Best Exfoliating Soap Bars

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

31 Models Considered
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298 Consumers Consulted
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best exfoliating soap bars

Last Updated December 2019

If you frequently notice rough or dry patches of skin on your body or face, an exfoliating soap might be helpful. Exfoliation is an often-overlooked step in your self-care routine that can help your skin look and feel silky again.

Exfoliating soap bars cleanse the skin while removing dead cells. When the uppermost layer of dead skin cells is sloughed away or otherwise removed, a smoother, healthier complexion is revealed. This can help you look younger while your skin feels softer.

Unlike loofahs and bath sponges, which can collect bacteria over time, an exfoliating soap bar dissolves naturally as you use it. Some of these soap bars are also designed to moisturize. Sound good? We think so. If you’re ready to try an exfoliating soap bar during your next shower or bath, read on to learn more. In this guide, we explore the important components of exfoliation so you’ll be on your way to smoother, younger-looking skin.

Humans generate new layers of skin every two to four weeks, but as the body ages, there is a slow decrease in the rate that dead cells leave the body. This creates a need for exfoliation.

How to use an exfoliating soap bar

To use your bar of exfoliating soap, wet your skin and rub the soap in gentle but firm circular motions. The skin on your body may be able to take more vigorous scrubbing than the skin on your face. Be kind to your skin; go gentle on all body parts until you determine how much scrubbing your skin can stand without turning red or raw.

Do not use an exfoliating soap on your under-eye area, which is too sensitive.

How often should I exfoliate?

You may be wondering how often you can use your exfoliating soap bar. This depends, in large part, on the strength of the soap. If you’re using one with stronger exfoliants that aggressively remove dead skin, twice a week may be enough. If your soap is a face/body combination that is less harsh, it might be gentle enough for daily use.

The frequency with which you exfoliate also depends on your skin type. If you have dry or mature skin, you may only need to exfoliate once a week. If you have oily skin, however, two or three exfoliation sessions per week may be in order.

The time of day you exfoliate matters, too. We recommend that you exfoliate in the morning as opposed to the evening. The reason: skin repairs itself and regenerates overnight. During your sleep, a fresh layer of dead cells is accumulating for you. Your morning hygiene session is a fine time to remove that accumulation.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some exfoliants use broken-down shells or pits as a scrubbing agent, but beware: if it’s not broken down finely enough, your skin could suffer some damage.

Key considerations

How exfoliating soap can benefit your skin

Apart from working to cleanse and buff your skin, an exfoliating bar of soap bar may do other things for you. Consider the advantages.

More effective moisturization: Your moisturizer can penetrate your skin more effectively (rather than just sitting on top of it) after exfoliation.

Even skin tone: By exfoliating dead skin patches and other rough areas, your skin may appear more even and less blotchy.

Closer shave: Exfoliating exposes your hair follicles, which can lead to a closer facial shave or wax.

Lymph flow and blood circulation: Exfoliation is thought to promote the flow of lymph and blood through the body, which can boost health.

Reduced fine lines: Exfoliating can help diminish the appearance of fine lines on the skin.

Brighter skin: Exfoliating reveals brighter, smoother, softer skin that looks younger and more healthy.

Exfoliating agents used in soap bars

A number of exfoliating agents may be found in soap bars. Here is a partial list.

Oatmeal: Oatmeal is an effective anti-inflammatory and a natural exfoliant for sensitive skin.

Dead Sea salt: This salt is actually extracted from the Dead Sea. It isn’t too sticky and provides a satisfying scrub for normal skin types. However, large, very coarse granules should only be used on the feet and elbows.

Coffee: Finely ground coffee grains have an invigorating, anti-aging, antimicrobial effect. A scrub with coffee components can help boost circulation and collagen production.

Baking soda: This antibacterial, anti-inflammatory powerhouse exfoliates while shrinking pores.

Ground almonds/fruit pits: Only very oily skin types should use fruit pits, which must be ground to a fine powder to avoid tearing the skin. Almonds have a more delicate texture than many fruit pits and are rich in nutrients.

Brown sugar: Brown sugar granules are naturally rough and tiny. The sugar exfoliates well when added to a hydrating oil, such as olive or grapeseed oil.

Microbeads/silica particles: Microbeads are synthetic plastic beads that remove dead skin; silica particles are a natural and more gentle alternative to plastic microbeads.

Botanicals: Botanicals can include a variety of natural plant- or herb-based exfoliating agents that may contain antioxidants or offer other benefits.

Fruit enzymes: Not all exfoliators have a scrubby texture. Fruit enzymes offer natural peeling action that is more gentle than chemical and acid peels.

Glycolic/lactic acid: Exfoliating soaps containing these acids are the strongest type in their class. The chemical base is too strong for daily use, but it certainly is powerful.

