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F is for (Best) Face Forward: Getting Scrubbed with 5 Olay Cleansers in 5 Days

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SPONSORED I've been on an exfoliation hiatus. After years using a gentle skin-buffing paste every morning plus twice daily applications of an exfoliating toner, my skin declared itself a tad too sensitive to continue. Unfortunately, that routine was key to keeping my skin clear and smooth for nearly a decade; since its cessation, my skin's not been quite so smooth, nor quite so clear, like it was in the photo above. So when faced with the Olay Cleansers lineup, I think:

1) This line has an exfoliating cleanser, two scrubs, an exfoliating facial cloth and a face wash with antibacterial and anti-blackhead properties. Whoa.
2) These are drugstore products, formulated so a wide range of skin types, including sensitive, can use them safely. So they should be pretty gentle.
3) Because I've been so exfoliation-lax, I should know very quickly whether these make a difference in my skin's appearance or texture.

Day One: Olay Pore Minimizing Cleanser + Scrub ($12.99)

I've never really liked the idea of a combo cleanser and scrub. I prefer the idea of exfoliating already clean skin. But the Olay Pore Minimizing Cleanser + Scrub is designed for twice-daily use, so I expect it to be gentle, and therefore a good starting point for me.

And it is, with barely visible "microbeads" in the foamy cleanser. As well, as gentle as it is, afterward my skin looks fresh and even appears smoother, and it sucks up my serum and moisturizer effortlessly. "Liked this better than I thought I would," says my skin. "And hey, it's paraben-free."

Day 2: Olay Skin Smoothing Cream Scrub ($12.99)

I expect a paste consistency, but instead it's a cream cleanser with a light helping of tiny blue microbeads and an unspecified dose of salicylic acid. A daily-use formula, it lathers a bit, but not as much as the Pore Minimizing Cleanser + Scrub -- that's a bonus for me. (I don't need a lather-fest to enjoy using something.)

About as gentle as the cleanser/scrub combo, Olay Skin Smoothing Cream Scrub leaves skin feeling a little moisturized as well as smooth, and bright. A nice choice for drier complexions. "Put this on reserve for humidity-deficient days," says my skin. "Also, it's paraben-free."

Day 3: Olay Acne Control Face Wash ($12.99)

"Hey, hey," says my skin. "Go slow. According to their labels all these scrubs can be used every day, but you want to take care not to upset me again."

So today I skip a scrub and hit only the Olay Acne Control Face Wash -- which has chemical exfoliant salicylic acid in the mix. A standard mild 2%-sal-acid acne-fighting solution, it's free of manual-exfoliant scrubby bits, lathers a whole lot, and, like the rest of the line, is quite... scented. That's tricky for me; I prefer unscented or barely-scented skincare. But it does leave skin feeling clean, and is designed to work in tandem with say, the Skin Smoothing Cream Scrub if you have dry-ish skin, or the Blackhead Clearing Scrub. And yes, it's paraben-free.


Day 4: Olay Blackhead Clearing Scrub ($12.99)

I've been waiting for this one. "Blackhead Clearing" sounds industrial. I'm expecting a gritty scrub, reminiscent of the walnut-shell scrub-in-a-tub my mum and I tried years ago. (GAH.)

That walnut-shell scrub, however, was popular before experts figured out that when it comes to exfoliation, gentle is best. This Olay Blackhead Clearing Scrub is nothing like that harsh concoction of old. Instead it's an oil-free gel -- to appeal to the oily-complexioned types -- populated with bitty blue microbeads. There's also salicylic acid in the formula; it's an antibacterial component as well as an exfoliant, and helps keep pores from clogging up.

The gel lathers easily; the microbeads are gentle, like the others. And afterward, my skin is smooth, clean and bright. "Put this on reserve in case summer ever comes," says my skin. "Bonus points for being paraben-free."

Day 5: Olay 2-in-1 Daily Facial Cloths for Combination/Oily Skin ($9.99 for 33 or $17.99 for 66)

Just-add-water types, these have a subtle-weave side for cleansing and a side peppered with microbeads for exfoliating action, plus a hit of salicylic acid.

I've never really got too much into these types of cleansing sheets. I don't need so much lather nor so much scent, and it's just another thing to throw away.

On the other hand, the cloth doubles as a regular washcloth after the face is done. Huh. Smart to put that suggestion on the box, Olay.

"Save these for travel," says my skin. "They're handy when you're not at home where your stuff is."

So my skin's decided: it can handle the Olay Pore Minimizing Cleanser + Scrub twice per day. Or instead, it could manage a daily date with the Skin Smoothing Cream Scrub during dry-weather times, or the Blackhead Clearing Scrub in humid times. For a little extra blackhead-banishing action, the Acne Control Face Wash could be part of the daily regimen, and the 2-in-1 Daily Facial Cloths are better for travel than everyday use.

I do really wish the items I used were less fragranced (the entire Sensitive Skin line is fragrance free, fyi). But for delivering clean, smooth skin at an affordable price, and in the case of the first four, without parabens, I give them all a solid thumbs up. So would my skin, if it had thumbs.

What about you? Where are you at re: exfoliation? What are you using? Do you have sensitive skin?

The Olay Cleanser collection is available at drugstores and mass retailers.

Olay Canada wants you to take their ‘Best Face Forward’ 5-Day Challenge. Check their Facebook page for full details!