What is the best facial exfoliator out there?
October 24, 2010 7:43 PM   Subscribe

What exfoliator should I use?

I always seem to be asking about skin care here...I've figured out what kind of wash (prescription for seborrheic dermatitis) and moisturizer (Cetaphil) to use. Would like to find a gentle yet effective exfoliator to use once a week on my face. I love the grainey stuff where you can feel exfoliating happening. I don't want anything that is going to do double duty (ie exfoliate and clean or exfoliate and dry out pimples etc) Nothing that is going to clog pores, cause breakouts or otherwise harm my skin. Smell, brand, cost not so important. What do you recommend?
posted by rglass to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (31 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I use, and quite like, Alba's Sea Algae Enzyme Facial Scrub. It has the grainy/sandy texture I think you're wanting, and is quite pure and free of irritating nastiness. Only caveat is that it can disappear quickly if one is not mindful of portion per use; little is needed. Scent is subtle and unobtrusive; I don't believe there's any fragrance added. Sort of a clean, chlorophyl (for lack of a better description) scent. Distribution reaches fairly far, and I know Whole Foods carries all the Alba products; alternatively, Vitacost.com has it for a good price.
posted by alexandermatheson at 7:50 PM on October 24, 2010

posted by purpleclover at 7:55 PM on October 24, 2010

Try using a teaspoon of baking soda with just enough Cetaphil to make it moist mixed in the palm of your hand. This is a very effective exfoliant that you can make as gentle or rough as you need (dryer is a stronger exfoliator).
posted by saradarlin at 7:55 PM on October 24, 2010 [5 favorites]

I use a shower glove and put my regular face wash on it, lather it up and gently exfoliate that way. You don't need an extra product going on your face is your skin is sensitive. I buy mine at Target but I'm sure you could even find them in all drugstores as well. They're a few bucks a piece and you only need to use one at time so the pair will last you almost a year. So much cheaper and easier than trying to do a trial and error with exfoliating products. Also, you can exfoliate as soft or as hard as you want.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:02 PM on October 24, 2010

Sorry I forgot to include this link to a picture of some shower gloves, just in case you didn't know what they were (some people I tell this trick to don't know so I assume nothing nowadays).
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:03 PM on October 24, 2010

I use Aveda's Tourmaline Charged Exfoliating Cleanser. It works fine, I suppose. A little spendy for what it is, but I find a little goes a long way.

(side note - I've never noticed a difference in whether I "exfoliate" or not and have a strong feeling that it doesn't actually matter and is just a big marketing ploy.)

I would strongly recommend against using any scrub that uses those little plastic beads to get the job done - they wash down the drain and do bad things to the environment.
posted by Sara C. at 8:06 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

One night each week I use Dermalogica's multivitamin thermafoliant, followed by the Pure Enzymes Exfoliating Mask by CosMedix, and finished up with Juice Beauty's Green Apple Antioxidant Moisturizer. I really can see a difference for the next day or so (drinking a lot of water also helps, as we know.)

None of this stuff is cheap -- but all of the above has lasted me 6-8 months thus far, and I've used no more than 3/4 of any of the products. Cheaper than monthly facials.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:21 PM on October 24, 2010

I like Alba's Papaya Enzyme Facial Mask but because it's an exfoliant that doesn't have a graininess to it. I've been warned away from grainy exfoliants because the grains can cause skin damage ... I can't vouch for how true that is, but it's mentioned on Paula Begoun's cosmetics review site. Anyway, I tend to have acne on my face that would get torn apart by grainy exfoliants!

Also, I second the "take a facecloth and just gently rub your face when you wash it" advice. I've been doing that in the morning and night lately and it's helped a lot.
posted by cadge at 8:23 PM on October 24, 2010

I like:

Dermalogica's Skin Prep Scrub
Dermalogica's Daily Microexfoliant
St Ives Apricot Scrub
Queen Helene Oatmeal Scrub

but I ADORE:

My Clarisonic Mia - my skin has never responded so well to exfoliating before, and it's cleared up some acne breakouts I had like no product has. It seems like it would be really harsh (esp for daily use as it's meant) but it's not at all. ADORE!
posted by shazzam! at 8:41 PM on October 24, 2010

