My fellow beauty editor Courtney Higgs and I spend roughly 95% of our Slack and text conversations discussing skin and, more specifically, the treatments, products, and procedures (pre-quarantine, anyway) that help us achieve the smoothest, glossiest, healthiest complexions rivaling the baby-soft texture of a newborn's bum. Therefore, it's probably not surprising that we take our exfoliation practices (both chemical and physical) very seriously. Pre-quarantine, I was getting in-office microdermabrasion treatments at least once a month, and I quickly became obsessed with how smooth and even my bump- and acne-prone complexion became. (For those unfamiliar with the process, microdermabrasion is a noninvasive cosmetic procedure in which a facialist or a dermatologist essentially rubs fine crystals onto the skin with a special wand to efficiently exfoliate and remove dead-cell buildup from the top layer of the skin.)
Of course, then came a worldwide pandemic, quarantine, and an achy sayonara to my favorite in-office skin treatment, and I was left to my own at-home devices. As someone who is prone to congestion, I've used physical exfoliators regularly for a few years now and have tried my fair share of product options, as has Courtney. We both have our trusted arsenal of favorite formulas for our different skin types. So when I found out our clean, affordable, and ultra-skin-savvy sister skincare brand, Versed, was debuting a microcrystalline face polish on the heels of its latest acne-line launch, my stomach fluttered in excitement.
Courtney and I were lucky enough to get our hands on Versed's new Day Maker Microcrystal Exfoliator ($17) before its launch so we could test it out and see how it compared to our other favorite face exfoliators. Below, we're taking a deep dive into what makes Day Maker so special in addition to revealing our seasoned verdicts. Keep scrolling! Everything you need to know is just below.
As the name would suggest, one of the things that makes this physical exfoliator special (and superior to so many other cell-sloughing options on the market) is how ultra-fine its teeny-tiny crystals are. They're grainy enough to target and tackle uneven skin texture, but you won't be left with red, irritated, or injured skin. It's also worth pointing out the difference between the microcrystals Versed has chosen to use and the microbeads so many other brands utilize in their physical-exfoliator formulas.
In a nutshell, microcrystalline cellulose is Ecocert-approved and certified by the Natural Products Association. It's biodegradable, completely safe (although we don't recommend this, the press release from the brand states you could even ingest it), and it's made from renewable sources.
Microbeads, on the other hand, are small, solid, factory-manufactured plastic particles that can't degrade or dissolve in water. Due to their tiny size, most wastewater treatment systems won't be able to catch and filter them, so they're easily able to travel directly from your drain to rivers, lakes, and oceans. Ultimately, this can have a damaging effect on the environment—specifically marine life—due to microbeads' inability to decompose, how they absorb toxins, and how they travel up the marine food chain. (You can see why we're so thrilled with Versed's environmentally safe formula.)
Enhanced with other strategic ingredients like antioxidant-rich berry leaf extracts (we'll dig into those more below) and skin-quenching jojoba seed oil, Versed's microcrystalline formula sits in a lush creamy base and will effectively buff away the built-up dead skin cells that lead to congestion, dullness, and uneven skin texture. Day Maker is delicate enough for those prone to acne, intense dryness, or irritation and sensitivity. Plus, since it's a member of the Versed family, it's nontoxic, vegan, cruelty-free, pregnancy-safe, and made from 79% PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic.
Editor's note: Please recycle! Remove the cap, cut into the tube without cutting it into two pieces, remove excess product, and rinse thoroughly. Then, put the cap back on, and throw it into the recycling bin. (The paper box it comes in can also be recycled.)
Courtesy of Versed
Microcrystalline Cellulose: As we discussed above, microcrystalline cellulose is a 100% natural alternative to microbeads, is made from renewable sources, and is easily and quickly biodegradable. The crystals found in Versed's newest launch are also extremely uniform in both shape and size, which makes them much less likely to irritate problem skin but still significant enough stature to polish away buildup, product residues, and other inevitable debris that accumulates over time.
Berry Leaf Extract: Ripe with potent antioxidants, Day Maker is made even juicier with raspberry and black currant leaf extracts—a dynamic duo that specifically tracks and preys upon the overproduction of pimple-causing sebum while relieving inflammation at the same time. Another perk? Thanks to that creamy base we mentioned, it's pretty much impossible for the formula to leave your skin feeling stripped or dry.
