There’s so much more to men’s grooming than there was even a decade ago. Whether it’s beard care, hair care, or washing your body, we men benefit from the many advances and knowledge related to grooming.
Even the simple act of washing your face – a part of your everyday routine – has come a long way thanks to quality face washes that provide a deeper, healthier cleansing than a bar of soap.
Meanwhile, there’s yet another level: face exfoliators, a.k.a. facial scrubs.
A great way to step up your grooming game is by using a facial scrub a few times a week. Not just any scrub, mind you, but a superior quality scrub such as the Brickell Renewing Face Scrub for Men Exfoliation goes beyond regular face cleansing to remove dead skin cells, unclog skin pores while removing dirt and grime to give your face a more polished look.
In this post we’ll discuss our picks for the best face scrub for men, what to look for when buying exfoliators, how to use scrubs, and the differences between scrubs and other deep-cleansing facial products.
- Before you buy: 3 Things to consider when purchasing exfoliators for men
- 5 Best exfoliators for men 2018
- How it’s done: The best method for using an exfoliator (And why. A simple, illustrated guide)
- Exfoliators vs. other types of facial products
- How we chose the best exfoliators for men
Before You Buy: 3 Things to Consider When Purchasing Exfoliators for Men
Choosing the best exfoliator is the same as choosing most other skincare: your skin type is everything. Fortunately, there is a facial scrub for every skin type. Here are some tips for choosing an exfoliator that’s ideal for your skin.
1. Skin Type
- Dry Skin
Exfoliation is excellent for you dry-skinned gents who often have an over-abundance of flaking dead skin cells. Some other signs of dry skin include red patches, a feeling of tightness after washing your face, dullness, and roughness.
But you need to be careful – exfoliators with formulas that are particularly strong will strip dry skin of all of its moisture, which exacerbates the problem. To avoid this issue, choose exfoliating scrubs with ingredients that replenish lost moisture. Scrubs with a creamy consistency are usually those with extra moisturizing ingredients.
- Sensitive Skin
Men with sensitive skin have to be careful when choosing facial skin products and many choose not to exfoliate at all. However, there are scrubs available that are gentle enough to use on even the most sensitive types of skin, including those that use enzymes to exfoliate. Look for products that are labeled hypoallergenic or allergy tested. If you’re not sure, check with your dermatologist before choosing a facial scrub.
- Oily Skin
You’ll ask a lot of your facial scrub if you have oily skin. For one, you want a scrub that penetrates deeply to prevent your pores from clogging (and prevents breakouts), but also one that balances the skin to reduce oil production. Salicylic acid is an ingredient to look for if you have oily skin because it’s a deep-cleaning agent that also addresses existing skin blemishes.
- Normal Skin
As we’ve mentioned in other reviews of skincare products for men, men with normal skin have all the advantages. They can choose with an open mind, not worrying whether certain scrubs and ingredients will aggravate a specific skin type.
They can focus on finding products that provide deep cleaning while also keeping their skin healthy. If you fall into the Normal Skin category, feel free to choose exfoliators that contain more than one exfoliating agent.
2. Exfoliating Ingredients
Facial scrubs contain a variety of ingredients that act as exfoliating agents and, as with so many products, we prefer those that use natural ingredients such as coffee, oats, sugar, pumice, cornmeal, walnut shell powder, and more.
3. Scrubbing Beads
Skin exfoliators contain scrubbing beads that remove dead skin cells and clear clogged pores. Size matters when choosing scrubbing beads, and there is a wide range of scrubs – from super fine to super coarse and a whole lot in between.
In general, avoid scrubs that use coarse grains if you shave every day because they are often very abrasive. An important point to remember is that the larger the grain, the greater the chance that it will irritate your skin.
Finer grains are ideal if you don’t shave regularly like most men with a full beard – who only need the occasional trim.
What you DON’T want are products that contain microbeads made of polyethylene plastic. The problem with synthetic microbeads is that they don’t decompose and, ultimately, find their way into our lakes, rivers, streams, oceans. Not only are they a pollutant, but fish and other marine life consumed vast amounts of microbeads over the years.
The U.S. banned microbeads in 2015, but be sure to check a product’s list of ingredients if you purchase an exfoliator overseas.
So, skin type, ingredients, and scrubbing beads are what you should pay attention to most when choosing a facial scrub. Other factors go into the making of a quality exfoliator, which we’ll get into later, but it’s particularly important to keep the above three in mind when choosing a facial scrub for you.
Let’s move on to our reviews of the best face scrub for men.
