The ONE Exfoliator That Actually Brightened My Skin

It was only two years ago that I learned I should be exfoliating my skin regularly — hey, I'm a fashion, not beauty, editor — and since then, I've felt a lot like Goldilocks in my quest for the perfect one. This scrub is too rough; that peel is too sting-y; those toners just aren't effective. At one point, I gave up and just hoped the small amount of lactic acid in my Clearasil face wash was enough to slough off the dead skin cells and polish my complexion. (It wasn't.)

Recently, I got a facial with The Ritualist, a service that lets you book skin treatments in the comfort of your own home. The aesthetician who arrived at my apartment took one look at all the blackheads in my T-zone and told me what I already knew, deep down: that I should definitely be exfoliating more. She introduced me to Apto, The Ritualist's in-house skin-care brand, and though I was skeptical of the small, indie brand I'd never heard of, I decided it couldn't hurt to give the exfoliant in the line a chance.

I'm happy to report that I'm so glad I did. The liquid formula contains lactic, malic, and tartaric acids, along with botanical extracts like seaweed and cucumber, to gently and gradually reveal brighter, softer skin (no tight, dry feeling here). I use it like I would a toner: by pumping it onto a cotton square and patting it on my face once or twice a week after a shower, which always makes me feel like I'm getting a super-deep clean. I let it sit and work its magic for a couple minutes (it tingles, but never stings), then splash my face with water to wash it away. Another thing I appreciate? How gloriously minimal and photogenic the packaging is. If you take a quick look at my Instagram, you'll see how important aesthetics are to me — even in the bathroom.

At $37, the exfoliant is a bit pricey, but I can justify the expense because I've truly seen a noticeable difference in my skin tone. It may finally be the one that's just right.
Apto Surface Renewal Exfoliant, $37, available at The Ritualist.

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