Scrubs are not essential and definitely not preferred to a washcloth or a well formulated alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta hydroxy acid (BHA) exfoliant. For those who prefer scrubs, we offer this Best Products list. In order to make the list, a scrub must:
- Contain a gentle yet effective scrub ingredient (typically rounded polyethylene beads)
- Rinse easily
- Be formulated without irritants such as mint, citrus, or menthol
- Make skin feel smooth and look refined
Exfoliating the skin (i.e., getting rid of unwanted, dead, or built-up layers of sun-damaged skin cells and improving skin-cell turnover) is beneficial for almost all skin types, especially for those with sun-damaged skin or a tendency toward breakouts or clogged pores; however, even those with dry skin can benefit for many reasons.
Despite the fact that most beauty experts, as well as dermatologists and plastic surgeons, agree that exfoliating the skin is a wonderful way to take care of both oily and dry skin, the method of exfoliating remains a point of contention.
Today’s assortment of scrubs is, almost without exception, far removed from the 1980s’ versions that abraded skin with walnut shells, almond pits, and other harsh additives; irritation, dryness, and redness were typical problems for people who used such scrubs. Those types of scrubs are still out there, but none of them made the Best Products list.
Although there are some very good scrubs available, we encourage you to consider using a well-formulated AHA or BHA product instead. The benefits of the latter products far outweigh those that you can get from a topical scrub, and they will provide greater visible results all around.
Because we know that many people like to use scrubs, we chose a small assortment of those that we consider the best options. Those reviewed as best for normal to oily skin are typically gel-based and rinse completely; those reviewed as best for normal to dry skin provide an exfoliating benefit while also cushioning skin with emollients or other moisturizing ingredients. In addition, none of the scrubs below contain common irritants such as menthol, and most are fragrance-free.
Note: Fans of topical scrubs should consider instead just using a washcloth with their normal cleanser. We can almost guarantee you’ll get equal results and with less potential for irritation (depending on how zealously you use a scrub); plus, you won’t have to add another product to your skin-care routine.