When to Use an Exfoliating Face Wash—and Our Top Picks for Dull, Acne-Prone Skin

I’ll be honest. It wasn’t until I started double cleansing that I even thought about what kind of face wash I was using, let alone its ingredients. But the first—and one of the most important—steps of your skincare routine can transform your complexion. If it’s clear, glowy skin you’re after, the best exfoliating face washes can get the job done.

That being said, digging into exfoliating cleansers can be a little more complicated than other product categories. There are two types: chemical and physical, the latter of which can cause a bit of debate (more on that in a minute). It’s also important to find a rhythm with exfoliating face washes—they’re not typically an every night kind of thing.

But once you find the right brand fit and frequency, a great exfoliating face wash will become a glow-inducing, acne-fighting staple of your skincare routine. Trust us. For guidance, we tapped three skincare experts: board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce; Olivia Quido, founder of O Skincare; and Laura Acre, director of R&D at Thrive Natural Care.

Featured image from our interview with Kate Waitzkin.

Image by Emma Bassill

How often should we use an exfoliating face wash?

Even the most gentle exfoliating face wash is still hard working. “For most people, two to three times a week is enough, but you can exfoliate more often if your skin tolerates it well,” says Acre.

Ingredients to Look For

Plenty of brands make a great exfoliating face wash (it wasn’t hard to gather the products below), but knowing what you’re looking for can help you find the best fit for you.

“A good exfoliating wash usually has a single or combination of alpha or beta hydroxy acids and enzymes,” shares Geddes.

  • Salicylic Acid (in stronger exfoliators)
  • Glycolic Acid (in stronger exfoliators)
  • Lactic Acids (in more gentle exfoliators)
  • Mandelic Acid (in more gentle exfoliators)  
  • Milk (a mild exfoliator)
  • Soothing/Hydrating ingredients like aloe vera, cucumber, lilac stem cell, and green tea
Sanetra Longno

Is it okay to use physical exfoliators?

It’s a heated debate. While chemical exfoliators are known for gently dissolving dead skin cells, physical exfoliants mechanically get the job done with ingredients like microbeads, salts, or rice grains. But is the latter category too abrasive? It depends on who you ask.

“Avoid ingredients like fruit pits or seeds and shells as they can damage the skin with microtears,” shares Acre, who positions herself firmly with the no-physical-exfoliators team.

Dr. Geddes is far more pro, sharing that, “I think physical exfoliators get unfairly knocked. In truth, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that apricot scrub we all tried in our teen years. The problems occurred when people were using it too frequently in an effort to wash away acne. That just doesn’t work.”

Quido sees benefits on both sides but does point out an edge for chemical products. “Chemical exfoliation is most useful for improving skin tone and reducing dullness, and has long-term effects and benefits,” Quido explains. “Unlike physical exfoliation, which only stays on the epidermis layer of the skin, chemical exfoliation gently resurfaces the skin for a smoother, brighter, and more even appearance.”

Woman applying face wash.
Image by Suruchi Avasthi

The Best Exfoliating Face Washes

Armed with recommendations from our experts, tried-and-true test runs, and thorough sleuthing in the “Skincare Addiction” Reddit (a fount of wisdom if there ever was one), we feel confident recommending the following face washes (both physical and chemical) to keep dull skin at bay and provide an even, radiant glow.

Every product is curated with care by our editors and we’ll always give an honest opinion, whether gifted or purchased ourselves. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

Best Overall: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator

Skincare Reddit is obsessed, as are several of our experts. With a little water, the slightly gritty, rice-based powder transforms into a foamy, enzyme-packed paste to become a two-in-one hero: a physical scrub and a gentle chemical exfoliator

Best Chemical Exfoliating Face Wash: Revision Skincare Papaya Enzyme Cleanser

This creamy cleanser is a Dr. Geddes-Bruce favorite that’s gentle enough for all skin types and easy to add to any skin care regimen, including those with potentially irritating ingredients like retinoids and vitamin C.

Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser

All the nostalgia of the apricot scrub from your teenage years without the crushed shell shards, this all-natural formula uses a mix of chemical (BHAs) and physical (apricot microspheres) to clean and buff out clogged pores.

