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Scrubbing Bubbles: 5 Face Washes for Smoother, Brighter, Blemish-Free Skin

Formulated with chemical exfoliants (instead of beads) these cleansers will banish dry flakiness and help keep blemish-prone skin clear. Bonus: they're all safe to use with your Clarisonic Cleansing System.
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radiant skin

If face wash just gets rinsed down the drain, how much good can it really do in the short time it's in contact with your skin? You'd be surprised. If you feel as though your skin just isn't quite as smooth and bright as you like it, the following cleansers could be the step-up you need. Formulated with chemical exfoliants (instead of beads) they'll banish dry flakiness so skin can better absorb moisturizer -- and they'll help keep blemish-prone skin clear. Bonus: they're all safe to use with your Clarisonic Cleansing System.

skin-smoothing cleansers_Dermalogica Tri-Active Cleanse_Philosophy Miracle Worker Lactic Acid Cleanser_Rodial White glycolic cleanser

Dermalogica ChromaWhite TRx Tri-Active Cleanse ($50, smoothes with lactic acid, which is an alpha hydroxy acid like glycolic acid, but a bit milder. (You've heard about Cleopatra and her milk baths for soft skin, right? That's down to lactic acid, aka milk acid.) This creamy cleanser also contains shea butter so it won't strip your skin. Because my skin is a little sensitive now, I've been using this cleanser daily, and only occasionally following with a swipe of glycolic-acid toner to keep pesky breakouts at bay.

Philosophy Miracle Worker Miraculous Anti-Aging Lactic Acid Cleanser & Mask ($45, also relies on lactic acid to smooth and brighten skin with each use. To use it as a mask -- any of these cleansers can be used as masks -- apply it to damp skin and leave it on for up to five minutes, then rinse away. I've seen it take good skin to great skin, and make it more radiant, too.

Rodial White Brightening Cleanser ($48, uses glycolic acid as the exfoliating-agent of choice. As you know, I heart glycolic acid -- in my 30s it saved my skin from acne invasions. This gel cleanser is designed to even out skin tone, but it'll help keep slightly troubled skin clear, too.

skin-smoothing cleansers_mild cleanser_Vichy ProEven Brightening_Garnier The Radiance Renewer_Eucerin DermatoClean milk

Vichy ProEven Brightening Cleansing Foam ($19.95, drugstores) evicts dull, dry patches with LHA, a salicylic-acid derivative, and kicks up radiance with Vitamin C and ceramides, which improve dry skin's moisture barrier (read all about ceramides for dry skin here) to leave skin soft.

Garnier The Radiance Renewer Cleansing Gelée ($10.99, drugstores) gets salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid, to do all the skin-smoothing work. Anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, salicylic acid also makes this particular cleanser a natural fit in a blemish-fighting routine. (Read more about salicylic acid and zits here). Plus, this cleanser smells delightfully fresh and citrussy -- a nice morning wakeup.

If after a short while of using one of these cleansers, your skin starts to feel a bit drier and looks a bit red, I'm sorry to say it's too much in conjunction with whatever else you're already using -- an exfoliating cleanser added to a routine that includes a regular prescription Retin-A treatment, for instance, could be too harsh for your skin. (When I used an 8% glycolic acid toner twice per day, I used a basic cleanser and strictly hydrating skincare without any other anti-aging ingredients.) Best to switch to a cleanser free of exfoliating ingredients, such as Eucerin DermatoClean Mild Cleansing Lotion for dry and sensitive skin ($10.95, drugstores), which contains glycerin to soften skin and attract moisture.

Do any of these cleansers speak to you? Do you already use a cleanser with a chemical exfoliant?