What Is an Exfoliating Wash?

T. Alaine

An exfoliating wash is a dual-purpose toiletry product that simultaneously cleanses and smooths skin by scrubbing away dead skin cells. They are available for both men and women and are usually divided into versions meant for use on the body and gentler versions intended specifically for use on the face. There are a multitude of exfoliating wash formulas, which can be designed to suit a variety of skin types. Some exfoliating washes rely on solid particles to remove dead skin while others use chemical components.

Many people exfoliate their face.
Many people exfoliate their face.

It is possible that an exfoliating wash designed for the body is also sufficient for use on the face, but generally there are some differences between the two. An exfoliating body wash might employ larger, coarser exfoliating particles, which can be anything from tiny round beads to more jagged crushed nuts or salts. The cleansing and moisturizing ingredients may also not be gentle or light enough for use on the face, which is unsurprising since many people use different cleansers and moisturizers for their faces than they do for their bodies.

Exfoliators for dry skin should typically be gentle and non-irritating.
Exfoliators for dry skin should typically be gentle and non-irritating.

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Using an exfoliating wash can help clear up multiple skin complaints. While some people find that exfoliating every day is too rough for their skin, using an exfoliating wash a couple of times a week will slough away any dead skin cells lingering on the surface that inhibit the fresh, bright skin underneath from shining through. Not only can these exfoliating washes brighten skin, they can also help prevent breakouts caused by dead skin cells that clog pores by trapping dirt or oil inside. Additionally, some types of exfoliating washes include moisturizing ingredients to not only cleanse and smooth, but hydrate as well.

Exfoliating washes can be used all over the body.
Exfoliating washes can be used all over the body.

Many exfoliating washes use solid particles suspended in cleansing soaps to scrub away dead skin cells, but some versions also use chemical exfoliators such as glycolic acid. Glycolic acid appears in very low concentrations in exfoliating washes, but can still cause irritation to people with sensitive skin. Using an exfoliating wash with glycolic acid will cause a chemical reaction that peels away the upper layer of dead skin cells and reveals the fresh, smooth skin below.

Using an exfoliating wash can help clear up multiple skin complaints.
Using an exfoliating wash can help clear up multiple skin complaints.

It is common to find exfoliating washes that are marketed specifically for men or specifically for women, but there is usually little difference besides the fragrance. Typically, scents targeted toward women are fruity or floral, and scents targeted toward men are clean or nature-inspired. Generally, the intention of an exfoliating wash for men is the same as an exfoliating wash for women, and the ingredients can also be essentially the same.

An exfoliating wash scrubs away dead skin cells.
An exfoliating wash scrubs away dead skin cells.

Discussion Comments


I think exfoliating face wash and scrubs with corn meal are the best. It really gets in there removes the dead skin and the dirt. I have really oily skin that is not sensitive at all so I can use an exfoliating scrub daily without problems.

My sister on the other hand has sensitive skin and she can only use it once a week.


@anamur-- Are you looking for a face exfoliation product or one for the body?

Because the ingredients in these differ a lot. Usually, exfoliating body washes use more coarse ingredients that will be too harsh to use on the face.

For example, some body exfoliators have things like salt granules, coffee grounds or fruit seed grounds in them. These work well for exfoliating the body but our face is a lot more sensitive. So these ingredients would irritate your skin if you used it on your face.


I've noticed that exfoliating washes tend to have different types of ingredients in it that actually do the exfoliation. I'm just wondering, are of these ingredients better than others?

I don't know much about cleansers and there is just so many different types on the market. And I don't want to randomly pick one up without knowing what the differences are between them.

Any beauty or skin care experts here that can help me out?

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