Choosing an exfoliant that’s right for you

As you can see from the ingredient list, there are many potential exfoliating ingredients in these soap bars. The ingredients are either physical exfoliants or chemical exfoliants. Physical exfoliants remove dead skin cells through friction (scrubbing and rubbing). Chemical exfoliants might also have a visible scrubbing agent, but the enzymes or acids in the soap are the chemical component that bears the brunt of the workload.

Both physical and chemical exfoliants dissolve the bonds between dead cells on the surface, making them easier to shed. They just accomplish this in different ways. The optimal choice for you depends on your skin type and sensitivity. For example, in the chemical exfoliant realm, if you have oily skin, you might consider a chemical exfoliating ingredient like salicylic acid.

Using an exfoliating product that isn’t right for you may cause irritation, chemical burns, and acne. Consult with a dermatologist before purchase.

EXPERT TIP

Waxing is actually a form of exfoliation. Therefore, if you are going to wax, avoid exfoliation before and after to prevent skin damage. That said, it’s okay to exfoliate to avoid ingrown hairs 48 hours after you wax.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Scent

Many exfoliating soap bars are naturally scented with fragrances such as rose, sandalwood, cedar, eucalyptus, pine, and lavender. Fruity scents such as peach and coconut are on the sweeter side. Peppermint, citrus, and coffee are on the “invigorating” side and may be considered more masculine. Unscented, hypoallergenic exfoliating soaps are also available.

Size

Soap bars can range from miniature, travel-friendly sizes to large brick sizes. They often come in packs with multiple bars.

Consistency

Many exfoliating soap bars have a slightly rough consistency due to the addition of grain-based or ground exfoliants. If acid, enzyme, or peel-style ingredients are included, however, the consistency of the soap bar might be smooth instead.

Other ingredients

In addition to the key active ingredients we’ve already mentioned, there are other potential ingredients to be aware of.

Cinnamon is a common ingredient that may create a tingling effect.

Activated charcoal powder has detoxifying properties that can help clean impurities from your skin.

Clay comes in many different varieties and can draw out toxins while exfoliating.

Shea butter and other humectants are an important hydrating component that moisturizes while the exfoliating agent works.

Oils such as jojoba, coconut, and olive oil are common additions to exfoliants that allow moisture to effectively penetrate the skin.

DID YOU KNOW?

If you suffer from acne or oily skin, rubbing too vigorously or frequently with an exfoliating soap may confuse your sebaceous glands and cause your skin to produce more oil than necessary, leading to breakouts.

Exfoliating soap bar prices

Most exfoliating soap bars come in 1.3- to 8-ounce sizes. Price can range anywhere from $1.25 to $15 per bar.

Inexpensive: Budget-friendly exfoliating soap bars may contain fewer active ingredients and/or come in a smaller size. They might not be formulated for sensitive skin, and additional “filler” ingredients may comprise much of the soap. These bars tend to cost between $1 and $5.

Mid-range: Mid-range products often contain high-quality moisturizers like shea butter and botanical-based scents. These bars tend to be more carefully formulated with ingredients like goat milk that work well with body and facial skin. Mid-range exfoliating soap bars cost between $5 and $9.

High-end: There are pricier options available that can come from organic, vegan, or hand-harvested sources. These soaps may contain rare oils, omega-3s, microdermabrasion agents, or probiotics. They may target specific issues, such as eczema or dark spots. These are usually priced from $9 to $15, but the price may be higher if size or quantity are greater.

Tips

  • To figure out if you have dead or dry skin, apply a three-inch strip of clear tape to your forearm. Rub it gently for a few seconds. If some flaky skin comes off, it’s time to add exfoliation to your routine.
  • If you’re concerned about abrasive ingredients in exfoliating soap bars, look to citrus. For example, lemon juice is a natural acid that doesn’t require the addition of harsh particles.
  • While oils and butters are popular additions to soap bars that hydrate skin, goat milk is a particular useful ingredient that moisturizes while soothing and nourishing sensitive skin.

Another product we considered

If you have specific skin problems you want to target, consider this cost-effective three-pack of Dead Sea salt mud soap by One With Nature. The mineral-rich Dead Sea salt mud base, fortified with argan oil and shea butter, is gentle enough to work on conditions like psoriasis while restoring the skin’s natural pH.

There are enough varieties of exfoliating soap to work with all skin types: combination, dry, oily, and normal.

FAQ

Q. Can I exfoliate my face before I’ve taken off my makeup?
A.
You should always take off makeup before exfoliating your skin. Otherwise, the exfoliant won’t deep clean your skin as well.

Q. I have chronic cystic acne. Can I exfoliate?
A.
Consult your dermatologist. Harsh exfoliants can do damage to skin with acne and even leave behind dark spots. Chances are your physician will have a specific recommendation for your condition.

Q. Are all exfoliating soap bars okay for the face?
A.
No. Your face is notably more sensitive than your body, and if a product is not intended specifically for facial use, it may be irritating. However, there may be some all-in-one formulas for sensitive skin that you could try.

The team that worked on this review
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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