Any skin expert will tell you that regardless of how gentle or safe your physical exfoliator is, it's best to ease into the practice. Take it from beauty editors who have done the opposite. Being overzealous with your exfoliating potions in the quest for baby-smooth skin won't be a successful venture. Instead, you'll likely irritate, aggravate, and potentially even injure your skin. Versed recommends using Day Maker once or twice a week, but again, we recommend starting off with the former. When you do choose to use it, you can go ahead and apply on wet skin before you cleanse to help detoxify and clean your pores, kind of like a pregame. Or you can use it after you cleanse (make sure skin is still wet) and before you layer your toners, serums, and moisturizers. A lot of hydration post-exfoliation is key!
Instead of scrubbing too hard (please, don't), gently massage a quarter-size amount of the exfoliator into wet skin for about one minute using tight, circular motions. Once your time is up, rinse your face off thoroughly with cool water, and pat dry.
Some skin context: Physical exfoliation is one of my favorite skincare rituals. The act of manually buffing away dead skin cells to reveal a soft, renewed dermis is just so satisfying. As such, I know better than anyone how easy it is to over-exfoliate, which can sensitize the skin and even cause damage to the delicate skin barrier (been there!). Nowadays, my biggest marker of a safe-for-me physical exfoliator is the presence of small, uniform polishing crystals that are at once gentle on my skin and super effective at ridding my face of buildup and debris.
The verdict: This exfoliator meets that standard. The consistency of the product is different than other face polishes I've used in that it's almost like a moisturizing lotion loaded with super-fine sand particles. That lotion-esque feel is nice, but it takes quite a bit of water to keep the formula moving easily around the face as you buff it in. Considering how creamy it is on application, though, it still offers a deep clean and doesn't leave an oily film behind. In fact, the area around my mouth—which is the driest and most reactive to drying topicals—felt a bit tight until I applied my moisturizer. Overall, though, I loved how glowy and revitalized my skin looked and felt after using this product.
Some skin context: Similar to Courtney, there was definitely a time when I was way too aggressive with my physical exfoliators. Not only did I scrub them into my skin like I was trying to bulk up for the arm-wrestling Olympics, but I would also use them (prepare to gasp) almost every day. Not surprisingly, my skin completely freaked out, my breakouts got worse, not better, and my face was a sensitive, red, angry mess. Now, I've come to rely more on my favorite chemical exfoliators to keep my skin smooth and pimple-free, but I still have a once-a-week physical exfoliation ritual to keep my skin soft and smooth. Back when I was overusing my physical exfoliators, I tried tons of formulas, and much to my surprise, there is a serious range when it comes to consistency, formulation, and results. Eventually, I found my sweet spot and discovered the best scrub options for my skin type are hydrating, creamy, and boosted with fine crystals or beads. Anything too big or grainy is too irritating and feels like sandpaper, and anything too small or slippery feels ineffective.
The verdict: I feel like I've said this about the past few Versed launches, but I really, truly mean it: I think this is my favorite Versed product to date. I honestly had low expectations. I've only found a handful of facial scrubs my skin can tolerate, and I've been feeling pretty monogamous with my current lineup. But in came Day Maker to upset the system.
First things first, I love the consistency and smell. The scent isn't obtrusive at all, but the light burst of fruity citrus really enhances the overall refreshing nature of the formula. Also, the name doesn't lie—these microcrystals are probably the tiniest I've ever seen or applied. I was initially worried they wouldn't be big enough to make a dent in my congested skin, which had been feeling pretty bumpy, but I need not have been. The creamy formula the crystals are set in melts into your skin the longer you work it into your complexion, letting the crystals really work their magic while stilly providing enough slip and base to keep them from feeling scratchy or harsh. After I rinsed my face, I couldn't believe how smooth and even my skin felt. I know words like luminous and glowy are thrown around a lot, but this product really does impart an instantaneous and long-term radiance. After I added my hyaluronic acid serum and moisturizer, the effect was even better the next morning. My skin looked clear, bright, dewy, and pretty much exactly how it would look after my old microdermabrasion treatments. I'm hooked, and I can't get over that it's under $20. Unreal!
Our Favorite Products to Pair With Versed Day Maker Microcrystal Exfoliator
Consider this gel-cream moisturizer a new go-to if you're in the market for a lightweight blast of hydration that won't feel heavy or clog your pores. (And the name doesn't lie—it induces the best dewy finish.)
This dreamy blue cream cleanser keeps acne-prone skin on its best behavior (but with zero harsh irritation) thanks to 1.5% salicylic acid and apple fruit extract, which kick accumulated dead skin cells to the curb.