5 Best Exfoliators For Men 2018
Brickell’s Renewing Face Scrub is a quality facial scrub that serves a variety of functions, not the least of which is exfoliating the skin. Sure, a facial scrub needs to clear away dirt and excess oil, but it also needs to clear away dead skin cells – and that’s one of the primary purposes of Brickell’s Men’s Renewing Face Scrub.
Why is the Renewing Face Scrub for Men such an excellent exfoliator? Perhaps the primary reason is that its ingredients include pumice, an “abrasive” commonly used in soaps and cleansers. We put the quote marks around abrasive because pumice – a naturally-occurring rock – is very soft, not harsh, and great for removing dirt and grime from the skin and, yes, for exfoliating it, as well.
Indeed, pumice is soft but strong; many people use it in its natural rock form to wear down calluses and to remove dead skin on the feet and hands. But it’s also a popular lightweight construction material used in concrete block, while used to grind and polish glass – among some of its other uses.
Brickell’s Renewing Face Scrub for Men doesn’t include pumice in its pure rock form, but uses it as a finely ground ingredient that exfoliates the skin like few other products. It also unclogs pores and scrubs the skin thoroughly to leave your skin feeling soft, clean, and fresh (and ready for your morning shave, if you’re so inclined).
Jojoba beads further enhance the Renewing Face Scrub for Men’s scrubbing action while helping to remove dirt and other impurities from skin cells.
The Brickell Face Scrub’s ingredients list is 98% natural and 70% organic and includes soothing skin agents such as aloe vera, avocado butter, and vitamin E. The list doesn’t include parabens, colorants or other harmful, potentially hazardous stuff.
Another thing to like about this scrub is that it’s good for all skin types, including sensitive skin. An additional plus is its scent, which combines the fragrances of green tea, coffee, and patchouli.
- Strong exfoliator
- Packed with natural ingredients
- Refreshing scent
- The container is a bit small (although travel-friendly)
Brickell’s products receive high marks in a variety of grooming and skin care products for men, and their Renewing Face Scrub is another hit. It cleans, exfoliates, and leaves your skin feeling refreshed and revitalized.
Kyoku sets the pace when it comes to ingredients that you won’t find anywhere else. Check it out: volcanic ash, Japanese adzuki bean powder, and rice bran – all are key ingredients in Kyoku for Men Exfoliation Facial Scrub.
Of course, “exotic” ingredients are great only if they work. And they certainly work in this case, as Kyoku’s Exfoliating Facial Scrub is the best exfoliating face scrub available.
So, what about Kyoku’s ingredients? Volcanic ash? Yes, volcanic ash is an important ingredient in all of Kyoku’s products and it’s excellent for removing excess oil and dirt from the skin. It leaves your face feeling smooth, not gritty.
Meanwhile, Japanese adzuki bean powder provides the exfoliating power that removes dead skin cells, while rice bran is widely-used in Japan to smooth the skin. Adzuki bean powder also provides a moisturizing element that hydrates skin.
Kyoku’s Exfoliating Facial Scrub also includes vitamin A and vitamin E, which help balance the skin’s pH level while promoting elasticity and revitalizing patchy-colored skin. Better yet, all of Kyoku’s skin care products are paraben free, as well as free from harsh chemicals.
Something else to like about this exfoliating facial scrub; it’s the best face scrub for acne. It deep cleans pores to help get rid of blackheads while repairing skin so that it looks smooth, clean, and refreshed. It’s even great for slowing the skin’s aging process. No matter your skin type, however, it’s a facial scrub that has benefits for men of all skin types. Its chemical-free ingredients will help you to balance your skin at a pH level that’s neither oily or dry.
Finally, Kyoku’s For Men Exfoliating Facial Scrub includes sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of 15. Why not give your skin an extra bit of protection from the damage caused by excessive sun exposure?
Kyoku has earned raved reviews – and its products have won many awards – since it was founded in 2010 by Dr. Asim Akhtar. Akhtar focused on the skincare needs of men because of his belief that men’s skin is tougher than women’s and therefore needs stronger types of treatment. And Akhtar comes from experience; he struggled with acne as a youth and had a hard time finding products to treat it effectively.
Akhtar believes that the cause of acne breakouts isn’t an excess production of sebum, but the result of inflammation of the skin caused by higher-than-normal levels of testosterone. To Akhtar, high levels of oil is a symptom, not the cause.
There are a couple of other things we really like about Kyoku’s Exfoliating Wash: it has a decidedly manly scent that’s pleasing but not overpowering, and it comes with a 90-day money back guarantee. Kyoku stands behind its products in every way.
