woman washing hands
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7 Exfoliating Hand Soaps That Will Soften Calluses and Banish Bacteria

These dermatologist-approved germ-crushers double as skin care for your hands.
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We don't need to tell you that washing your hands is important. But some of the formulas we rely on to remove bacteria from our hands also double as skin care—we're talking about exfoliating hand soaps, of course.

Exfoliating hand cleansers are exactly what they sound like: They are soaps with exfoliating properties that make your skin soft. They also help with the absorption of other products, like lotions, and remove excess dead skin cells (think tough calluses) or hard-to-remove debris (like caked-on dirt from the garden). "Exfoliation can be physical or chemical, but in the case of hand soaps, exfoliation is usually physical, achieved with fine particles of pumice or other abrasive exfoliants," says board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD. "I recommend looking for a formulation that includes humectants, emollients, and occlusives to moisturize and support the skin barrier during and after exfoliation."

How to Use an Exfoliating Hand Soap

You should use an exfoliating hand soap the same way you would a regular one, but Dr. King advises applying light pressure when you scrub to avoid damaging the skin. Gently rub the formula into your hands before rinsing thoroughly to remove the product—and only turn to it once in a while to prevent over-exfoliation. Keep a regular hand soap next to these formulas; you'll use these non-exfoliating options most of the time.

Use Exfoliating Hand Soaps Sparingly

While exfoliating hand soaps are generally safe, not everyone needs one. Erum Ilyas, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, says that there is a risk of irritating and inflaming skin when you over-exfoliate. "Bacteria can enter any raw, open areas and place the skin at risk for infection," says Dr. Ilyas. "Hand soaps that contain ingredients for mechanical exfoliation are reasonable to use when dirt and debris need a little help to be removed, [but] products that use chemical exfoliation are ideally used under the guidance of your doctor to avoid misuse."

With all that in mind, we asked our experts—Dr. King, Dr. Ilyas, and Jeannette Graf, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine—to share their recommendations for the best exfoliating hand washes on the market.

exfoliating hand soap
Credit: Courtesy of Target

SheaMoisture Coconut and Hibiscus Illuminating Hand and Body Scrub

$8.99, target.com

One of Dr. Ilyas' picks is the SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Illuminating Hand and Body Scrub. It is an all-natural, mechanical exfoliator that contains coconut oil, vitamin E, and shea butter to keep hands moisturized and soft post-scrub. It also has the loveliest hibiscus scent for a sensory hand-washing experience.

exfoliating hand soap
Credit: Courtesy of Target

Dove Gentle Exfoliating Body Wash with Sea Minerals

$6.99, target.com

The gentlest option out there, according to Dr. King, is Dove's Gentle Exfoliating Body Wash. "This creamy sulfate-free wash contains ingredients like lipids and glycerin that moisturize the skin and support the skin barrier, as well as sea minerals to gently physically exfoliate," she says. "The combination helps smooth the skin without irritation. It's sold as a body wash, but it doubles as a gentle exfoliating hand cleanser that's also moisturizing."

exfoliating hand soap
Credit: Courtesy of Bloomingdale's

Diptyque Exfoliating Hand Wash

$65, bloomingdales.com

If you want to splurge, Dr. Graf recommends Diptyque's Exfoliating Hand Wash. It's made with ground olive oil stones to gently purify and exfoliate skin, leaving it clean and super soft. It has a warm floral scent that will transport you to a fragrant garden.

exfoliating hand soap
Credit: Courtesy of Target

CeraVe Psoriasis Cleanser

$11.59, target.com

Dr. Ilyas also likes the CeraVe Psoriasis Cleanser, because it has salicylic and lactic acids to provide gentle exfoliation while soothing any itch—which is common if you have dry hands. It can be used for the hands and body.

exfoliating hand soap
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Lava Bar Soap

$10, amazon.com

Dr. King says to kick it old school with a hand soap like Lava Bar Soap. "It's been around since 1893 and has been a mainstay for mechanics, coal miners, and others who are likely to get a lot of grease and grime on their hands." It contains pumice, a soft abrasive material made from volcanic rock, that cuts through grease and grime gently without leaving your hands too dry.

exfoliating hand soap
Credit: Courtesy of The Body Shop

The Body Shop Boost Exfoliating Hand Wash

$11, thebodyshop.com

Dr. Graf loves The Body Shop Boost Exfoliating Hand Wash for rough hands that need some tender care. It's made with bergamot and mandarin essential oils and imparts a bright citrus scent to uplift the senses as you wash up.

exfoliating hand soap
Credit: Courtesy of Aesop

Aēsop Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash

$40, aesop.com

For a worth-it indulgence, opt for another pick from Dr. King: Aesop's Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash. It contains finely milled pumice to gently exfoliate hands and leave skin feeling super soft and smooth. She warns those with sensitive skin to be careful when using this product, since it contains fragrance.