rothschild’s Mandelic Acid Radiance Serum is great for matures skin, proper cleansing and moisturizing is one of the everyday habits that help you look younger at any age.

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MZ Skin Radiance and Renewal MaskVia Mzskin.com

MZ Skin Radiance and Renewal Mask

Best for: Smoothing textured skin

One of the hero products from this doctor-developed brand, this exfoliating mask comprises 8.5 percent AHA complex to slough off pigmented cells for a brighter complexion. It also helps smooth fine lines and wrinkles. For best results, use MZ Skin Radiance and Renewal Mask twice weekly.

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Arbonne DermResults Daily Radiance Peel Pads with 2% Caviar LimeVia Arbonne.com

Arbonne DermResults Daily Radiance Peel Pads with 2% Caviar Lime

Best for: Evening skin tone

These exfoliating pads are powered by caviar lime for chemical exfoliation. Individual peels make these super easy to use. Results of company studies speak for themselves: Ninety-one percent of people saw improvement in the look of skin tone evenness after one week, and after eight weeks, everyone showed improvement in the look of skin tone evenness, discoloration, skin firmness, radiance, and pore appearance.

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Image Skincare AGELESS total resurfacing masquevia Imageskincare.com

Image Skincare AGELESS total resurfacing masque

Best for: Clean beauty fans

Made without parabens, phthalates, mineral oils, artificial fragrances, synthetic dyes, or animal testing, AGELESS total resurfacing masque is a clean beauty lover’s dream. The secret sauce is a blend of glycolic and salicylic acids to remove dead skin cells, and jojoba beads for a mild physical exfoliation that evens tone. “It’s a face mask scrub and people, it works! I use it maybe once a week and it leaves my face super soft,” says one verified Amazon user.

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Image Skincare AGELESS total resurfacing masque Via Piliani.com

Pili Ani Deep Detox Volcanic Exfoliating Mask

Best for: Detoxing without drying

The actives in this mask, ash harvested from the Mayon Volcano in the Philippines, which only erupts every five years, are known for drawing impurities out of skin and combatting bacteria to prevent breakouts. The mask is also infused with Pili and Elemi Oils, essential oils from the Philippines, to rejuvenate and soothe your skin.

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Bioré Charcoal Acne Scrubvia walmart.com

Bioré Charcoal Acne Scrub

Best for: Detoxing skin

Can activated charcoal really improve your skin? In a word, yes, says Orit Markowitz, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist, and she recommends this Bioré facial scrub to do just that. “It is a great product for cleaning out pores and removing debris formed from keratin, which appears in the form of a blackhead,” she says. It also contains salicylic acid to keep skin blemish-free.

That said, you’ll need to do a little extra maintenance to keep skin clear, Dr. Markowitz says. “The limitation is that the pores will refill unless you add additional products to help prevent the reformulation, such as a retinoic acid.” Now that your skin is in tip-top shape, check out the makeup secrets that will do it justice.

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Sources:

  • Kim Nichols, MD, founding director of NicholsMD in Greenwich, Connecticut
  • Anne Chapas, MD, medical director of UnionDerm in New York City
  • Hadley King, MD, a New York City dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University
  • Joshua Zeichner, MD, an associate professor of dermatology and the director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City
  • Bryan G. Forley, MD, a New York City plastic surgeon
  • Dendy E. Engelman, MD, director of dermatology, Mohs surgery, and laser medicine at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City
  • Michael Somenek, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in Washington, D.C.
  • David Shafer, MD, a plastic surgeon in New York City
  • Orit Markowitz, MD, a New York City–based dermatologist

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Denise Mann, MS
Denise Mann is a freelance health writer whose articles regularly appear in Reader’s Digest. She has received numerous awards, including the Arthritis Foundation's Northeast Region Prize for Online Journalism; the Excellence in Women's Health Research Journalism Award; the Journalistic Achievement Award from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery; National Newsmaker of the Year by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; the Gold Award for Best Service Journalism from the Magazine Association of the Southeast; a Bronze Award from The American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors; and an honorable mention in the International Osteoporosis Foundation Journalism Awards. Mann received a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and her undergraduate degree from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. She lives in New York with her husband David; sons Teddy and Evan; and their miniature schnauzer, Perri Winkle Blu, and rescue chihuahua-pitbull, Thomas.