Best Facial Scrubs

Updated May 2021
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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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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

51 Models Considered
24 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
116 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best facial scrubs

Exfoliation is a key step in every skincare routine. For a clear, bright complexion, you have to get rid of the dead, dull surface cells that can cause clogged pores and rough, textured skin. A facial scrub is one of the easiest ways to introduce exfoliation to your routine so you can enjoy healthy, glowing skin.

A facial scrub is a cream- or gel-based product that contains small exfoliating beads or particles. When massaged into the skin, the scrub carefully buffs away dead skin cells to reveal the fresh layer beneath. For effective exfoliation, you should use a facial scrub after you’ve washed your face with a cleanser to remove any dirt, oil, and makeup. While regular exfoliation is crucial for healthy skin, you should be careful not to use a facial scrub every day because it can irritate your skin.

With so many facial scrubs on the market, choosing the right formula can be difficult. Our buying guide can arm you with all the information you need to find the best facial scrub for your skincare routine. 

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Make sure that any scrub you use on your face is meant for facial skin. A body scrub is much too harsh for the delicate skin on your face.

Key considerations

Exfoliants

When shopping for a facial scrub, it’s important to understand the difference between physical and chemical exfoliants.

Physical: All scrubs are physical exfoliants because they contain small particles like seeds, ground nuts, grains, or synthetic beads that use friction to buff away dead skin cells.

Chemical: These exfoliants use enzymes and acids to dissolve the bonds that hold dead skin on the face with no scrubbing necessary. That makes these scrubs a gentler option that works well for sensitive skin.

Both: Some facial scrubs contain chemical exfoliants along with the buffing particles to double their exfoliating power. Including chemical exfoliants in a scrub usually allows the formula to contain gentler scrubbing particles, so it’s less likely to irritate the skin. In many cases, these scrubs also provide more noticeable results, leaving you with smoother, brighter skin.

Skin type

As with any skincare product, you should always consider your skin type and any issues when shopping for a facial scrub. Some formulas work better than others depending on your skin and any concerns you have.

Normal skin reacts well to most high-quality facial scrubs because it’s already balanced and usually not particularly sensitive. Formulas with synthetic exfoliating particles are an ideal option.

Oily skin responds best to facial scrubs that contain coarser particles like seeds, grains, and ground nutshells. A formula with chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid, which can deep clean the pores and prevent acne, is also a good option.

Dry skin does well with a creamy facial scrub that contains oils and other moisturizing ingredients. A formula that also includes gentle alpha hydroxy acids or other chemical exfoliants is a good option. You should also opt for a scrub with synthetic exfoliating particles.

Sensitive skin doesn’t always respond well to facial scrubs. If you decide to use one, choose a formula with rounded, synthetic exfoliating particles, which are less likely to irritate your skin.

It’s always a good idea to test a facial scrub on the back of your hand before using it on your face. If it feels too scratchy or rough, you probably don’t want to apply it to your face.

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Features

Packaging

Tube: Most facial scrubs come in a plastic squeeze tube, typically with a flip-top lid. This type of container makes it extremely easy to get just the right amount of scrub for each use and prevents air and light from degrading the product. However, it can be difficult to get the last bit of the facial scrub out of the tube.

Tub or jar: Some thicker facial scrubs come in a tub or jar. This type of container also allows you to get the precise amount of scrub you need and makes it easy to use the last bit of product. However, scrubs that come in jars are messier to apply because you have to use your fingers to remove the product. You can also introduce bacteria from your fingers to the rest of the scrub and expose the formula to air and light that might cause it to go bad more quickly.

Quantity: Facial scrubs come in containers of various sizes, but you can usually get the best value if you opt for a larger container. Most scrubs offer 1 to 4 ounces of product. Those with 2 ounces or more are typically best for home use, while 1 to 1.5-ounce containers work well for travel.

Certifications

Fragrance-free: As with many skincare products, some facial scrubs include added fragrance to give the product a more pleasant scent. However, if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, synthetic or chemical fragrances might irritate your skin and cause a reaction. Opt for a fragrance-free scrub if you’re concerned about your skin reacting to the formula.