Best Affordable: Versed The Purist Antioxidant Face Cleanser

This is a favorite of Camille Styles Managing Editor, Isabelle. She uses it twice weekly for an all-over glow and loves that it clears out impurities without stripping the skin. The cleanser yields a soft and hydrated result—while maintaining its seal of sensitive skin approval.

Megan Roup applying skincare in mirror.

Best Exfoliating Face Washes: Honorable Mentions

This post was last updated on December 24, 2022.

How to Make the Ultimate Fall Grazing Board—’Cause Let’s Face It, We All Want Snacks for Dinner

I love that feeling when the first hints of fall start showing themselves. A slight chill in the air when I take my kids to school, the rustling of leaves on the cusp of turning, sunset happening just a bit earlier in the evening. It’s a feeling that immediately makes me want to embrace all things cozy—and that includes inviting a few friends to curl up for a wine and cheese in front of the fire (or at least a fall-scented candle)!

This time of year is ripe for an appetizer-centric happy hour, and all you really need is a big wooden board piled high with snacks, plus a bottle of wine or two. In honor of the season, I teamed up with Target to create the ultimate fall grazing board, aka all my favorite snacks from Target in one big spread for everyone to enjoy. This is the perfect solution for the person who loves to gather friends together but may not want (or have the time) to cook from scratch. One of the best things about a grazing board is that you can buy everything from a deli, farmer’s market, or in the case of today’s ultimate fall grazing board—Target!

Every item on today’s board was sourced from Target’s owned Food & Beverage Brand, Good & Gather. If you haven’t yet experienced the joy of Good & Gather grocery items, let me familiarize you. Every item is absolutely delicious, and none of it contains artificial flavors, synthetic colors, or high fructose corn syrup. And there are tons of organic options. It’s proof yet again that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get high-quality and delicious flavors.

Scroll on for exactly how to make a Pinterest-worthy spread that’ll be the star of every get-together all season long.

Get inspired

Think about your grazing board the way an artist approaches a blank canvas. Consider which items will be your focal point, the overall “flow” of your design, and how the different colors will work together. For my greatest inspiration, I look to the changing seasons for the colors, tastes, and produce that excite the senses. You can also think about different parts of the world and culinary traditions as you brainstorm ideas. Your grazing board can take inspiration from Mediterranean mezze, Spanish tapas, or in the case of my board today, Italian cheese and charcuterie.

Pick your palette

When I’m shopping for my items, I like to have a color palette in mind to guide what I pick up. It may sound silly, but knowing that you’re going for fall tones of burgundy and eggplant will guide your selections at the store: Think purple grapes, fig chutney, and salami for a perfectly pulled-together fall palette! It makes all the aesthetic difference when you start building your board.

Determine your quantities

This board will serve 8 – 10 people for a happy hour situation. You can easily scale up or down depending on how many people you’re serving. For each type of cheese, I typically plan on having 1 ounce per person. For meat, 2 – 3 ounces per person is a good rule of thumb. And don’t stress too much about running out of a certain type of meat or cheese—the beauty of a grazing board is that there are tons of different things to sample, and we’re going to fill in with so many fruits, nuts, olives, and crackers, there will be plenty to munch on.

Choose your cheese

My favorite grazing boards use a selection of cheeses as their focal point—yes, it’s to be expected, but it’s always a crowd-pleaser. I’ve learned from the pros to bring in a balance of textures and flavors when choosing your cheeses.

To make the most of my budget, I usually choose three or four different types of cheeses including:

  • a hard, sharper cheese (cheddar, parmesan, or gruyere)
  • a soft cheese (goat or blue)
  • a creamy cheese (like brie)

It’s also fun to incorporate at least a couple of different kinds of milk (cow, goat, sheep, or nut milk) to keep things interesting and make you look like a pro. On this board, we’ve got a Good & Gather aged gouda, which is a classic firm cheese option that is nutty and sweet. Second, there’s creamy goat cheese studded with garlic and herbs. And then one of my personal favorites: Good & Gather makes this double creme brie that is so delicious spread on a baguette with a drizzle of honey.

While three was the perfect number of cheeses for this board, a blue cheese, parmesan, or aged cheddar are always other favorites of mine to include on my grazing boards.

Add the accoutrements

What makes a grazing board different than a standard cheese board is the addition of vibrant, in-season produce and snacky bits for visual and flavorful interest. So, when crafting the ultimate fall grazing board, think about creating a feast for all the senses.

