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Scrub vs Cleanser: What Is The Difference For Men?

Don’t think of it as a scrub vs cleanser debate, but a scrub and cleanser skincare masterclass. The great thing about using the two together is that they form the foundation of a killer skincare routine, sure to clear your complexion and give you highly kiss-able skin.

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What Is A Scrub?

You can find our full breakdown of what a scrub is and its benefits here, but all you really need to know is that scrubs look and feel like grittier liquid soap. 

They’re great at getting rid of dead skin that won’t leave of its own volition. They also help soften the skin, prevent ingrown hairs, and can even double as muscle relaxers if you find one that’s mineral-based. I recommend salt or sugar scrubs if you’re looking for all-natural options.

You shouldn’t use a scrub more than 3 times a week. They’re known to irritate and redden skin if you overuse them, especially if you use salt scrubs over sugar scrubs. And you have to pair scrubs with a moisturizer (lotion) to keep your skin from drying out.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Scrubs?


• Scrubs give you nice, soft skin.

• Body scrubs prevent ingrown hairs, and they double as a great pre-shave.

• You only need to use a scrub 1-3 times per week. The bottle lasts for a long time, and you get full benefits with little effort.

• Scrubs make your other skincare products more effective by breaking down that dead skin barrier.

• Lots of scrubs double as muscle relaxants. Using them is almost therapeutic.


• Scrubs are more likely to irritate your skin. You have to be careful with them.

• You can’t use scrubs on their own. You HAVE to pair them with a lotion, or you’ll get flaky (or even burning) skin.

• Scrubs come in such a wide variety of harsh-ness and graniness that it takes a while to find the right one for your skin. Trust me, the payoff is worth it (I’ll never try another scrub now that I’ve found the brand I love), but finding the right one is a pain in the a**.

What Is A Cleanser?

Cleansers are, for lack of a better word, “soaps” that dissolve or rinse dirt, oil, and other gunky buildup from your skin. The reason I call them “soaps” is because not all cleansers actually have the right ingredients to be considered genuine soap, but they are packaged to look like bar or liquid soap.

You can (and should) use a cleanser every day. I use mine twice a day – once in the morning and once at night. Combine your cleanser with a once or twice a week scrub, and you have the basic makings of a solid skincare routine!

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Cleansers?


• Cleansers prevent acne, zits, and more by rinsing away debris and dissolving the oils on your face. 

• The risk of a cleanser irritating your skin is significantly lower.

• You can use a cleanser every day. In fact, you should use a cleanser every day for nice skin.

• Bar soaps and liquid soaps both work as cleansers, and you can find them in a variety of gentle, all-natural options. 

• Even if you don’t enjoy using a cleanser for yourself, it’s good practice to keep one on hand for surprise overnight guests 😉


• Cleansers alone can’t rub away stubborn dead skin.

• All-in-one cleansers are rarely effective or gentle. You need separate products for your body and face.

• Without a moisturizer, cleansers can dry out your skin (especially if you use them too often).

• Cleansers can also throw your skin chemistry out of balance. Using the wrong one for your skin type can result in rashiness.

Scrub vs Cleanser For Men: Final Verdict

If we need to declare a winner between scrub vs cleanser, I’d have to give this W to cleansers, for a few reasons.

If you don’t have a scrub on hand, you can mimic many of the benefits of a scrub by using a loofah, washcloth or just being a little more vigorous with your hands. All of those manual exfoliators will get rid of dead skin almost as efficiently, even if they don’t provide the ingredient benefits of a scrub.

Plus, cleansers are a basic bathroom item that I would deem essential for good hygiene. And you can use them every day, unlike a scrub.

Don’t get me wrong here – scrubs are great for giving you that squeaky clean feeling, and some scrubs can even work as muscle relaxers. They also prevent ingrown hairs.

For best skin results, really you should use both a scrub and a cleanser to complement each other. You should also do the same when it comes to body scrub vs body wash.

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.