- Excellent for treating acne blackheads and breakouts
- Combines ancient herb therapy with modern science
- Good for all skin types
- Includes sunblock
- A bit too drying for some
Kyoku is well-deserving of its reputation for being one of the best producers of quality men’s skincare products today. Their Exfoliating Facial Scrub is good for men of all skin types, including those who suffer from acne.
You’ll often see the “PureScience” label with Jack Black’s men’s skincare products and it’s a label that has plenty of positive connotations, i.e., natural and organic ingredients with no parabens, colorants, or fragrances, as well as dermatologist approval.
PureScience provides an excellent foundation for Jack Black’s Face Buff Energizing Scrub, which meets the standards of best men’s face scrub 2018 in many ways:
- It’s a good all-around product that’s suitable for most skin types, including oily and sensitive skin. In fact, it may be the best face scrub for oily skin available today.
- It contains small scrubbing particles that that effectively remove dirt and dead skin cells. That makes it an excellent scrub for preparing your skin for an irritant-free shave, and it prevents in-grown hairs by clearing congested pores.
- It has enough of an abrasive quality, but not too abrasive, that it scrubs away the deepest dirt from your face. You don’t need to apply a ton of pressure during the scrub; just enough to leave your skin feeling (and looking) smooth.
- You get a lot of scrub in each bottle – enough to last you several months even if you use it several times a week. It also makes it a great value for its price.
- Its scrubbing beads are 100% biodegradable and environmentally-friendly. They easily decompose and don’t pollute the water system.
- Many users rave about Jack Black’s Face Buff Energizing Scrub’s scent. It’s minty, but manly, and leaves your skin feeling cool and refreshed. The fragrance resembles that of a masculine cologne, but isn’t overpowering.
- Again, applying it to the parts of your face that you shave ensures a closer shave because it removes dead skin cells and dirt that may block your razor and cause friction.
- Leaves face feeling invigorated and refreshed
- Provides a deep scrub to remove dirt and grime
- Invigorating scent
- Some find the scent too strong
Jack Black’s Face Buff Energizing Scrub is a great all-around product that’s good for men with most skin types, including sensitive skin. Moreover, it’s paraben and cruelty-free, as well as vegan.
Like Jack Black’s Face Buff Energizing Scrub, Rugged & Dapper’s Facial Cleanser for Men is a solid all-around product that’s suitable for most skin types. But it’s also the best exfoliator for sensitive skin.
As mentioned, men with sensitive skin must tread carefully when choosing a skin care product. A product with harsher ingredients, which may work for men of other skin types, can make sensitive skin symptoms worse. Rugged & Dapper address the issue of sensitive skin with a long list of natural ingredients that rid the skin of stubborn dirt and deeply exfoliate pores without the harshness of other products.
Rugged & Dapper’s Facial Cleanser for Men is even strong enough to fight acne-causing bacteria and the overproduction of sebum that many think leads to acne breakouts.
The active ingredients Rugged & Dapper’s facial cleanser are aloe vera – which is known for its skin-soothing properties – and willow bark, which is rich in antioxidants and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Among its other ingredients are burdock root, tea tree oil, and vitamin C. You’ll find tea tree oil in a variety of men’s skincare products because it also acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps treat skin conditions such as acne.
All told, Rugged & Dapper provides a multitude of benefits for your skin as it acts as a revitalizing face wash and an exfoliator that removes dirt, excess oil, and grime without stripping your skin of moisture. Men of all ages and skin types benefit from R & D’s facial cleanser.
The Rugged & Dapper facial cleanser has a thick, creamy texture that’s still light enough for men with sensitive skin.
- Cleans and balances skin
- Excellent for men with sensitive skin
- Strong enough to fight the causes and symptoms of acne
- A bit pricier than some other facial scrubs
Rugged & Dapper’s Facial Cleanser for Men is strong enough to rid your skin of dirt and grime, but gentle enough even for men with sensitive skin. We also like it because it’s free of harmful chemicals and toxins.
Charcoal? Surely, you jest!
Actually, we’re dead serious. Charcoal – that stuff you light on fire and cook meat over – is ascending on the list of favorite grooming product ingredients. You’ll find it in soap, and even toothpaste. And its use as a cleaning agent goes way, way back (like ancient human way back).
Charcoal certainly works as an ingredient in facial scrubs, as well, and M3 Naturals’ Premium Activated Charcoal Scrub gets high marks all-around. After all, charcoal – also referred to as “activated” charcoal for marketing purposes – has a porous structure that naturally draws out dirt, oil, and stains from the skin, while also attracting water to provide superior hydration.