Fruit and herbs

Fresh rosemary sprigs not only smell cozy and woodsy, they add a beautiful touch of greenery. Figs are a stunning and sophisticated pairing for almost every cheese. I love incorporating apples and pears for some added sweetness on the board, too. Thinly slice and fan them out in different sections on the board. And finally, you can’t go wrong with gorgeous fresh grapes.


Good & Gather has an amazing selection of crackers, and I like to add a variety to please different palettes. For this grazing board, I used the Everything Flatbread Crackers (because I am obsessed with all things “Everything” seasoning), Fig and Rosemary Cracker Crisps which just ooze fall vibes, and then I always include a classic water cracker for the traditionalists in the group.


Cured meats make a grazing board more filling and substantial. Proscuitto and salami are always a hit, but your meats are also a chance to embrace warming spices, maple, and other fall flavors. I tend to go lighter on the meat and just add slices of one or two types among the more aesthetically pleasing elements of the board.

Divide and conquer

All my grazing boards include nuts (like the Good & Gather glazed pecans and salt & pepper pistachios I used here), and olives (these castelvetranos are king). Use mini bowls here and there to keep things organized and corral these smaller snacks plus any dips or spreads you might add. I love this Good & Gather Honey Fig Spread that is such a delicious complement to manchego—put it in a little bowl with a spoon, and let guests create their perfect bite.

Make a night of it

A great grazing board and cold drinks are really all you need for a fun night with friends, but if you want to level up, try throwing one of these activities in the mix:

Watch a movie

Especially when it comes to family nights at home, few things are more fun than setting out snacks for dinner and choosing one of the best fall movies to stream.

Play a board game

Game night need some fresh energy? We’ve got you covered with these game night games that are anything but boring.

Set out a few questions for conversations

My favorite activity with friends is simply to go beneath the surface and connect. Ensure juicy conversation ahead with these great conversation starters. Pick your favorites, write them down on a piece of paper, and then let guests randomly draw and read aloud to the group.

You can shop the entire look on my Target storefront, where you’ll find all of my favorite Target buys for every space.

This blog post is sponsored by Target and contains affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Your support helps us continue providing helpful content.

Hydrogel Face Masks Are About to Blow Up—Here’s What You Need to Know

Remember when K-Beauty went mainstream? Seemingly overnight, everyone was obsessed with essences, snail mucin serums, and sheet masks. This was also the time when “go big or go home” applied to many of our elaborate skincare routines. Suddenly, everyone had a ritual full of aesthetic packaging and Instagrammable steps. Among them, sheet masks were the undisputed star of the skincare-as-self-care movement. There was nothing more luxurious than running a hot bath and artfully arranging a sheet mask over your face. Bliss.

But not all sheet masks are created equal. Most fit awkwardly and they drip and drench anything in sight. More stressful than self-care, honestly. Enter: hydrogel masks. Hydrogel sheet masks are the more comfortable, more effective answer to paper sheet masks. And truly, I (and beauty experts everywhere) can’t get enough. Today, we’re making an argument for swapping in hydrogel masks as the perfect finishing touch to the ultimate self-care routine.

Featured image from our interview with Alicia Yoon, by Winnie Au

Image by Emma Bassill

What are hydrogel masks?

Hydrogel masks are on the cusp of being huge, and I’m excited to give you the low-down before they really blow up. They boast a thicker texture and seamlessly fit your face for all the benefits without the mess.

The jelly-like texture also makes them easier to put on—and stay on. No more slipping, sliding sheet masks. Instead, many hydrogel masks even have micro-dart technology (like your favorite pimple patches) to deeply penetrate and infuse the skin with all the good ingredients.

Plus, while sheet masks mostly target hydration, aiming to give you that “glass skin” look, hydrogel masks are often more versatile. In addition to giving your skin a dose of thirst-quenching hydration, their serum-like formulas target a variety of skin concerns.

I spoke to LOOPS CEO Meg Bedford to break down the hype behind hydrogel masks. As one of the pioneers of the hydrogel mask trend, LOOPS are a favorite among celebs and beauty influencers alike. You’ve probably seen them all over social media, and for good reason: they work. (Case in point, the current queen of trend-setting, Sofia Richie Grainge, rocking her LOOPS below.)

