The baseline skincare regimen has three steps: cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize. Most guys—those with any regimen at all—do the first and last steps, no problem. That’s because they’re twice-daily applications, and your regimen wouldn’t exist without their framework. But the third step, the middle one, is often discarded altogether. Trust us, you need facial exfoliators.
Exfoliation is integral to achieving smooth skin, providing an even texture, and keeping a clear complexion. It helps slough off dead surface cells, which otherwise clog pores or prevent healthier, softer cells from getting their time in the sun. By lifting dry cells, facial exfoliators help clear discoloration and, in some cases, can even seep into your pores to flush away excess grime, oil, and trapped cells. That’s because some exfoliating agents aren’t physical scrubs; instead they’re dead-cell-dissolving alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), like glycolic, citric, and lactic acid, or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), like salicylic acid.
And while exfoliation is often prescribed as a once- or twice-weekly step (done post-cleanse, pre-hydration, ideally before bed), there are so many ways you can get exfoliation benefits, and each comes with its own script. Our favorites are the dual cleansing-exfoliating kind, whether they’re gritty physical exfoliators, or surreptitious chemical ones (though all gentle enough to make the list).
Below are our picks for the best facial exfoliators, many of them multi-taskers, some of them standalone treatments, and others someplace in between. Pick your favorites from the pack in order to give your foundational skincare regimen the three-pronged approach it needs.
1. Peace Out Skincare Blemish Balm Cleanser
Our top pick of the bunch should be a mainstay on your sink ledge. It’s a dissolving solid that first melts in your hands, then on your face to smooth away excess oil, dead skin cells, and grime (from deep inside your pores). It’s a gentle way to get a daily hit of skin-clearing salicylic acid without overwhelming your mug. Add to that, complexion-toning niacinamide, surface-buffing lactic acid, and a complex of eight moisturizing amino acids…and you’ve got yourself a frontrunner in this category.