In other words, it works as a vacuum for the skin while giving it a nice dose of moisture. What’s not to like?
The folks at M3 Naturals combine charcoal with dead sea salts to produce a powerful cleanser for your skin. It fights acne and helps remove blackheads, while detoxifying and rejuvenating skin. Your skin will look brighter and feel tighter without sagginess. Older men also appreciate how it reduces wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Perhaps best of all, charcoal is natural, safe, and effective, and you also use it as a body scrub.
- Activated charcoal removes impurities from the skin
- Safe and effective
- Also beneficial as a body scrub
- May leave a dark residue that you need to wash off
The M3 Naturals Activated Charcoal Scrub draws impurities, dead skin cells, and excess oils from the skin to make it smoother and rejuvenated. Charcoal is a popular ingredient in today’s grooming world, and the Premium Activated Scrub is among the best charcoal-based products on the market.
How it’s Done: The Best Method for Using an Exfoliator (And Why)
The primary reason for using an exfoliator/face scrub is to remove dead skin cells that build up on your face and clog pores. Because your face doesn’t always shed skin cells very effectively on its own, your skin begins to look dull, not smooth and polished.
There are other reasons to use an exfoliator besides clearing away dead skin cells – which we’ll touch on in a bit – but first let’s take a look at how to use a facial scrub, as well as how often.
How often should I use an exfoliator?
You don’t need to use a facial scrub every day. Doing so may dry out your skin by removing too much of its natural oils while disrupting its natural pH balance. Typically, you should use your exfoliator one to two times a week, or a bit more if you have normal skin.
- If you have normal, oily, or combination skin (a combination of normal and oily), you can use your facial scrub one to three times a week. Scrubbing helps prevent oil from building up in your pores.
- If your skin is sensitive, dry, or acne-prone, you shouldn’t use your facial scrub more than twice a week, at most. It’s best not to use a face wash on the same day you use your exfoliator because you’ll excessively dry out the skin.
- Perhaps the best advice for determining how often you should use a facial scrub is “proceed with caution.” You may like the way your face looks – and feels – after an exfoliation so much that you’re tempted to do it again tomorrow … and the next day. But overuse will dry out your skin and strip it of natural oils that help it maintain its elasticity.
How to properly use a facial scrub
STEP 1: Rinse your face with warm water before using your facial scrub. The warm water opens up the pores and makes it easier for your scrub to penetrate deeply.
STEP 2: You’ll only need to use a small amount of scrub with each application. Place a dime-sized amount of scrub in the palm of your hand, then use your fingers to apply it with circular motions around your face. You can also apply it with a loofah or soft washcloth.
STEP 3: Use gentle motions when applying it to your face. Scrubbing too vigorously will irritate the skin and remove too much of its natural oils.
STEP 4: If you plan on shaving, apply the facial scrub first. The scrub will smooth your skin, and lift and softens facial hairs to make for a smoother shave.
STEP 5: After applying your exfoliator, rinse it off with warm water, and then follow with cold water to shrink pores and prevent excess oils and impurities from going back into them.
STEP 6: Don’t dry your face completely with a towel when finished. Instead, gently pat it dry.
Why should I use a scrub?
We’ve touched on the benefits of using a facial scrub in our reviews and introduction, but let’s dig a bit deeper:
- An exfoliator removes dead skin cells
Again, the primary purpose of a facial scrub is to remove dead skin cells. New skin is constantly regenerated (with a whole new set of cells produced every two weeks). The dead skin that’s left behind gives your face a look of flakiness, dullness, and unevenness.
- It cleanses the skin
Scrubs clean and remove excess dirt, oil, and grime that a daily cleanser doesn’t remove. They penetrate deeply into your pores to remove grit that accumulates over time.
- It uproots ingrown hairs
Scrubs dig deeply enough to lift ingrown hairs and make them easier to shave.
- A facial scrub removes excess oils
Excess sebum may build up on your face over time – especially if you’re prone to oily skin – and may cause skin spots and an uneven skin tone.
- An exfoliator may slow the signs of aging
No product can completely stop the aging process. But facial scrubs and other cleansers can slow aging’s obvious signs by refining skin tone and reducing fine lines such as wrinkles. They also help facial cleansers and washes to work more effectively.
Exfoliators vs. Other Types of Facial Products
So far, we’ve concentrated on physical facial scrubs, i.e., exfoliators that you apply to your face by hand while working them into the skin to remove dead skin cells and other impurities. Facial scrubs aren’t the only way to get a deep cleansing, however.
