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Ask anyone with gorgeous skin what they do to maintain it, and they’ll always tell you it has something to do with exfoliator. This is a lie, of course, because good skin is all about genetics and anyone who says otherwise is bullshitting you.
But in their defense, exfoliating does make skin glow in a way that simple cleansing and moisturizing just can’t. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer to get your kicks from a straight-up scrub or chemically exfoliating acids—if you don’t exfoliate, your skin has no choice but to hold onto that surface debris, that extra unnecessary layer of dead skin cells standing between you and the natural radiance and smooth texture of the genetically blessed.
Don’t let that happen! Instead, consider giving one of our editors’ 9 favorite exfoliators a try. Unlike those naturally poreless people, we would never steer you wrong.
“A few months ago, I decided to swap my entire skincare routine for men’s products (which you can read all about here!) which is how I discovered the amazing Algenist Multi-Perfecting Detoxifying Exfoliator ($38). Technically it’s marketed toward dudes, but I’m obsessed. It’s clay-based and oil-free, and—thanks to its granular algae—100% works to resurface my often-dull skin tone. It also leaves my face crazy-smooth and brighter, thanks to salicylic acid and oligosaccharides, which reportedly increases hyaluronic acid and makes skin more elastic.” (Perrie Samotin, editorial director)
“Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 1970 ($95) stinks, but it works. It makes skin look bright and clean, and I’ve noticed a considerable difference in tone since I started using it.” (Melissa Medvedich, creative director)
“My face just does not feel clean unless it’s been scrubbed with Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant ($55). This feeling is probably all in my head, but makeup wipes just don’t seem to do the job well enough. I’ve been using the Microfoliant for about a year, and break it out whenever I wear a full face of makeup that needs to be removed, which these days is usually restricted to weekends. After washing with an oil cleanser, I scrub with the powder until my face feels makeup-free again.” (Jasmine Garnsworthy, editor)
“For a while there during my adolescence I was absolutely convinced that I could exfoliate my way to perfect skin, if only I were to scrub violently enough frequently enough. This is not true, and I’ve been wary of physical exfoliants ever since—I’m always just one circular motion away from getting hooked and rubbing off the top layer of my epidermis. Still, a girl’s gotta exfoliate (once or twice a week), at which point I turn to the Éminence Strawberry Rhubarb Dermafoliant ($48). It’s a rice-based powder that you mix with a few drops of water to create a lather-free exfoliator rich in vitamin-rich fruit extracts (yep, including strawberry and rhubarb) and lactic acid that’s so gentle, it’s basically impossible to scrub your own face off. Even if you want to.” (Rachel Krause, beauty editor)
“Even though I have a thousand fancy peel pads and ‘gommages’ in my arsenal, my favorite exfoliator is a decidedly basic drugstore staple: St. Ives Even & Bright Scrub ($4.07). Unlike the classic apricot St. Ives scrub, which I find to be a bit too abrasive for my liking, this one has a finer consistency that’s suitable for everyday use. It leaves my skin feeling velvety smooth and prepped to receive the various toners, serums, and creams I pile on to my face at night. Plus, it smells like zingy grapefruit, which is delightful. At under $5, the price is right, too.” (Cristina Velocci, managing editor)
“First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Polish ($24) is my current fave. My face feels noticeably smoother and softer after using it, but it’s gentle enough for every day. My boyfriend has also taken to using it in our shower—works for him, too!” (Hannah Hickock, lifestyle editor)
“I love the Caudalie Deep Cleansing Exfoliator ($35)—I use it on days when I’m putting in a little more effort and doing some kind of multi-step routine. It makes my skin seem brighter, more awake, and instantly refreshed. I should probably use it more often, come to think of it.” (Hilary George-Parkin, fashion editor)
“I swear by Cure Natural Aqua Gel ($27.50). I use it twice a week to scrub off all the gross stuff sitting on the top of my face, and I think it makes me look younger. After cleansing, I dab a bit of the gel all over and it magically pulls off a layer of dead skin when I rub it off with my fingers in a circular motion. It’s so cheap for all the magic it does.” (Jinnie Lee, editor)
“After a long bout of using expensive exfoliators and fancy tools (and seeing no results), I decided to come back to the classic St. Ives Blackhead Clearing Green Tea Scrub ($4.07). Let’s just say I haven’t looked back since. The invigorating scent is a perfect wakeup call after a sweaty morning run—plus, the granules in this formula are tiny, which makes it great for my sensitive, flaky, irritation-prone skin. I use a dollop on both my face and chest and I’m completely covered. My skin is left smooth and blemish-free, and with the drugstore price tag, I seriously question why I ever considered leaving this tried-and-true find.” (Caitlin Miller, editor)