Cruelty-free: Many people prefer to avoid using beauty and skincare products that have been tested on animals. If you don’t want to use a facial scrub from a brand that engages in animal testing, make sure that it’s clearly labeled as cruelty-free.

The easiest way to spot a cruelty-free product is to look for a certified bunny logo from an official third-party organization that verifies that the products meet certain standards. Leaping Bunny, Choose Cruelty Free (CCF), and Beauty Without Bunnies are three certified organizations you can trust.

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DID YOU KNOW?
Never use a facial scrub on skin with a cut, open wound, sunburn, or other irritation.
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Accessories

Facial cleanser: EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser
You should wash your face well before using a facial scrub, so you need a high-quality facial cleanser to remove dirt, oil, and makeup. This one from EltaMD is a favorite because the oil-free formula creates a rich lather and deep cleans without irritation.

Face moisturizer: Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel
After using a facial scrub, you want to use a facial moisturizer to ensure that your skin doesn’t get too dry. We love this one from Clinique because it has a lightweight, oil-free formula that offers all-day hydration.

Facial sunscreen: COOLA Mineral Face Sunscreen
Exfoliating your skin can make it more sensitive to the sun, which is why it’s essential to wear sunscreen after using a scrub. This SPF 30 sunscreen from COOLA is a standout because it’s unscented, contains naturally sourced ingredients, and features a light tint to even out skin tone.

Facial scrub prices

Facial scrubs vary in price based on the quantity, packaging, and quality of the ingredients. Most scrubs cost between $3 and $125.

Inexpensive: The most affordable facial scrubs are drugstore brands and include lower-quality ingredients. They often have large, rough exfoliating particles that can irritate the skin, so they’re not a good option if you have sensitive skin. You’ll generally pay between $3 and $13 for these facial scrubs.

Mid-range: These facial scrubs contain higher-quality ingredients and work well for normal to oily skin. Many have spherical exfoliating particles that are gentler on the skin, making them less likely to irritate. Some also include chemical exfoliants in addition to their physical exfoliating ingredients. You’ll typically pay between $12 and $30 for these.

Expensive: The most expensive facial scrubs are from luxury brands and include the highest-quality ingredients. Their exfoliating particles are rounded, so they’re gentler on the skin. Many formulas in this price range contain chemical exfoliants too. You’ll generally pay between $32 and $125 for these facial scrubs.

Use a facial scrub before applying a self-tanning product to ensure a more even, flawless tan.

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Tips

  • Wash your face before using a facial scrub. A facial cleanser removes dirt, oil, makeup, and other residue so your skin is ready for exfoliation.
  • Dampen your skin with warm water before applying a facial scrub. The scrub will glide more easily across your skin.
  • Use a nickel-size amount of scrub. This is usually all you need for your entire face. Check the instructions on the packaging to verify the correct amount.
  • Massage the scrub over your face in a circular motion. Gently massage the scrub into your skin for about 10 to 30 seconds to effectively remove all the dead skin from the surface.
  • Rinse your face with lukewarm water. Using water that’s too hot can irritate and dry out your skin.
  • Apply moisturizer. After exfoliating with a facial scrub, apply a facial moisturizer to make sure that your skin is adequately hydrated.
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If you exfoliate too much, take a break from using your facial scrub for a few weeks. Use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser and moisturizer to avoid irritating your skin further.

FAQ

Q. How often should I exfoliate with a facial scrub?

A. No one should use a facial scrub more than twice a week, but some skin types should exfoliate even less. Dry skin usually does best if you use a facial scrub once a week, while sensitive skin might do better using it every other week. Oily and normal skin can typically handle twice a week.

Q. How can I tell if I’m using a facial scrub too often?

A. You can usually tell you’re using your scrub too often if your skin develops redness, burning, tightness, or other irritation.

Q. Can I use a facial scrub instead of a facial cleanser?

A. No, because the two products serve different purposes. A facial cleanser is used to remove dirt, oil, and makeup from the skin, so it’s gentle enough for daily use. A facial scrubs buffs away dead skin cells, which makes it a harsher product that shouldn’t be used daily.

 

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