What is an Exfoliating Cleanser?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 August 2019
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An exfoliating cleanser is a beauty product that is normally intended for use on the face. There are some products which are simply cleansers, meaning that they are intended to remove dirt and oil from the skin. Others are simply exfoliants, which means that they are intended to buff the skin and remove dead skin cells. An exfoliating cleanser is a combination of the two and offers the benefits of both products.

An exfoliating cleanser can be a very useful product for anyone trying to improve skin texture and clear away dead skin cells. It can also help to combat oily skin and blemishes. Some are formulated to treat problem skin while others can be used for sensitive skin. Most people with sensitive skin should refrain from or severely limit their use of beauty products that include exfoliants.

There are a number of skin care companies that include exfoliating cleansers in their product lines. Most drugstores stock at least two or three exfoliating cleansers in their beauty or skin care aisles. Product information on these products can be found by doing a quick Internet search. It is also possible to read customer reviews of products online before purchasing an exfoliating cleanser.


Some exfoliating cleansers indicate that they can be used daily. This is a significant difference between exfoliants and exfoliating cleansers. Exfoliants are normally too harsh to use on a daily basis. It is common for exfoliants such as face polishes packaged with instructions to use the product only once per week. Exfoliating cleansers, however, often have a relatively small amount of exfoliant, making them appropriate for daily use.

While using an exfoliating cleanser is a great way to kill two birds with one stone, some people prefer to keep their exfoliants and cleansers separate, using an exfoliant only once or twice a week and a cleanser the rest of the time. Exfoliating cleansers can be made at home by mixing a facial exfoliant with a facial cleanser. It is advisable, however, to only mix products from the same product line.

Even though some exfoliating cleansers indicate that they can be used daily, they may dry out the skin after a long period of use. It is good practice to periodically interrupt the use of an exfoliating cleanser by substituting it with a cleanser without any exfoliant. Of course, if any product creates irritations or blemishes, it is important to discontinue use immediately.


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Post 13

For awhile I was using an exfoliating cleanser several times a week, and it dried my face out. Now I almost never use one. The reason? I stopped wearing any makeup beyond moisturizers. I am in my 20s, so that might make it seem like an "easy" thing for me, but I had already found my skin drying out and otherwise aging because of the amount of makeup I was using. Now I limit it to moisturizers with anti-aging and a tinted moisturizer on top with light sunblock in it. I think if we all stopped using so much product, we would need few face washes as well.

Post 12

The skin of my face is extremely sensitive, so I cannot use exfoliating facial products. However, the rest of my body benefits from exfoliating body wash. I like to use it in the shower with a washcloth for extra exfoliating power.

St. Ives makes a good pomegranate body wash. The rough particles are great for areas like the back of my arms and my back itself that tend to have pimples. When I use this type of body wash, I see fewer breakouts.

Because all of my skin is somewhat sensitive, I prefer the kinds of exfoliating body wash that have a lot of fluid in them. I know that some kinds are more like a cream packed with rough bits, so I always get the kind in a see-through bottle because I know what’s in it.

Post 11

I used to use exfoliating cleansers once a week. They did a good job of smoothing out my skin, but in summertime, I need a little extra help. I like to apply spray-on sunscreen, and it sticks to the skin so well that even a scrub in the shower doesn’t get it all off. That’s when I found a gentle exfoliating chemical peel that removes everything without irritating my face.

Avon sells chemical peel exfoliating pads under the brand name Anew. Each container holds 25 pads, and I use one a week. First, I wash my face with a gentle cleanser like Noxema cream or Cetaphil face wash. I pat my face dry and swipe one of the exfoliating

pads all over my face and neck. I recommend swiping it instead of rubbing, because the chemicals rub for you. I swipe it twice over the entire area and discard it.

In seconds, I start to feel tingling, and I know that it is working. I leave the chemicals on my face for about an hour before rinsing it off. The result is ultra-smooth skin free of sunscreen and other debris.

Post 10

Since my skin is somewhat sensitive, I like to use an exfoliating cleanser only twice a week. It really helps remove dead skin cells that otherwise just accumulate and clog my pores, but doing it only every few days keeps the irritation level down.

I have found that St. Ives Apricot Scrub is great for this. It has tiny bits of almond shell in it to scrub away buildup of debris. I like to rub it on my face gently in a circular motion in all areas except those close to my eyes. Then, I splash my face with cold water to get rid of the bulk of it before taking a damp cloth and wiping some more away

. I end the process with more cold splashes until I get all of it off.

It’s kind of hard to remove all of the scrub, so I like to take a shower immediately afterward to help rinse the rest away. My skin feels significantly smoother after each use.

Post 9

@manykitties2 - I wouldn’t suggest using an exfoliating cleanser to remove makeup. I would use a gentle facial cleanser with the power to remove makeup without the use of exfoliants.

