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A photo of someone squeezing Kiehl's Clearly Corrective Daily Cleanser in their palm.


How To Use an Exfoliating Face Wash

Exfoliating face wash can simplify your routine as it allows you to do two things at once: cleanse and exfoliate. Here, discover our best exfoliating cleansers.

If you’ve ever dealt with blotchy, uneven skin, dryness, or flakiness, there’s a good chance you’ve also used an exfoliator, like a face scrub, to help address those skin concerns. But while scrubs have a use in skincare, as with anything, it’s possible to go overboard, especially if you’re new to exfoliation. If you’re looking to incorporate a facial exfoliant into your regular routine but want to start slow, an exfoliating face wash is a great option.

Whereas scrubs are mainly formulated to remove dead skin, our exfoliating cleansers simultaneously cleanse and lightly exfoliate. These hybrid cleansers can include chemical or physical exfoliants and are often suitable for daily use. Here, we’ll introduce you to several Kiehl’s exfoliating cleansers and provide recommendations on which is best for your skin type. Of course, we’ll also teach you how to use them (it’s pretty simple). Keep reading to discover your best exfoliating face wash.

For Oily Skin:

Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser

As the name suggests, oily skin is skin that produces an excessive amount of oil (a.k.a. sebum). It can be situational—hot weather and humidity, for example, can make your skin oilier than usual—or it can be an all-the-time thing. Often, oily skin coexists with other related skin concerns, like blackheads and enlarged pores. Exfoliating can help clear the excess oil and skin cells that lead to clogged pores, giving the skin a more balanced appearance.

For this skin type, we recommend Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser. This gentle exfoliating face wash with Amazonian white clay and diatomaceous earth removes excess oil, dirt, and other pore-clogging impurities (without stripping the skin’s natural moisture barrier). The foaming formula helps detoxify the skin and can be used daily to help minimize the appearance of enlarged pores over time.

For Blemish-Prone Skin:

Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment

Acne can be frustrating to struggle with, especially as an adult. Sometimes, this frustration manifests in over-cleansing the skin, which can actually make acne worse. Instead, reach for a gentle chemical exfoliant with salicylic acid, such as Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment. This high-foaming cleanser, which also contains ginger root essential oil and witch hazel water, helps deep clean pores to visibly reduce blackheads, whiteheads, and other types of blemishes. When used regularly, it also helps keep new breakouts at bay, making it a great option for those with widespread, persistent blemishes. Use the fragrance and paraben-free formula daily or as needed for clearer-looking skin over time.

For Dull Skin:

Clearly Corrective Brightening & Exfoliating Daily Cleanser

Radiant skin is bright, smooth, and glowy. The opposite is dull skin. No matter the cause, Clearly Corrective Brightening & Exfoliating Daily Cleanser can help address dullness for smoother, brighter-looking skin. The mild formula contains pearlstone, a physical exfoliant derived from volcanic ash, as well as peony root and white birch extract. It helps remove dirt, oil, sweat, and other pollutants from the skin’s surface while exfoliating to help reveal a clearer appearance. This unique scrub respects the integrity of your skin’s natural moisture barrier and is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin. We recommend using it morning and night as part of your regular skincare routine for visibly smoother, more radiant-looking skin.

For Men With Dull Skin:

Age Defender Dual-Action Exfoliating Cleanser

Another great pick for men is Age Defender Dual-Action Exfoliating Cleanser. The effective formula, which boasts Moroccan lava clay and exfoliating phytic acid, helps cleanse and refine the skin to visibly improve its texture. Over time, it also helps improve the appearance of fine lines. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used as a daily cleanser or applied to dry skin and left on for five minutes as a targeted exfoliating face mask. (Note that we recommend masking with this exfoliating cleanser no more than three times per week for smooth, youthful-looking skin)

When To Use a Face Scrub (and How)

As we mentioned above, physical face scrubs can have a place in a healthy skincare routine, so long as you use them properly. Whereas exfoliating cleansers provide light exfoliation, scrubs are more intense and offer instant skin-smoothing benefits. As such, they typically aren’t meant for daily use.

If you’re looking for something that provides deep exfoliation, we recommend reaching for Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion three times per week. This ultra-effective scrub with diatomaceous earth and shea butter instantly smooths skin’s appearance and helps visibly reduce fine lines and skin discolorations over time.

Unlike with our exfoliating cleansers, which kill two birds with one stone (remove dirt and oil while also exfoliating), you’ll want to wash your face before reaching for this scrub. Try a gentle, non-exfoliating cleanser, like our cult-classic Ultra Facial Cleanser. The pH-balanced formula with olive-derived squalane dissolves impurities without disturbing the skin’s natural moisture barrier, leaving your skin feeling clean and balanced. Then, apply your scrub to clean, damp skin, and massage it over your face with light pressure. Rinse thoroughly, then follow up with a hydrating serum and moisturizer—see some of our top picks here.

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