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Your guide to exfoliating face wash & cleansers


The skin naturally sheds dead skin cells from the surface whilst at the same time replacing them with new, fresh ones. This process is technically called desquamation, and it's the skin’s way of continually renewing itself from the inside out.

Whatever your skin type, the rate at which skin cells naturally turn over and renew usually slows as we age, meaning we need to take extra steps to prevent the build-up of dead skin cells. Individuals with dry, oily, or acne-prone skin may also need help with this process.

The Benefits of Exfoliating Face Wash and Cleaners

Removal of dead skin cells

When we give the skin a helping hand with products or tools to help remove dead skin cells, the process is called exfoliation. With many reasons to exfoliate, all skin types can benefit – even sensitive skin.

First and foremost, it helps reveal fresh, radiant skin that might otherwise be obscured by a build-up of dead skin cells. Exfoliation can also reduce clogged pores which could contribute to breakouts. Minimising dead skin cells also helps to smooth skin texture, brighten dull skin, improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduce the incidence of discolouration, and help your skincare products penetrate deeper.

Improved Skin texture

Oily skin can often contribute to uneven texture, with bumps, visibly enlarged pores, or keratosis pilaris (aka ‘chicken skin’), resulting in dull-looking or uneven skin. However so can dry or very dry skin, which appears and feels rough to the touch.

Reducing Acne prone skin concerns

Excess sebum (oil) production will also be one of your main concerns if you have acne prone skin, as it causes pores to become visibly enlarged. Pores can also become blocked by dead skin cells and be havens for bacteria, increasing instances of blemishes and pimples.


Enhanced Absorption of active ingredients

It almost goes without saying that product ingredients are more beneficial if the skin is actually absorbing them. Exfoliation of the skin to remove dead skin cells helps prepare the skin for absorbing products better.

Incorporating an Exfoliating Face Wash into your Skincare Routine

Incorporating exfoliation into your skincare routine can be as easy as using a specially-formulated cleanser. An exfoliating face wash performs two functions; that of a cleanser by removing dirt, makeup, and impurities, and as an exfoliant, providing extra benefits such as skin-smoothing, decongestion of clogged pores, and more.

The dual action of exfoliating cleansers also makes them ideal for anyone who prefers to keep their skincare routine to a minimum (here's looking at you, men and teenagers!), or when you’re on the go or travelling (exfoliating facial cleansers allow you to pack fewer products).

Exfoliating face washes generally contain either physical or chemical exfoliants. Some feature both!

Chemical exfoliants include alpha hydroxy acids like citric acid, glycolic acid, or lactic acid, and beta hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid. These break down the bonds holding dead skin cells to the skin’s surface, enabling them to be sloughed away. Some chemical exfoliators can also penetrate pores to help remove excess oils and impurities, and reduce bacteria on the skin.

Physical exfoliants, like face scrubs, are composed of micro fine particles such as pumice or jojoba beads, to gently buff away dead cells from the skin's surface.

Whether you've got normal, oily, dry or a combination skin type, SkinCeuticals offers multiple exfoliating face washes to suit almost every skin type or concern.

Ageing skin

Glycolic Renewal Foaming Cleanser is an exfoliating face wash featuring a dual free-acid concentration of 8% glycolic acid and 1% phytic acid to target rough skin, promote skin cell renewal and deliver a clear and bright complexion for discoloured or dull skin. At the same time, this soft-foaming cleanser removes oil, dirt, debris, and long-wear makeup to leave skin feeling hydrated and refreshed.

blemish and age gel

Visible signs of ageing and blemish control

Designed for ageing skin that’s prone to breakouts, Blemish And Age Cleansing Gel is a daily exfoliating cleanser that helps improve surface texture, smooth the look of fine lines and wrinkles, refine the appearance of pores, and brighten the skin. Its combined 12% concentration of lipo-hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, glycerin, and sorbitol effectively removes excess oil and makeup without over-drying the skin.

Oily or congested skin

With its previously mentioned key ingredients lipo-hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, glycerin, and sorbitol, Blemish And Age Cleansing Gel is also suitable for oily or congested skin.

Simply Clean is another exfoliating cleanser for oily skin (it's also suitable for normal and combination skin types). Featuring a 6% concentration of sulfonic acid (HEPES), glycerin, chamomile and aloe extracts, orange oil, and citric acid, this formula thoroughly removes waterproof and long-wear makeup whilst removing dead skin cells.

Normal, dry, oily, and combination skin

Suitable for daily use, our Micro Exfoliating Face Scrub is a gentle exfoliating cleanser for effective skin-smoothing along with hydration. Formulated with a 2% concentration of hydrated silica (a naturally-occurring mineral), vegetable-derived glycerin, and soothing aloe, it helps purify pores and promote a healthy skin moisture barrier. This daily exfoliating cleanser can be used alone, or mixed with any other SkinCeuticals cleanser for an extra skin-refining boost.

To determine the ideal face wash and other exfoliating products for your unique skin type, use our online Regimen Finder, visit one of our SkinCeuticals SkinLab locations, or schedule an appointment with a SkinCeuticals Skincare Professional for a one-on-one consultation.

A Note on Exfoliating Cleansers for Sensitive Skin Types


Containing the exfoliants sulfonic acid (HEPES) and citric acid, Simply Clean is generally considered a suitable cleanser for sensitive skin. However, even a gentle exfoliating cleanser may cause irritation in some individuals. Fortunately, other SkinCeuticals product options exist to help incorporate safe, effective exfoliation into a skincare routine for those very sensitive skin types.

When used after cleansing, Equalizing AHA Toner balances skin pH and smoothes skin with gently-exfoliating hydroxy acids and a blend of soothing botanicals like witch hazel, rosemary, aloe, and chamomile.

Retexturing Activator Exfoliating Serum is an oil free serum-based option that replenishes hydration simultaneously replenishes and resurfaces to help stimulate new cell turnover and reinforce the skin’s moisture barrier for healthier, more radiant looking skin.

And just a heads up… If you have temporarily irritated skin, rather than sensitive skin, such as in the days immediately following a professional treatment like chemical peels, lasers, or microneedling, it may be necessary to avoid using any exfoliating face washes or other exfoliating skincare products until the skin has healed. Be sure to talk to your your skincare professional about your post-treatment product regimen.

Next: Our Guide to Chemical exfoliation: BHA vs AHA

Frequently Asked Questions

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