The Best Exfoliator for Sensitive Skin Picks

Written by Allison

We rounded up the best exfoliator for sensitive skin picks. Wahoo!

Having both sensitive and congested skin is a bummer. Trust me, I’ve been there most of my adult life. But, clear, soft skin is totally possible with a little help from exfoliation. I love face scrubs for this, but other gentle exfoliants exist for gentler skin needs. You just need to be careful, exfoliating sensitive skin is always a gamble. Start small by choosing the best exfoliator for sensitive skin with the most gentle formulas before working up to a more intense exfoliation.

Your best bet for exfoliating sensitive skin is to skip out on manual exfoliation full stop. Little beads can work wonders at clearing away dead skin cells but they are likely too harsh for sensitive skin. Instead you can find acidic exfoliators that do the same job, irritation free. It’s a method that’s growing in popularity with scalp exfoliation, too.

Most acidic exfoliators will be in the form of a toner or serum. Simply dole out the product (amount will vary depending on what you use) and apply.

I prefer to have a little relax moment while applying. Instead of smoothing it over your face and calling it a day, I like to press it in. It takes longer but we can call it self care.

Types of acids you may see are salicylic, glycolic, lactic and more. For acne prone skin, salicylic acid is often recommended because it works really well to keep the pores clear.

Glycolic acid is great for an anti-aging skincare routine as well as an acne fighting routine.

Likewise, lactic acid is great for most skincare routines.

The Best Exfoliator For Sensitive Skin:

  • Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner – The most gentle exfoliant on this list. This toner is formulated with aloe to soothe and salicylic acid to exfoliate your skin. It’s gentle and hydrating and a great first step for those with extra sensitive skin.
  • The Ordinary Lactic Acid – For a mild exfoliation, try this cheapie pick from The Ordinary. It has 10% Lactic acid and Hyaluronic Acid to keep your skin plump and hydrated.
  • The Ordinary Salicylic Acid – Another pick from The Ordinary is great for acne prone skin. It focuses just on Salicylic acid so you can use it to treat trouble spots, or as a serum for your whole face.
  • Omorovicza Acid Fix AHA BHA Treatment – For those of us fighting acne and wrinkles, having both AHAs and BHAs is super helpful. This serum combines all the acids we’ve covered so far for gentle exfoliation.
  • Pixi Glow Tonic – This toner is best for when you’ve gotten a little bit of tolerance under your belt. It’s not harsh, per say, but it is more exfoliating than we’ve covered so far on this list.
  • Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Oil Free Salicylic Acid Moisturizer – A great way to temper a reaction to an exfoliant is with hydration. Both are packed into this moisturizer with salicylic acid to keep those pores clear.
  • Skin Laundry Brightening Serum with Glycolic Acid – This serum helps not only to exfoliate but to brighten your skin. Everything from sun spots to acne scarring and uneven skin tone can benefit from glycolic acid.
  • Dermadoctor Ain’t Misbehavin Healthy Toner with Glycolic and Lactic Acid – This toner packs more of a punch, but it’s still safe for sensitive skin. The green tea extract helps to soothe while the acids do their work.
  • Cane + Austin Retexture Pad 10% Glycolic Facial Treatment – This is probably the most hard core exfoliant on this list. With 10% glycolic acid you’ll need to work up to using this product. But, it’s also one of the best toners for super clear, smooth skin.

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About the author


Bio: She's a New Orleans based beauty writer, nail polish hoarder, and doughnut enthusiast. When she isn't camping out in her local coffee shop for hours on end, you'll probably find her taking selfies in front of every colorful wall she's ever seen. Follow along on Instagram @allisonmarieschmidt.

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