Our skin naturally lets go of dead skin cells but tends to leave behind some friends that lead to clogged pores and rough skin. Rude. If your complexion could use some TLC, using a face exfoliator is a great way to get rid of the excess dead skin and give yourself a glow-up. But how do you choose the right one? We’ve done the work for you to round up chemical and physical the best face exfoliators for sensitive skin.
I highly recommend the Glossier Exfoliating Skin Perfector for sensitive skin with acne, as it contains polyhydroxy acids, which tend to act more gently on the skin. The formula also contains a low concentration of salicylic acid (a BHA) to fight acne and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Its glycolic component (an AHA) is helpful in skin renewal and some post-acne benefits, including skin brightening.
2. First Aid Beauty Skin Lab Resurfacing Liquid – $55
One of my favorite chemical exfoliators for sensitive skin is the First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Resurfacing Liquid. It’s a gentle, leave-on exfoliant that brightens and improves skin texture without causing irritation.
The Tata Harper Regenerating Exfoliating Cleanser serves as both a chemical and physical exfoliant. It’s formulated with BHA and botanical ingredients (like fruit enzymes) that can help give your complexion a healthy, radiant-looking glow.
If a topical product is desired, try the Ordinary 10 Percent + Hyaluronic Acid, which contains mandelic acid that is well-tolerated by sensitive-skin types and helps to calm redness and reduce inflammation.
5. Ole Henriksen PHAT Glow Facial – $50
This pink mask is suitable for all skin types, and is basically an express at-home facial. It provides gentle, yet effective exfoliation (featuring PHAs), added hydration, and overall skin brightening.
6. Farmacy Honeymoon Glow AHA Resurfacing Night Serum – $58
This exfoliating night serum is a dream for sensitive skin. It’s formulated with a blend of gentle alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), and flower acids to get rid of dead skin cells and minimize dark spots without causing any irritation. It’s also chock-full of hydrating and smoothing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and honey.
7. Paula’s Choice The Unscrub – $29
Paula’s Choice The Unscrub won a 2019 Allure Best of Beauty Award for its extra mild formula. It contains pressure-sensitive jojoba beads that naturally dissolve as you work it into your skin, making it nearly impossible to over-exfoliate and cause unwanted micro-tears in your skin. It’s a great cleanser for removing sunscreen and non-heavy makeup, while glycerin keeps skin feeling soft and smooth.
8. Acure Brightening Facial Scrub – $9.99
Henry says Acure’s Brightening Facial Scrub is a must for sensitive skin. “Made with sea kelp, lemon peel, and French green clay, this scrub brightens your complexion.” And with over 7,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, it’s clear that this vegan, affordable scrub is a favorite of many for tackling discoloration and uneven skin tone.
9. La Roche-Posay Ultrafine Scrub – $18
Park recommends La Roche-Posay Ultrafine Scrub, which is specifically formulated for sensitive skin and contains a mix of physical and chemical exfoliants to gently remove dead skin via superfine pumice particles. The end results? A brighter, smoother appearance and a respected, non-irritated skin barrier.
10. Versed Day Maker Microcrystal Exfoliator – $17
Thanks to superfine, uniform-sized microcrystalline, a 100 percent plant-based, biodegradable alternative to microbeads, Versed Day Maker Microcrystal Exfoliator is the perfect solution to the rough, gritty scrubs you might’ve subjected your skin to in the past. The formula also contains an antioxidant-rich blend of blackcurrant and raspberry leaf extract to balance oil production and reduce inflammation, so your skin doesn’t erupt with breakouts.
11. Isdin Isdinceutics MelaClear – $82
For super-sensitive skin, cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson recommends a gentle chemical exfoliant mixed with skin-calming ingredients. Isdin’s Isdinceutics MelaClear contains “a stable form of vitamin C and phytic acid [for exfoliation,” he says. “It also contains calming green tea, which provides gentle chemical exfoliation without irritation.”
12. Pixi Peel & Polish – $24
Lactic acid is an ideal AHA for sensitive skin because the molecule is too large to penetrate as deeply as other AHA molecules, meaning it’s less likely to cause irritation. Pixi’s Peel & Polish formula contains lactic acid, along with a dose of gentle physical exfoliants.