This Drugstore Secret Is the Key to Smooth and Glowy Skin

I would say the end skincare goal for pretty much all of us is healthy, smooth, and glowy skin. We’ll pay a lot of money for products from cleansers to moisturizers to serums to get there. The only hitch is that there are many paths to “good” skin, and it all depends on your skin type. The products you use for your oily skin might not exactly work on your friend with dry skin.

One skincare item that can help across the board? A good exfoliant. Now, the specific product you choose depends on your skin’s needs, but some exfoliation every now and then will help slough off dead skin cells, reveal smooth skin, and encourage skin renewal. If you have oily, acne-prone, or combination skin, it might help to exfoliate once or twice a week. For sensitive and dry skin types, however, you might be better off limiting your usage to once a week or even less frequently. Bottom line: Everyone should keep an exfoliating product on hand, no matter their skin type.

There are different types of exfoliants, too. Mechanical ones are the scrubs, sugars, and brushes out there. Chemical exfoliants contain ingredients like alpha hydroxy (glycolic and lactic), beta hydroxy (salicylic), and polyhydroxy acids. While the word “chemical” might sound scary, these products are often much gentler on the skin than the mechanical exfoliants since some of those scrubs can be irritating or harsh.

The sheer volume of exfoliating products out there can get overwhelming and can range from high-end to budget friendly. While I love the splurge-y exfoliants that really do the work, you don’t have to spend a fortune on a quality item—there are a ton of drugstore and affordable buys.

Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Exfoliating Daily Facial Scrub ($5)

This exfoliating scrub is gentle enough for everyday use because it has a moisturizing soy extract and jojoba and castor oils. It’s also noncomedogenic, so it won’t clog pores.

Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Facial Cleanser ($7)

Neutrogena’s cleanser is both a mechanical and chemical exfoliant. It contains alpha and beta hydroxy acids to brighten the skin’s complexion and reduce the appearance of pores.

Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub ($16)

With superfine granules, this scrub is okay to use on sensitive skin. It’s formulated with skin conditioners and vitamins to nourish and soften skin.

L’Oréal Revitalift Bright Reveal Facial Cleanser ($5)

L’Oréal’s daily cleanser is another mechanical and chemical exfoliant combo. It has micropearls and glycolic acid, which work to slough off dead skin cells and improve skin tone and texture.

CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser ($22)

CeraVe’s cleanser is a great option for those with oily, acne-prone skin. It’s formulated with salicylic acid to exfoliate and hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and vitamin D to smooth and hydrate the skin.

Burt’s Bees Refining Cleanser ($9)

If retinol irritates your skin, this cleanser might give you the same benefits without any problems. It’s formulated with bakuchiol, which is a gentler, natural alternative to retinol. The cleanser will smooth wrinkles and hydrate (thanks to vitamin E).

Clean & Clear Deep Action Exfoliating Facial Scrub ($6)

As its name suggests, this scrub really gets deep into skin to clear pores and remove dirt, oil, and makeup. When you apply it, you’ll feel a tingly, cooling sensation, which is so refreshing.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Micro-Exfoliating Astringent Toner ($24)

Formulated for acne-prone and oily skin, this toner can be used to unclog and tighten pores. It contains salicylic acid to exfoliate and castor oil to prevent any irritation or dryness.

Honest Beauty Beauty Sleep Resurfacing Serum ($28)

This is one of the more unique exfoliating options on our list since it’s a serum that works to resurface skin overnight for a glowier complexion in the morning. Ingredients include five AHAs to exfoliate and hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture.

Neutrogena Deep Clean Purifying Cooling Gel and Exfoliating Face Scrub ($9)

This salicylic acid scrub works hard at clearing acne and clogged pores, but it won’t leave your skin irritated since the formula is a cooling gel. It’s never been more refreshing to exfoliate!

Bioderma Sebium Exfoliating Gel ($15)

Oily skin gets relief with this gel scrub. It has both mechanical and chemical exfoliants, like microbeads and glycolic and salicylic acids, to remove dead skin cells and promote cell renewal. Antioxidants, laminaria, and vitamin E work to leave the skin soothed and radiant.

