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12 Best Face Exfoliators for Every Skin Type That Will Leave Skin Soft and Glowing

Complexion looking a bit lackluster? These products can banish dullness.

best face exfoliators

Achieving a natural glow can be pretty tough. When dead layers on the surface of your skin stick around well past their welcome, your complexion can begin to look a bit dull. Thankfully the best face exfoliators can help clear that right up.

Using a quality face exfoliator will deliver a “smoother, radiant, and more plump complexion,” says board-certified dermatologist Suzanne Friedler, M.D., of Advanced Dermatology P.C. in New York City. Exfoliating also allows active anti-aging ingredients (like retinol) to penetrate deeper into your skin. Over time, buffing away the top layer and bringing healthier skin cells forward will help keep wrinkles at bay, she says.

There are two types of exfoliation: chemical and physical. Chemical refers to ingredients like glycolic or salicylic acids, which are typically found in peels and pads. These are known to smooth and really bring out a glow in the skin. Face brushes or scrubs that contain microbeads or ingredients like sugar or coffee physically exfoliate—but these have a tendency to be more abrasive. It all depends on what your skin reacts to the best.

That said, you can easily overdo it with exfoliation, regardless of the type you go for. “The key is to be gentle. Slow and steady wins the race,” says Dr. Friedler, who generally recommends exfoliation at least once weekly. The top layer of your skin does play an important role in holding in moisture and blocking irritants from entering, so more buffing is not always better.

Go too rough and you could cause inflammation, something that can create hyper-pigmentation. If you get red and raw, stop using the product. And if you’re looking to exfoliate your face, steer clear of items designed for the body. They may contain rougher exfoliants or heavy-duty moisturizers that plug pores, like shea butter or mineral oil, says Dr. Friedler.

Whether you use a physical or chemical exfoliator (or both on different days!), you can find budget-friendly options and more treat-yourself picks for your Sunday self-care routine. Either way, luminous skin awaits!

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Best Overall
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta® Daily Peel Pads

Suitable for normal, oil, combination, or dry skin, these pre-soaked pads contain alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), as well as glycolic, salicylic, malic, lactic, and citric acids that help even tone and texture and smooth out fine lines.

In the two-step process, the first pad exfoliates while the second neutralizes the AHAs to balance the active ingredients. Trust us—you’ll notice a difference even within a few days of use. With overwhelmingly positive reviews, one Amazon user writes: “This is amazing and is top 5-holy grail-desert island-never leave the house without it worthy. It has negated the need for foundation. Buy it, use it, love it.”

Best Microdermabrasion
Neutrogena Microdermabrasion Starter Kit

Microdermabrasion treatments are a gentler way of fading acne scars, discoloration, or sun spots. This Neutrogena kit packs an applicator that utilizes “micro-vibrations” to firm and brighten the appearance of your complexion. You’ll attach one of the dozen single-use puffs—which are formulated with ultra-fine crystals—and massage away three times a week to reveal smoother skin.

Rave Reviews
Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Exfoliating Daily Scrub
Now 26% off

This budget-friendly scrub really gets the job done. Soy extract helps hydrate and brighten, while micro-beads gently polish skin. Because it’s oil-free and noncomedogenic (so it won’t clog your pores), you don’t need to worry about breakouts if you’re acne-prone.

“This is a gentle exfoliating cleanser that doesn’t agitate my sensitive skin and is safe for daily use. If you’re struggling, I highly recommend,” one Amazon reviewer writes.

Best Face Wash
CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

Yes, we just said not to use an exfoliator every day, but there are exceptions to the rule. If you have oily skin, using a salicylic acid face wash regularly can help keep your complexion bump-free. “A cleanser with salicylic acid acts as a mild exfoliator to keep pores clear and can be part of your daily routine if you’re acne-prone,” says Dr. Friedler. In addition to cleansing your face, this CeraVe product is great for body acne, too.

Best for Quick Results
ExfoliKate Intensive Pore Exfoliating Treatment

Dubbed “Hollywood’s two-minute facial” this product helps skin glow in no time. Aptly named ExfoliKate, the treatment is a dual-action exfoliator that smooths and polishes skin. Meanwhile, lactic acid and fruit enzymes clean clogged pores quickly and efficiently. “Love, love, love this,” writes one satisfied customer. “My skin looks clear and glowing after and I get a ton of compliments.”

