We're wary of facial scrubs; using them too vigorously is definitely a fast-track to sensitivity, and for us they should only contain either rounded exfoliating particles (never crushed nuts!) or deploy enzymes, which essentially 'dissolve' the top layers of skin, revealing brighter skin beneath. (That might sound harsh but enzymes tend actually to be quite gentle.) These were all considered gentle-yet-effective by our panels of testers, who trialled many of these before declaring these the victors. If using an actual scrub, a good tip is to work it into the face with the pads of your ring fingers, which tend to deliver a lighter touch.
GOLD (JOINT) and BEST NATURAL AWARD Samaya Pitta Renewing Exfoliant
All these winning exfoliants scored really, really, really well, with OSKIA and Samaya tying for Gold. Samaya is based on the Indian Ayurveda philosophy, which dates back thousands of years and works on the principle that we all fall into one of three doshas: pitta (here), vata and kapha. Pitta types have too much 'heat' – and this often translates to sensitivity, which Samaya’s Pitta range targets. This (pomegranate) enzyme exfoliant also features aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E and avocado sit alongside renowned Ayurvedic ingredients including amla, gotu kola, turmeric, jasmine, saffron and neem. Dispensed via a pump-action tall glass bottle, the liquid exfoliator should be left for 20 minutes before rinsing with warm water – or for a more intense exfoliation, may be left overnight. (FYI, another product from the Samaya Pitta range has done brilliantly in these Awards – click here to read about their facial oil.)
OUR TESTERS' COMMENTS:
'Top marks! This very gentle lotion is so easy to smooth over skin (no grains) – just like a moisturiser - and I really like the aromatherapy scents. Immediately after my skin was smooth with a more even skin tone and felt moisturized. After a month of using this, my skin is so smooth I cant stop looking at it – the results are amazing. I am totally blown away by this amazing exfoliator. My skin is now so smooth and even toned, it’s taken years off me: I keep having to check in the mirror. I would definitely never be without it now. Hooray!’ • ‘My skin looks absolutely glowy, brighter, and more even – and people have complimented me. After a month of using my dry patches have completely gone. Skin is really renewed each time. I love this. Much better than a traditional scrub – it transforms skin’ • ‘I love that it’s all natural and so gentle. I feel my skin has really benefited from the ingredients, as it’s so soft and pure, radiant and healthy-looking. It minimises the appearance of blemishes too. Family, friends and work colleagues have all commented on how good my skin looks. It is such a luxurious treat’ • ‘My skin looks the best it has looked in years. I have issues with texture, acne scarring and open pores so it’s had its work cut out. Now, my partner and sister say my skin looks so smooth, its like glass and very glow-y. The bumpiness under the surface has gone and it looks the most clear and refined I can remember. The look of pores are minimised and deep scarring reduced. I have tried many non-grain exfoliants and none came close to giving the results this has. Firstly, it is extremely gentle and I had absolutely no adverse reaction at all. Secondly, it is extremely powerful and I was amazed at how good the results were. I also had a small skin tag starting to appear on my neck and after a couple of applications of this it disappeared completely, which amazed me considering how gentle this is.'
£59 for 50ml - click to buy
GOLD AWARD (JOINT) OSKIA Micro Exfoliating Balm
A well-loved range with Beauty Bible testers, this wins Gold here for a creamy, exfoliating balm which buffs away dull surface cells with teensy silica and MSM particles. At the same time, though, it is enriched with prebiotics, cell nutrients and peptides to nourish, along with a slew of vitamins: A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, D & E; for skin softness, there are oils of kukui, rosehip and sweet almond. (It also features OSKIA’s patent-pending signature MSM repair and regenerating complex.) Simply massage this rich balm into skin, transforming it into a soft, light milk by adding anything from a few drops to a splash of water, enabling you to customise the level of exfoliation. (The less water you add, the more powerful the exfoliation.)
OUR TESTERS' COMMENTS:
'Would I buy this? Yes-yes-yes!!! I have used lots of facial scrubs and this is the best. It is so gentle but very effective, and a little goes a very long way, so it's very cost effective too. It doesn't pull the skin at all, that's why I feel able to use it several times a week. After, my skin feels great, suddenly perky and alive, even after a few hours sleep; it completely eliminates that Monday morning face’ • ‘My skin can look drained at the end of the day and this definitely revitalises it. People now say my face looks glowing. I really like the fragrance too; it's subtle and smells very pure’ • ‘I am not a scrub user but this luxurious product has changed my mind. It has given new life to my skin and it is now clearer and less bumpy, smooth, soothed and very fresh looking – radiant’ • ‘I like to apply this before my nighttime retinol as I feel it gently removes the dead skin cells and helps my retinol penetrate better and do its work’ • ‘After a month of using this, my skin looks glowing and very smooth and my make up goes on a lot better. I have had compliments about how my complexion looks’ • ‘The ‘grain’ in this is soft and small and feels nice when you rub it gently into the skin, not at all scratchy. It looks very clean and glowing after. I am very happy with it. It is expensive for a scrub but you only need a small amount twice a week so it will last a long time. I love the fact this brand is aiming to be eco-friendly and sustainable.’