Simple Smoothing Facial Scrub ($23)

Formulated with rice granules and vitamins B5 and E, this scrub works for all skin types to improve dull skin. It doesn’t contain dyes or perfumes.

Avène Gentle Exfoliating Gel ($20)

Here’s yet another mechanical and chemical combo. This exfoliating gel purifies pores and increases cell turnover thanks to exfoliating microspheres, salicylic acid, and zinc gluconate. It also contains spring water to soothe redness and inflammation.

Bioré Pore Unclogging Scrub ($6)

This scrub not only works to unclog pores and slough off dead skin cells, but it also has acne-fighting benefits, courtesy of salicylic acid. And because it clears out dirt and oil, it can prevent future breakouts.

L’Oréal Pure-Clay Face Mask ($10)

Use this face mask up to three times a week for 10 to 15 minutes to even skin texture and leave your face looking glowy. It’s formulated with clay, red algae, and volcanic rock to exfoliate and smooth the skin’s surface.

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Looking for the Best Face Wash? 17 Vogue Editors Weigh In on Their Favorites

Many would say washing your face is the most important part of a skin-care routine. Now the quest to find the best face wash is even more imperative: Our vital, necessary use of face masks has led to an uptick in maskne and other irritations.

From dermatologist Carlos A. Charles’s perspective, it’s most important to find a cleanser that removes buildup, dirt, makeup, and other unwanted particles from the face without damaging the skin’s protective barrier. The founder and medical director of Derma di Colore recommends three go-to cleansers to clients: Jurlique Revitalizing Cleansing Gel because it “thoroughly cleanses the skin and leaves it feeling fresh without overdrying or stripping the skin,” and does so without parabens, polyethylene glycols, or artificial fragrances and colors; Ren Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Gel, as it cleans without being rough on the skin; and, lastly, CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser. “It removes impurities from the skin delicately and works well for those with the most sensitive skin. Also, it’s a good choice when starting a prescription-strength acne or anti-aging regimen,” Charles notes.

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

Buy at Dermstore $15

Jurlique Revitalizing Cleansing Gel

Buy on Amazon $34

REN Clean Skincare Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Gel

Buy on their website $32

And while doctors certainly know best, everyone’s skin is different (and cleansers tend to elicit strong feelings), so we asked Vogue staffers to share their favorites in the hopes of making your search for the best face wash a little bit easier.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser

Buy at Nordstrom $22

“I got this cleanser as a gift three years ago and haven’t gone back to whatever I used to use since! I have combination skin, so the biggest thing for me was to find a cleanser that doesn’t strip my face too harshly, which this one definitely doesn’t. It’s gentle, and leaves my skin feeling clean and naturally moist.”

RMS Beauty Raw Coconut Cream

Buy at Nordstrom $18

“I love oil cleansers, and RMS’s raw coconut cream is one I always go back to. It doesn’t strip your skin like a traditional face wash, so I don’t feel like I need to immediately layer on serums and moisturizers after I rinse it off. I’ve been trying to simplify my routine as much as possible during quarantine, so this has been key!”

Fresh Soy Face Cleanser

Buy at Sephora $38

“I love this lightweight, fresh-scented gel cleanser. Not only is it gentle enough to use every day on my skin, but it leaves it feeling hydrated and refreshed each and every time. Plus, its compact size makes it easy to pack during weekend getaways.”

Naturopathica Aloe Cleansing Gel 

Buy at Dermstore $38

“When I told Follain founder Tara Foley that I hadn’t yet found the right natural face wash, she steered me toward Naturopathica’s Aloe Cleansing Gel. I now use it every night, and it leaves my face feeling clear without any of the tightness or dryness that I’ve experienced with other cleansers. I also find I don’t need to use much for it to be effectively cleansing and hydrating, which means the five-ounce bottle has lasted me many months (a win on the less-waste front).”

Grown Alchemist Hydra-Restore Cream Cleanser

Buy at ULTA $49

“There are many reasons why I love this face wash: It’s gentle and hydrating on my sensitive skin, it looks pretty on my countertop, and it smells good too.”

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Buy at Bed Bath & Beyond $11

“For a splurge, I love to indulge in a cream face wash from Biologique Recherche or Joëlle Ciocco. But really, in my opinion, there is nothing better than a bottle of Cetaphil—it’s plain and simple.”