I've been really happy with Aveeno daily exfoliating cleanser - it's got some grains in it and clears my skin up but still feels really gentle on my skin. I also will sometimes make my own, from jojoba oil and ground sunflower seeds.
posted by medea42 at 8:44 PM on October 24, 2010

I could not function without my St. Ives apricot scrub (labelled Invigorating in their new package design). And paraben-free.
posted by jay dee bee at 8:56 PM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

My favorite grainy exfoliant is Karin Herzog's Mild Scrub, but it's not easy to find except on the internet. It is a thick grainy paste and the grains were made from marble dust. Most satisfying exfoliant ever. I also liked a sample of Dr. Brandt's Microbrasion in a Jar (or whatever the name is). They are expensive but a tiny bit goes a long way, even with frequent usage.

I don't find the cetaphil and baking soda to be gritty enough for my liking (although it is cheap and easily accessible). Dermatolgica's Daily Exfoliant starts out OK but wimps out as the grains dissolve.

However I too bought a Clarisonic and really like it. I don't want to over stress my skin so I've stopped using the others, but I do miss the Herzog stuff though it's been years since I've used it (Note: Bliss's Remede Sweep used to use the same formulation of marble dust suspended in a cream--I think that they stole it from Herzog as they used to carry that brand and then stopped when the came out with the Remede line--but apparently they've reformulated it and it's not anywhere near as good according to the reviews).
posted by kaybdc at 9:06 PM on October 24, 2010

I really like the exfoliators that LUSH sells, because they are all natural and smell amazing. For scrubs (in order of scrubbiness), I recommend Angels on Bare Skin (least scrubby), Dark Angels (good scrubbiness for oily skin), and Ocean Salt (super scrubby).

If you want something quick and cheap, I've found that a mix of baking soda and olive oil is an effective method to smooth out my skin.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 9:09 PM on October 24, 2010

First, IANAD. I have paid for a couple of boats for dermatologists through the years, though. :)

Because I have 'problem' skin (sensitive and acne-prone) every derm told me the same thing: "Be gentle!" No scrubbing with anything rougher than a washcloth and cetaphil cleanser (I thought that I had to scrub my acne into submission. I was wrong.). One derm said the same thing that Paula Begoun did on the page cadge linked about 'scrubby' things further damaging my already-compromised skin. (You mentioned SD, so it may be a concern for you, too). The derm recommended daily BHAs for exfoliation for me.

If you want to go that route, you don't have to buy anything fancy or expensive. The best BHA I've found is cheap (and my derm approved): Stridex Daily Care Pads – Maximum (red box). They are a few dollars at the drug or department store and I use them once a day. Any over-the-counter salicylic acid lotion/gel should work, but don't waste money on the sa 'cleansers' since the sa is just washed right off, and anything with alcohol in it is a no-no because it is drying/irritating.

I don't have a lot of experience with AHAs, but there is some fantastic advice and product recommendations on the skin care board at Makeup Alley.

Good luck to you!
posted by abigredchair at 9:17 PM on October 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have acne-prone sensitive skin and I like Queen Helen's Mint Julep facial scrub. I can sometimes find it at Walgreens or Sally Beauty Supply
posted by KogeLiz at 10:10 PM on October 24, 2010

Oh and it's cheap
posted by KogeLiz at 10:10 PM on October 24, 2010

This is the most effective exfoliator that I have ever used. You can buy the $2 sample to test it out. However, in my opinion, "grainy" exfoliators are a no-no for even mildly sensitive skin.
posted by prenominal at 12:25 AM on October 25, 2010

How about using a clean face cloth with your akin wash? A lot less likely to irritate or damage your skin...
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:51 AM on October 25, 2010

mix a bit of bicarbonate of soda into your usual soap. You'll immediately see and feel the difference. It's grainy but so fine that it doesn't irritate even my very sensitive skin. Or mix ground almonds in your hand with a bit of honey for a "heavier" scrub - obviously the thicker the paste the more it exfoliates, more on dry skin, gentler on wet. I'm not recommending these cos I'm a hippy, they really work!
posted by runincircles at 1:46 AM on October 25, 2010

