How do I Choose the Best Exfoliating Cleanser?

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  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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Exfoliation of the skin, and especially of the face may be very useful in reducing breakouts and keeping skin looking fresh and clean. In particular, an exfoliant helps to shed dead skin cells, which can get trapped and result in things blackheads or whiteheads, and in sloughing these off, it helps to reveal younger skin underneath which may stimulate new skin cell growth. Thus choosing the best exfoliating cleanser could be useful in improving skin appearance, and the main deciding factor in this choice often comes down to skin type and performance of the product.

There are three to four basic skin types: normal, oily, combination, and dry. Another category may exist for sensitive skin. Not every exfoliating cleanser is useful for all of these types. There are some that are marketed as beneficial every skin type, but one designed for a specific skin type may be of greater use.

Since exfoliation removes skin, people have to determine if an exfoliating cleanser is doing its job properly or creating irritation. This is often a trial and error process. It’s a very good idea to get very small bottles or tubes of skin cleanser (or even free samples) whenever possible to help save money in the trial and error testing phase.


Some things that can draw attention to inappropriateness of a specific skin cleanser include irritation of the skin after use, no change in skin feel or appearance, and increase in breakouts or oiliness. If these symptoms appear consider trying a differing exfoliating cleanser. People with combination skin may be most challenged since they have oily areas and dry areas of skin. It could be necessary to use one type of exfoliant on the t-zone (forehead, nose) and another on the cheeks. Alternately some people find an “all skin type” exfoliant that works very well.

It also should be noted that there are different types of exfoliants. Some are called physical and others are referred to as chemical. Chemical ones include a variety of chemicals that usually have an acid component. These acids like beta hydroxy acid, alpha hydroxy acid, retinoic acid (retinol) and a variety of fruit acids, act on skin upon contact, releasing dead cells. Physical exfoliants really fell like the skin is being scrubbed off since they can be rough; example of this type include an exfoliating cleanser that contains sugar or rough salt, apricot pits and things like almonds.

Exfoliants may not be specifically cleansers. Some soaps contain chemical exfoliants, but many of the physical exfoliants could require additional washing with soap. Many people are happier if they can get a scrub that cleanses and exfoliates in one step, and others may prefer the two-step method.

It’s impossible to give the name of a specific exfoliating cleanser that will be suited to all people and all skin types. Trial and error really is the best method in determining what works most for individual face or body skin. Obviously word of mouth is another good way to decide what could be tried. An additional excellent resource for getting advice on the right cleanser is a family doctor or dermatologist. In particular dermatologists can make recommendations based on knowledge of the patient’s skin type and history, which may prove most useful in finding a good product.


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