With Bedford’s insights, discover why you should switch from sheet masks to hydrogel masks, stat!

Everything You Need to Know About Hydrogel Masks

If you’re quick to write hydrogel masks off as another accessory to your skincare routine, think again. And just as much as we love sheet masks for their hydrating powers, know this: hydrogel masks offer so much more. According to Bedford, hydrogel masks “have a gel-like texture made from bio-cellulose or synthetic polymers that have the ability to retain relatively large quantities of serum and/or product.” The more bang for your glow-seeking buck, if you will.

But why is hydrogel itself so good for the skin? Bedford dives deeper, noting that it’s because of hydrogel’s “gel-like texture” that doubles down on hydration. The masks’ “high moisture content and durable material allow for quick and long-term results.”

Hydrogel masks work by deeply penetrating the skin with their respective ingredients. This provides “the perfect environment for collagen production and cell rejuvenation,” says Bedford.

Image by Winnie Au

The Best Hydrogel Masks for Every Skin Concern

I’ve used a lot of sheet masks in my day. But trying hydrogel masks felt like a brand-new experience. For one, I used to leave sheet masks on until the moisture had completely sucked out of them and they were essentially peeling off my face. This took hours on end—not a small task. Hydrogel masks, however, usually work in about 10 minutes, revealing brighter, dewier, skin without any discomfort.

To experience the full spectrum of benefits, I tested the most hyped-up hydrogel masks, and I can’t see myself turning back to regular sheet masks again. You heard it here first: hydrogel is in and it’s not going anywhere.

Every product is curated with care by our editors and we’ll always give an honest opinion, whether gifted or purchased ourselves. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

Best Hydrogel Masks for All Seasons: LOOPS Variety Loop

I took this set on vacation and will definitely be packing it on all trips going forward. Vacation skin is unpredictable, but vacation me is not. I want to do the lowest maintenance routine possible. Packed with superstar ingredients for every skin concern, this variety set contains a mask for every occasion. Every other night, I’d pop on a mask that suited how my skin was feeling. In just 10 minutes, my skin was transformed. These hydrogel masks kept vacation breakouts at bay and delivered glowy, hydrated, pampered skin in minutes.

  • Key Ingredients: Aloe Vera, Collagen, Anti-Sebum Complex
  • Key Concerns: Brightening, Detoxifying, Repairing, Glowing, Rejuvenating

Best Hydrogel Masks for Brighter Skin: KINDIA Aura Drip

Many “brightening” products work on the surface of your skin to revive dullness, but few target deeper issues like hyperpigmentation. KINDIA, a South Asian-owned Gen-Z beauty brand with roots in ayurveda, makes the perfect mask for an instant glow while also targeting pigmentation and uneven complexion. I also love the mission behind the brand, which encourages everyone to celebrate their individuality, highlighting the unique ways we each feel like our most empowered, beautiful selves. Self-care with a communal message—what’s not to love?

  • Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, Turmeric, Sake, Betaine, Aloe Vera, Tiger Grass, Rose Water
  • Key Concerns: Brightening, Breakouts, Firming

If you don’t always feel like putting on a full mask, this eye and cheek mask is for you. Like an elevated set of eye masks, they cover your eye and cheek area so comfortably you can forget you’re wearing them. As someone with combination skin, I love using these to give some extra TLC to the dryer areas of my skin. They’re also great first thing in the morning to soothe and refresh my under-eyes while firming and depuffing my cheeks. Plus, with the hydrogel formula and unique shape, they don’t slip off like other eye masks. Seriously—these have changed my routine for the better.

  • Key Ingredients: Centella Asiatica, Tremella Mushroom, ProVitamin B5, Hyaluronic Acid
  • Key Concerns: Firming, Soothing

Create your own spa-like experience with this at-home treatment. Made of Highly Purified Water (HPW), this is a “dry” hydrogel mask, which means it doesn’t come with its own serums. Pair with your favorite serum othen apply the comfortable, contoured mask for however long you wish. I love that this encourages me to get the most out of my serums. And the scalloped edges and contoured fit really are easy to wear.

  • Key Ingredients: Highly Purified Water (HPW)
  • Key Concerns: All, depending on what product you pair