I just got some exfoliating shower gloves and I love love love them.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:52 AM on October 25, 2010

Retin-A micro. My skin has never been better, after the 6 months of hell it took for the transformation to take place. I highly recommend talking to your derm about that over purchase a physical exfoliating scrub yourself that could be damaging/ineffectual.
posted by sunnychef88 at 1:58 AM on October 25, 2010

The skin on your face is very delicate and exfoliators can easily damage this skin, particularly the exfoliators made with hard bits of undissolveable material (pulverised walnut shells, charcoal, and so on). If you are asking about exfoliators to use on your body and not your face, then this isn't such an issue, but I am hesitant to use store-bought scrubs for this reason.

The gentlest (and cheapest) way to exfoliate your face is a warm wash cloth gently scrubbed on your face. If you are dead set on using a product, sugar or salt scrubs are good because they will gradually dissolve in water, aren't huge in size and are even. You can make one yourself by stirring about 1 tablespoon olive oil (or avocado or castor oil) into 1/2-1 cup of sugar or salt (depending on the consistency you want. The olive oil shouldn't make you break out).

Another gentle and good for your skin scrub that you can make is to take some oats and add just enough water to make them mushy; rub on your face.
posted by Polychrome at 2:15 AM on October 25, 2010

Just use a Buf Puf every (or every other) time you wash your face. I've been using one for years as part of my face-washing regimen and it really keeps my skin bright, smooth, and blemish-free.
posted by DrGail at 5:16 AM on October 25, 2010

Recently, I've been breaking out. Compounding the issue is the humidity has dropped as fall is here, and my skin is dry. I've given up my usual Olay cleanser for Cetaphyl cleanser with some baking soda mixed in. I do this once a day, usually in the shower. For moisturizing at night, I use straight extra virgin olive oil and really massage it in a couple hours before bed. For moisturizing in the morning, under makeup, I use a tiny bit of Bio Oil and really massage it in. I usually go about the rest of my routine and do makeup last.
posted by jerseygirl at 6:30 AM on October 25, 2010

Another vote for Aveeno or using a wash cloth. Both alternatives are gentle and cheap.
posted by Neekee at 7:46 AM on October 25, 2010

St. Ives apricot scrub. Yes!

I've tried buying more expensive stuff and it all pales in comparison.
posted by smirkyfodder at 8:12 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love Origins Modern Friction. I use it twice a week. I have sensitive skin that looks red after exfoliating with many products, but I love feeling that something is happening, like you said. I also don't want anything drying. I had to try and throw away numerous exfoliating scrubs including St. Ives before I found this. Origins gives free facials sometimes, so you can try before buying.
posted by beyond_pink at 9:15 AM on October 25, 2010

Have you tried a chemical exfoliant? Seconding the link posted by cadge--- that is the best and most accurate information about exfoliating that you will find on the internet. All the exfoliants in Paula Begoun's line Paula's Choice are super effective and also gentle and free of irritating ingredients like fragrance. You say you love those grainy and abrasive scrubs because you can feel exfoliation happening, but what you're actually feeling is your skin being torn and damaged.
posted by 2ghouls at 9:44 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Like DrGail, I like Buf-Puf. It costs about $5 and comes in "regular" and "extra gentle" -- but really, either can be gentle or harsh, depending on how hard you scrub. I've used it with soap and with facial cleanser, but I find that it's too rough to use with plain water. One of the best things about it is that it dries fast, so it doesn't get funky. Lasts a very long time if you use it just on face and neck.
posted by wryly at 11:51 AM on October 25, 2010

I have sensitive skin, and love "honey snap out of it" by benefit. It has moisturising honey and exfoliating oats in it, and doesn't irritate my skin at all.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:29 PM on October 25, 2010

I am heartily seconding exquisite_deluxe's recommendation of LUSH's Angels on Bare Skin. It is extremely gentle, and the ingredients are all-natural. It is not a "double-duty" cleanser and definitely does not remove makeup. I use AOBS 4-5 times a week and it never leaves my skin dry.

Compared to AOBS, the St. Ives Apricot Scrub (which was a staple of my teen years) is like exfoliating with rocks and broken glass.
posted by pineapple at 2:24 PM on October 25, 2010

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