£49.50 for 50ml - click to buy
SILVER AWARD BeautyLab Black Diamond Pearl Dermabrasion
Now a global success story, BeautyLab was founded in 1991 by the technologist and creative director of a leading London-based lab, which worked to identify some of the world's most ground-breaking ingredients, and was originally formulated for professional celebrity facialists. With the word 'dermabrasion' in the name, you can probably guess that this has a pretty powerful action, which is down to fine mother of pearl particles and micro-particles of black diamonds. There are fruit acids in here, too, to amplify the exfoliating action, with glycolic and lactic acids loosening dead skin cells, alongside aloe and magnesium to soothe.
OUR TESTERS' COMMENTS:
'This was the stand out product of my testing. I tend to feel that many exfoliating products for the face are either inefficient or too harsh but this rode a lovely middle ground of feeling it was making an impact without irritating sensitive areas. The grain was not over gritty and dissolved as I rubbed gently. After, my skin looked super healthy, glowing, soft and brighter. My husband said I looked as if I’d had a good nights sleep’ • ‘It's very easy to spread across the skin and the texture is thick enough that it didn't drip while applying. My skin instantly looked smoother and clean. After using for some weeks, I feel I am getting a good, deep cleanse once a week while using this exfoliator, which is improving the overall texture and appearance. I felt as though my other skincare could work better after using this, as the other products seemed to soak into my skin better. I would buy this’ • ‘I love love love this exfoliator. It's so quick and easy to apply and you can actually feel the dead skin cells coming away with the gentlest of motion from the fingertip application. It rinses off easily leaving skin feeling smooth and hydrated, and looking brighter. The packaging is recyclable and very simple to use. I can't recommend it enough! ‘ • ‘Friends have noted that my skin is looking fresher, brighter and younger! Skin feels smooth and the dry patch on my cheek has gone. I would 100 per cent buy it’ • ‘I didn't expect to like this but I got really good results. Didn't find it too harsh or abrasive but it got some great results with a huge improvement in texture and brightness. It was very easy to apply and very pleasant to rub in to the skin. It had a slightly warming sensation. I have had lots of positive comments after using this product in terms of the brightness. I would add this as a Holy Grail product without a doubt.’
£74 for 50ml - click to buy
BRONZE AWARD Liz Earle Gentle Face Exfoliator
An absolute beauty classic, this (and a longstanding favourite exfoliator of sensitive-skinned Jo and Sarah) – living up to its 'gentle' name, but remarkably effective with it. Gentle Face Exfoliator features a skin-nurturing blend of cocoa butter and almond oil in which the finest jojoba beads are suspended, all infused with a bracing scent of eucalyptus that delivers a really fresh (and pleasant) experience. All it takes is one or two pumps; Liz Earle don't specify how often to use, but we'd say: once a week or whenever skin looks dull and lacklustre. (They do recommend following with Liz Earle Skin Tonic, though – but that's your call.)
OUR TESTERS' COMMENTS:
‘The jojoba beads are very refreshing when rubbed into skin. I think this is the best of any scrubs I have used. My skin feels refreshed, moisturized and clean. People have commented on how good it looks. I love the eucalyptus scent’ • ‘I prefer this to my usual scrub, as it is more gentle. The light jojoba ‘grain’ feels nice on my face, not harsh. After a month of using it, the dry patches on the side of my nose have gone. It left my skin feeling lovely and clean. The fragrance is lovely’ • ‘I don't normally use a face scrub but I would buy this as the thick cream with jojoba beads is gentle, goes on well and spreads easily. It makes my skin look clean and brighter. After a month of using, my skin is softer’ • ‘I respect the company ethos of being CRUELTY FREE/NOT TESTED ON ANIMALS. Although the product is gentle, I still found that it worked nicely for skin and didn't cause any breakouts. It left my skin feeling really soft and much smoother from the first application. After several weeks of regular use, I can really see my skin is brighter, smoother and fresher looking. I would certainly buy it’ • ‘I would definitely buy this. It worked really well to leave a smoother, brighter, more glowy complexion. It is one of the best exfoliators I have used and I have used a plethora. It is an excellent price-point.’
£16.50 for 70ml - click to buy