Noxzema Original Cleansing Cream works great for taking off makeup. It is nice and smooth, and once you apply it to your dampened face, just use a wet cloth to gently wipe it off. Then, rinse your face with cool water and pat dry with a towel.

I often use Noxzema to remove my makeup before taking a shower. I try to save the exfoliating face cleanser for once a week, preferably on a day when I am not wearing makeup. This helps keep irritation and breakouts to a minimum.

Post 8

Is it a good idea to use an exfoliating cleanser when you are trying to remove makeup?

I find that I tend to breakout if I wear foundation but I really like how it evens out my skin tone. I am trying to find some solutions that may work at keeping my skin clean enough so that it doesn't break out.

I am a bit worried that an exfoliating cleanser may be a bit harsh on my skin, so I would love it if anyone could suggest a really mild one that may get the job done. My foundation is already oil free and pretty much as hypoallergenic as I could get, so there are no changes I can really make there.

Post 7

I have found that exfoliating cleaners are great for anyone who has oily skin and regular breakouts. There are a huge number of exfoliating cleansers available but I find the ones that include natural scrubs like sea salt and oatmeal to be the best.

An oatmeal exfoliating scrub is less harsh than those that have sea salt in them, so if you have sensitive skin it may be a good choice. I also find that exfoliating scrubs with oatmeal are usually great for adding moisture back into the skin while they strip away the dead cells.

A lot of exfoliating scrubs also have harsh chemicals in them so it is a good idea to do a test on your hand before buying a new brand.

Post 6

I have actually given up using soap entirely in favor of exfoliating exclusively.

Here is my line of thinking. Soap contains all kind of dyes, perfumes and other chemicals. Every day we rub this all over our skin and who knows what kind of effects this has over the long run.

So now I have an abrasive cloth that I use to scrub down my skin everyday in the shower. A mixture of hot water and vigorous scrubbing has done wonders for my skin. It is less oily, more supple looking and is free of a lot of the dead skin that build up over time.

I have no problems with odor and I think in general my skin is more healthy than it has ever been before. I know it sounds kind of wacky but it really works. Give it a try for 10 days and I'm sure you will be hooked.

Post 5

How do you know if you need an exfoliating cleanser or something else?

I’ll have to be honest when I say that any kind of exfoliating cleanser that I try makes my face break out terribly. Regular cleansers don’t do this.

I don’t know if it is the actual exfoliating part, or if there is something else in it that I am allergic to, but it is very discouraging.

My skin doesn’t seem particularly sensitive other than this one occurrence, so I really don’t know what to do. Sometimes I just feel like a little deeper clean than what I get from a regular facial cleanser.

Post 4

You can actually make your own exfoliating cleanser! I just learned about this recipe and tried it. It's really nice and saves money.

If you already have a face cleanser at home, you can add brown sugar or white sugar to make it an exfoliating cleanser. Just make sure that it is thick sugar, not powdered or anything.

Most exfoliating cleansers have exfoliating beads or something similar in it. That's actually the part that exfoliates and the cleanser just washes out what is exfoliated. You can do the same thing with sugar! You can make an exfoliating body cleansers with it by mixing sugar and shower gels as well.

Post 3

I’ve used all kinds of cleansers, but I got to say that there is just something about an exfoliating cleanser that leaves my face feeling cleaner than any other.

I don’t know if it is the fun little scrubby pieces, or if it is something else, but it just seems to get down deep into my skin.

I keep an exfoliating cleanser on hand all of the time, although I do occasionally give my face a break from any cleanser at all.

Just a day or two with no harsh soaps gives it time to recoup from all of those scrubbings. Suffice it to say that this usually happens on a weekend when I’m not going to be wearing any make-up either.

Post 2

I have very sensitive skin and I've had the same problem the article mentioned. I do have oil build-up in my pores but my skin is so sensitive that when I use exfoliating cleansers, it becomes red and dries out too much.

I don't know what to do. I think I might look for an exfoliating cleanser that has aloe vera or some other kind of moisturizer in it. I think it would be easier on my skin and wouldn't dry it out and irritate it so much. I've used cleansers and lotions with aloe vera before and they were really good for my skin.

Do you have any other suggestions? What other ingredients should I look for in an exfoliating cleanser that would suit sensitive skin?

Post 1

I have deep pores and acne prone oily skin so an exfoliating facial cleanser is a must for me. I use it twice or more per week depending on the season and how my skin is doing.

I've noticed that in winter, my skin is less oily because of the cold. I only use an exfoliating cleanser once a week in winter and use a regular cleanser the rest of the time. In summer though, my skin is oilier which causes more build up in my pores and I have to exfoliate more often.

You can tell if you have deep clogged pores if your pores are visible and large, especially when you forget to cleanse it regularly. Cleansers clean the oil, but don't go deep down into the pores. So you need to use an exfoliating cleanser.

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