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Face Wash vs Face Scrub: What’s The Difference For Men?

The difference between face wash vs face scrub is a lot like the difference between wood polish and sandpaper. You need both if you want a smooth, clean, classy surface, but the two have very different jobs, and you wouldn’t want to skip out on either.

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What Is Face Wash?

Face wash is liquid soap that’s made to be used on your face. It’s gentler than other soaps to protect the more delicate skin cells on your face.

Using a face wash at least once a day will help you deter breakouts and blemishes. They keep bacteria off your skin, unclog your pores, and dissolve any excess oil on your face – a recipe for great skin.

Sometimes face wash has a  creamier texture, and sometimes it’s runnier. Both are equally effective. If you need some guidance for choosing which is right for your skin, typically guys who have dry or sensitive skin like thick, lotion-like washes, while guys with oily skin enjoy thinner face washes.

Some of the best face washes for men use all-natural ingredients and are made to treat specific skin problems. They’re handcrafted to suit your particular skin care needs.

The Pros And Cons Of Face Wash For Men

There aren’t many cons, per se, to using a face wash daily. The only risk is accidentally choosing the wrong ingredients for your skin, resulting in a breakout.


• Washes keep your skin bacteria-free, which in turn minimizes breakouts.

• Washes dissolve excess oil and dead skin to unclog your pores.

• Washes often contain moisturizing ingredients to promote soft skin and eliminate dryness.

• The act of massaging a face wash against your skin promotes circulation, which helps improve skin tone and tautness. (Face scrub has the same benefit.)


• Choosing the right face wash for your skin isn’t always easy. Initially, you might see some redness, irritation, or more breakouts until you find a brand and bottle that works for you.

• Lots of grocery store face washes don’t actually qualify as “soap.” They have too many unnatural ingredients to be considered soaps. Be careful when choosing your products.

What Is Face Scrub?

Face scrubs are grittier than face washes. They’re designed to scour away dead skin and other unwelcome debris sitting on the top layer of your face.

Unless it’s extremely gentle, you shouldn’t really use a face scrub every day. Some guys do and never have issues, but for others, using a face scrub too often leads to dryness, redness, irritation, and more breakouts. It’s good to get rid of dead skin, but only every few days. In the meantime, that layer of grime actually protects your skin.

Texture-wise, think of face scrubs like sandpaper but for your skin. Some are small-grained and gentle. They do the minimum necessary to scrub your skin. Others have large, abrasive grains that scour without mercy. Typically, guys with dry or sensitive skin enjoy small grained scrubs, while guys with oily or textured skin enjoy large grained scrubs. 

Lots of the best face scrubs for men use organic ingredients to scrub your skin, like ground almonds, sugar, plant materials, and more.

The Pros And Cons Of Face Scrub For Men

Face scrubs are tricker to use than face washes, but they come with just as many benefits for your skin.


• Scrubs are more effective than washes at unclogging pores and exfoliating away dead skin.

• Scrubs “prepare” your skin for your other skincare products. By getting rid of dead skin, they give your acne creams, lotions, toners, and serums more access to your  skin.

• The texture of scrubs is almost therapeutic. If you need to unwind at the end of the day, a soak with a large-grained scrub feels heavenly.

• All-natural scrubs are easy to find. Lots of guys enjoy the skin benefits of a simple, effective sugar scrub. Many contain no more than 2-3 ingredients.

• Face scrubs work as great pre-shaves. They smooth your skin to prevent razor nics.


• You shouldn’t use a scrub more often than 2-3 times per week. They’re abrasive against your skin.

• You’re more likely to have an initial negative reaction to a scrub, especially if you’ve never used a scrub before. It’ll feel uncomfortable and strange at first.

Do You Use Face Wash Or Face Scrub First?

Most experts recommend using face wash first. It gently dissolves your sebum and washes away bacteria, leaving the more stubborn dead skin and clogged pores for your face scrub.

But if you prefer to swap the two, it won’t be a skin care crisis. Honestly, I like using my scrub first because I feel like my face wash has more access to my skin after my scrub has scoured away that top layer of dead skin and oil.

The one REALLY IMPORTANT thing to remember, whether you use your wash or your scrub first, is that you SHOULD USE A MOISTURIZER AFTERWARDS.

That layer of oil, dead skin, bacteria and debris on your face causes your acne, but it also protects and hydrates your skin. Once you wash it away, you need to replace that barrier with a lotion, oil, butter, or some other moisturizer. That’ll help you avoid dry, irritated skin.

You can follow the same rules that you’d apply for scrubs vs cleansers, if you’re still on the fence about the best way to use face washes and face scrubs.

Can I Use Face Wash And Face Scrub Together?

You can absolutely use your face wash and face scrub back-to-back in the same sitting. Just be sure to use a moisturizer afterwards – and don’t aim for “efficiency” by dumping both in your hands, swirling them together, and scrubbing away. That’s just going to cause a negative skin reaction.

Now, do you have to use a face wash and a face scrub together? Ehhhh… Remember how you should use your face wash every night, but you should only use your scrub 2-3 times per week? To be perfectly honest, I don’t use my face wash on the nights that I use my face scrub.

Lots of scrubs sort of double as washes. They have all the right components to wash away bacteria. Really, the only reason to use your wash if you’ve already used your scrub is if the face wash is something your doctor prescribed with special ingredients for your skin.

However you decide to go about your scrub and wash skin care routine, you’ll quickly learn what feels best for your skin personally.

Face Wash vs Face Scrub: What’s The Difference For Men?

Really, rather than pitting the two against each other in a face wash vs face scrub smackdown, you should use them as a team. Face wash cleanses gently and washes away bacteria that might cause skin infections, while face scrub scours away the remaining dead skin and grime that a face wash can’t quite reach.

The difference for men is soft skin, a clear complexion, and less skin irritation when you know how to face wash and face scrub in conjunction. 

Both are essential basics for a great skincare routine.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.