Best Chemical + Physical Exfoliator
boscia Exfoliating Peel Gel

This refreshing peeling gel acts as both a physical and chemical exfoliator. The formula is made of molecules that actually bond together while you work it in, which helps you remove any dead cells or debris on the surface of your skin (it’s a unique pampering experience—you’ll see and feel your skin balling up while you buff!). Alpha-hydroxy acids from various fruits then travel even deeper to really flush out oil or bacteria. Thanks to a combo of soothing botanicals and lack of preservatives, it will even work wonders for sensitive skin types.

Best Value
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Exfoliating Peeling Solution

Many powerful exfoliators tend to be expensive, but this one really gives you the bang for your buck. At under $10, it contains a powerful combination of 30% AHA and 2% BHA (beta hydroxy acid), which is why you only need to leave it on for a few minutes after applying a light layer. Once you rinse it off, your skin will be baby smooth.

“The very first time I tried it, my face felt super soft!” one Sephora reviewer writes. “I saw immediate results. My skin looked so bright and clean. I have been struggling with clogged pores and started using the peel 2x per week and it’s been working great.”

Best for Clogged Pores
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Paula's Choice

This product has a cult following for a reason—it’s a unique, lightweight leave-on liquid treatment that, overnight, smooths skin and unclogs pores with 2% salicylic acid. “This stuff should be called a miracle in a bottle,” one satisfied Amazon customer writes. “It transforms my congested, irritated, and bright red skin to a calm, clear, and glowing complexion.”

Best for Sensitive Skin
m-61 by Bluemercury PowerGlow Peel

This one-step peel features a combo of glycolic and salicylic acids to slough off dead cells and cinch pores—ideal if you’re battling breakouts because the treatment helps improve the overall texture and tone of your skin. The pre-soaked wipes also contain chamomile and lavender to calm down and redness or irritation.

Just note that it may take some time to work into it: start by using these before bed three times per week and lather on your favorite moisturizer (to prevent peeling or dryness as your skin adjusts). Dial back if your skin is sensitive, or eventually use daily once your skin can handle it. A good sunscreen in the a.m. is needed, too.

Best Tool
Foreo Luna Mini 3

We all have those days when lathering our face up with just our fingers doesn’t cut it. That’s where a nifty gadget like this comes in handy. Featuring silicone bristles, it’s easy to keep clean and gentle on the skin. Still, it’s not necessary for everyday use.

“These can be great if you want a deep clean, but are best used occasionally,” says Dr. Friedler. The Luna Mini 3 uses T-Sonic pulsations to really penetrate the pores, so you can banish any makeup, dirt, oil, or sweat that tends to get left behind. Simply apply your favorite cleanser onto the brush head, run it under some water, choose your favorite speed, and buff gently in circular motions while it works its magic.

Best Peel Pads
DERMAdoctor Kakadu C Intensive Peel Pads

Perfect for aging or mature skin, this powerful peel targets fine lines and wrinkles with seven alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids, which speed up cell turnover to bring healthier-looking skin forward. Kakadu plum supplies skin-brightening vitamin C while antioxidants protect your skin from further damage. The result? A supple, hydrated complexion. While peel pads tend to get pricey, many reviewers recommend cutting them in half if you’re just starting out. This will help your skin adjust and give you more bang for your buck.

Best Toner
Pixi Glow Tonic

This exfoliating toner is just the thing to add to your skincare routine. Made with 5% glycolic acid to gently exfoliate and brighten, it’ll get you one step closer to a more even, brighter complexion. “This exfoliating tonic truly lives up to its name. Every time I use it, my skin always feels smooth and is left with a beautiful glow. I not only use Glow Tonic for my face but also my underarms and bikini line to keep ingrown hairs away,” writes one happy customer. “I also love the fact that it doesn't have any alcohol in it so my skin is never left feeling dry or stripped of oils. Truly magic in a bottle!”

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