The 5 Best Drugstore Exfoliating Face Washes

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Exfoliation is an important part of your skin-care routine that removes dead skin cells to prevent clogged pores, breakouts, and dull skin. When it comes to selecting the best drugstore exfoliating face washes, you first need to consider the best type of exfoliation for your unique needs.

Chemical exfoliation: This type of exfoliation removes dead skin cells with acids, most commonly AHAs and BHAs. Both are effective exfoliating options; however, there are a couple of big differences between the two. AHAs like glycolic and lactic acids are water-soluble and work mainly on the surface, resulting in smooth skin and a glow. BHAs tend to go much deeper into the skin and can clean out excess sebum (a natural oil) from your pores, which helps to reduce overall oiliness. This is why if you have acne (especially blackheads), you might prefer an exfoliator that contains BHAs, namely, salicylic acid. Many exfoliating face washes contain both AHAs and BHAs, so they work on both levels.

Physical exfoliation: This type of exfoliator physically removes dead skin by scrubbing or rubbing with ingredients like sugar, beads, and other particles. Some say that their skin feels much cleaner after using a physical exfoliator, but it can cause redness, irritation, or — even worse — little tears in the skin. If you choose to use a physical exfoliator, look for products that contain small, gentle exfoliants which tend to be less irritating. Avoid microbeads (which are banned because they may pose a threat to aquatic life) and products that contain large or sharp exfoliants, including walnut face scrubs, which can be too harsh.

With all of this in mind, scroll down to find the best exfoliating face wash for you.


The Best Overall Drugstore Exfoliating Face Wash

Containing both AHAs and BHAs, this dermatologist-tested face wash by Neutrogena does double duty when it comes to exfoliation. This cleanser removes dead skin on the surface, creating a smooth appearance, and also works deep within the skin, making pores less visible.

This cleanser is a great option for all skin types — it contains glycolic acid (an AHA), so it is gentle on the skin; and it is also noncomedogenic, which is a must for those who are acne-prone. This product is also available in a pack of one from Prime Pantry for Prime members.

One Amazon reviewer wrote, “Great results [...] My skin looks smoother and cleaner than ever before.”


The Best For Acne-Prone Skin

Developed with dermatologists, this cleanser from CeraVe combines salicylic acid (which goes deep into the skin to clean out excess oil and get rid of dead skin cells) with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and vitamin D to hydrate and brighten. The noncomedogenic, non-irritating, and fragrance-free formula aims to be very gentle on your skin and won’t likely make acne worse. Plus, it contains no microbeads or other physical exfoliators, so those with sensitive skin can use this too.

One Amazon reviewer wrote, “This product leaves your skin clean and soft while it evens out your complexion over time. It cleans out enlarged pores and reduces their appearance. Be thorough as you massage it into your skin but take your time. Vigorous scrubbing is not needed.”


The Best Exfoliating Wash For Dry Skin

If you have dry skin, it's important to use an exfoliator that removes dead skin cells without over-drying, and this dermatologist-tested face wash from Cetaphil does just that. Infused with glycerin and vitamins B5 and E (all known for providing moisture), this face wash will gently buff away dry, dull skin, leaving your skin feeling radiant. Amazon reviewers have agreed, with one fan commenting, “This is the best cleanser I have found! It exfoliates so well without leaving skin feeling tight and stripped and is very gentle. My skin feels so clean and soft after using this cleanser and it has helped to clear up my face which is acne prone/combination skin.”

Since this product is a physical exfoliator, it is also a good option for those who find that they are sensitive to acids. Plus, the noncomedogenic formula is acne-friendly.


The Best For Sensitive Skin

This gentle, sulfate-free exfoliating cleanser from Mario Badescu is ideal for those with sensitive skin. The formula contains glycolic acid (an AHA), which gently washes away dirt and oil, leaving skin feeling smooth. It's also loaded with other ingredients that are good for your skin including chamomile and St. John's wort, which calm and soothe, as well as marshmallow root extract and sage, which further exfoliate and brighten skin.

Amazon reviewers love how effective this product is, with one commenting: “I was told to start using glycolic acid to get rid of the millia on my face. I didn't realize all of the other benefits that would come with it. My skin is smooth, my fine lines are gone, dark spots are fading and overall, I look younger. I have sensitive skin and this is not too harsh at all. It suds up nicely and it has a very nice, light scent.”


The Best For Oily Skin

Salicylic acid (a BHA) is the key ingredient in this Bioré face wash that helps clear out acne-causing dirt and oil, leaving you with super-smooth skin. This face wash is completely oil-free, so it won't add extra oiliness to your skin. It also contains gentle spherical beads that get rid of any flaky skin that is sitting on the surface physically. With more than 3,100 reviews and a 4.3-star rating overall, Amazon buyers love this product, and one even commented, “I have large pores that get clogged easily. This scrub works wonders on the dirt and oil trapped in my pores. I see a noticeable difference after washing with it. My pores aren't as noticeable.”