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Facial Cleansing Gel

Buy at ULTA $12

“I’m a drugstore enthusiast when it comes to basic facial care. My skin is very sensitive and I found that this is one of the only cleansers that truly caters to my skin type. Because it’s hypoallergenic, I felt confident in giving it a chance, and I haven’t looked back since. My face is always left feeling refreshed and under control.”

Eve Lom Cleanser

Buy at Dermstore $135

“I am sorry to inform you that this Eve Lom Cleanser is worth every penny. Never in my life would I think I’d be someone to pay $80 on a facial cleanser, but I am. Because of the price, I use it sparingly, but it always makes my skin look and feel much better. I love the ritual of putting it on and taking it off by using a muslin cloth that’s been soaked in warm water. Plus, you can’t beat that clean smell.” 

Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser

Buy at ULTA $25

“I’ve used this face wash since high school—thank you to my local Sephora for the introduction! Despite trying posh, highbrow cleansers and drugstore staples, I’ve found that the Philosophy wash is the only one that leaves my skin feeling and looking fresh.”

Neutrogena The Transparent Facial Bar

Buy on Amazon $5

“I use Neutrogena’s Transparent Facial Bar. It’s like a tried-and-true wardrobe classic but for cleansers, maybe comparable to the turtleneck of skin-washing regimes. I’ve been using it since high school. The crisp bar, which comes in a hue of honey, lasts forever, and is under $5. How can you go wrong?”

Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm

Buy at Dermstore $62

“My favorite face wash is more of a balm. Made from manuka honey, this Naturopathica cleaner cleans effectively and without drying out my face. You can also apply it with a little brush that feels supernice on the face and, I think, gives me a little extra exfoliation bang for my buck. This is definitely a hero product for me and one of the most natural but effective cleansers I’ve found in my clean beauty searches. Plus, it smells so amazing you almost don’t want to wash it off.”

Avène Gentle Milk Cleanser 

Buy at Dermstore $20

“I am very picky about face washes because I have extremely sensitive skin (eczema, rosacea, you name it!), and this has been my favorite cleanser for a year now. Once something lasts in my skin-care routine for more than a few months, it’s going to stay there forever. I love the consistency of this cleanser; it’s gel-like but not sticky, and so soothing, always leaving my skin feeling so clean!”

Lesse Refining Cleanser

Buy at CAP Beauty $55

“I swear by Eve Lom’s cleanser (a classic for a reason!), but for an extra-deep clean I always go to Lesse’s all-natural scrub, which contains ultrafine apricot granules to gentlyexfoliate the skin—a must after long beach days (and lots of sunscreen). Plus, the charcoal-blue-colored formula is just about as pretty as they come.”

Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash

Buy at Dermstore $62

“There are very few constants in my skin-care routine, but the one product I will always go back to is Dermalogica’s Clearing Skin Wash. I can try other cleansers, but this is the one that I repeatedly purchase and always have on hand (I own the largest possible size and keep travel versions at my parents’ house just in case). My skin tends to be oily, but this saves me from needing a thousand blotting papers.”

Tatcha The Rice Wash Skin-Softening Cleanser

Buy at Sephora $35

“Tatcha was the first skin-care brand I splurged on growing up; the brand’s infamous inclusion of milky rice water brings an extra boost of moisture to my otherwise dry, and at times, flaky skin. The gentle texture combined with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and Okinawa algae (known to plump and lock in moisture), leaves my skin feeling supple and bouncy every morning.”

Epi Logic True Calm Rosehip Gel Cleanser

Buy at Brooklyn Face & Eye $40

“All I can say is God bless Chaneve Jeanniton and every product in the Epi.Logic line! Chaneve created this face wash to soothe sensitive skin, and since using it, I never have to worry about my skin getting irritated while washing my face in the morning!”

Chantecaille Pure Rosewater

Buy at Nordstrom $32-74

“This is not necessarily a face wash, but I’ve been loving Chantecaille’s rosewater spray. It leaves me looking dewy and is naturally perfumed with a faint floribunda smell. Plus, it comes in the prettiest packaging designed by tastemaker extraordinaire John Derian. I spritz my face liberally each night with it so it might as well be a wash!”

VOGUE article