The following is a comparison of facial scrubs to other types of facial cleansers.
We’ve covered facial scrubs in detail up to this point. Just to reiterate – facial scrubs eliminate dead skin and remove impurities from your skin. They typically have a gritty texture, ranging from mild to rough. Scrubs are the most commonly-used type of exfoliation.
Facial scrubs are milder than body scrubs because the skin of a man’s face, while thicker than the skin on a woman’s face, is thinner than the skin of the body. Body scrubs usually contain larger, harsher granules that can penetrate areas of the body such as the elbows, feet, and knees.
Exfoliation has been around awhile, to say the least. It’s commonly thought that the ancient Egyptians invented physical exfoliation and used a variety of materials, including pumice, sand, alabaster particles, and sour milk, in the exfoliating process. Native Americans used corncobs and similarly abrasive materials. Folks of the Middle Ages used old wine because of its acidity. One can only speculate about what they did with the leftovers.
Among the ingredients commonly found in physical exfoliators today include jojoba beads and pumice stone fragments.
- Jojoba beads are smooth, round, and rarely scratch the skin, but instead gently strip away dead skin cells. They’re also considered environmentally friendly, unlike the plastic beads of yesteryear.
- Pumice represents a harsher form of physical exfoliation but, like jojoba beads, is produced naturally. Men with sensitive skin should think twice about using facial scrubs that utilize pumice as their deep-cleansing agent.
Face washes are mild cleansers that aren’t as abrasive as facial scrubs and other forms of exfoliation. Cleansers, which are often suitable for daily use, penetrate the top layer of the skin and aren’t as effective for deep cleaning as facial scrubs.
Scrub bars have a coarseness that set them apart from regular soap bars. They work well for quick body exfoliation. The same is true of body scrubs which come in liquid form and use larger, harsher granules than facial scrubs.
Chemical exfoliants make use of chemicals that dissolve the “binding” that connects dead skin cells. They’re effective for men who can’t handle the abrasiveness of some facial scrubs. Some of the chemicals in this type of exfoliant include:
- Lactic acid
Lactic acid may be plant-based or milk-based and works well on all skin types (and comes in various strengths).
- Glycolic acid
Glycolic acid is a more powerful cleaner than lactic acid and works deeply on congested skin.
- Citric acids
Naturally-produced citric and multi-fruit acids help dissolve the top layer of skin for smoothing, anti-aging, and cleansing.
- Salicylic acid
Salicylic acid is another name for beta hydroxyl acid (BHA) and it works best on skin that’s oily and prone to acne breakouts. Remember, if you have oily skin you want to use a facial scrub that prevents clogging and breakouts but also balances the skin by reducing oil production.
Chemical peels fall under the “chemical exfoliator” banner but are a much harsher form of exfoliation. A chemical peel consists of watery, gel-like solution that’s designed to strip away the top layer of your skin to reveal a fresh new layer beneath it.
Peels are effective for people with excessively blemished skin and remove dead skin cells, blackheads, unwanted facial hair, and improve your skin’s color and texture. At-home chemical peels are less intensive than peels administered by a skin health professional – which are used to treat issues like severe acne and melasma (in which dark, brownish patches are visible on the skin).
Note: Sagging skin and excessive wrinkles do not respond very well to chemical peels. Instead, facelifts and laser treatments performed by dermatologic surgeons are better options.
Facial masks may contain a variety of ingredients, including aloe vera, clay, seaweed, essential oils, etc., and work to draw out impurities from the skin. Masks may also tighten, tone, hydrate, nourish, and rejuvenate skin.
Clay masks draw oil and dirt to the surface of the skin and also tighten it. Cream or gel masks are designed to hydrate and nourish skin.
How We Chose the Best Exfoliators for Men
A lot of research is necessary when choosing the best products of any type; that goes without saying. We also take a lot of different factors into consideration, as was certainly the case with our search for the best exfoliator for men. For instance, many top-quality facial scrubs are good for all skin types, but we wanted to include scrubs that covered all the bases – from dry to oily to normal to sensitive skin.
We also considered each product’s list of ingredients – we favor those with natural ingredients, although not exclusively – as well as their ratings and reviews of users and experts alike. Price is always a consideration and we strive to list products that fit every budget. Last but not least, we only choose those that we think are the most solid options; the products that we think from which you’ll most benefit.
And, as always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions. Do you have a favorite facial mask? Do you have a favorite that’s not on our list, or have you used one of our favorites? We’d love to hear from you!