Exfoliating keeps your skin healthy and smooth. It gets rid of ingrown hairs and can help prevent acne.
But should you exfoliate if you have sensitive skin?
I’d say that’s a question you should ask your dermatologist.
But the answer is yes, let’s talk about the best exfoliators and scrubs for sensitive skin.
Today, we’ll review scrubs and exfoliators for both the body and face.
I’ll be talking about the safest, gentlest, and most effective ways to exfoliate.
Let’s begin now with a little advice.
How do you exfoliate sensitive skin?
If your skin stings, turns red or otherwise gets irritated when you exfoliate, you need a new method.
Or perhaps, you need to do it less often.
The experts recommend exfoliating sensitive skin only once a week (1).
Of course, depending on the product you use, you might get away with it more frequently.
There are two main ways to remove dead skin and unclog pores.
The first is chemical, and the second is mechanical.
What is chemical exfoliation?
Chemical exfoliation is when you use something like lactic or glycolic acid to dissolve the bonds between skin cells.
Those with acne-prone skin might use salicylic acid.
In any case, you can get these ingredients in a variety of products like shower gel, moisturizers, serums, and peels.
The key is using a very mild concentration to protect the skin from overreacting. Always test a new chemical exfoliant on a small patch of skin and wait to see how it reacts.
And it’s crucial to make sure you only use one chemical exfoliant at a time. For example, if your shower gel has salicylic acid, don’t use a moisturizer with the same ingredient. (At least, not unless your doctor recommends it.)
What is mechanical exfoliation?
Mechanical exfoliation might actually be safer for sensitive skin than chemical exfoliation.
If it hurts, you can stop.
Sugar scrubs, loofahs, Konjac sponges, motorized cleansing brushes, and washcloths are all straightforward mechanical exfoliation tools.
Use circular motions and light pressure when you scrub your skin. Don’t continue for more than 30 seconds, then rinse with lukewarm water. Be sure to use lotion red afterward (2).
Top Exfoliators & Scrubs (Body & Face) For Sensitive Skin
Now, let’s begin the reviews with the best face exfoliators.
If you’re looking for an exfoliator for your body, skip down the page.
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + Ha 2% Superficial Peel
Lactic acid is an excellent exfoliant for sensitive skin. It rehydrates while it removes dead cells.
In this serum, alongside hyaluronic acid, it’s very moisturizing and mild.
The innovative formula also has Tasmanian pepperberry. This plant extract reduces inflammation so that the skin can withstand the process.
Thankfully, there are no artificial fragrances or parabens in the bottle.
Just be careful not to apply it on top of broken skin, and put on sunscreen if you go outdoors. (Acid peels will make you prone to sunburn.)
Paula’s Choice SKIN PERFECTING 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant
Here’s a leave-on exfoliator that fights signs of aging. It smooths fine lines and fades discoloration with glycolic acid.
But it also has hyaluronic acid to refresh and plump the skin.
Plus, green tea and chamomile protect against free radicals that damage the skin.
Like other products from this manufacturer, it’s fragrance-free and avoids harsh chemicals.
La Roche-Posay Ultra-Fine Scrub
If you prefer a scrub to chemical exfoliation, you’ve got to try this one. It has a refreshing gel texture with micro-particles of pumice.
It’s much smoother and gentler than the infamous walnut shell or apricot scrubs of yore.
It’s also pH-balanced to avoid upsetting the skin. It has no alcohol, no soap, and no parabens. (Unfortunately, it does have a fragrance, but it’s the last ingredient on the label.)
You can use it as a face wash, not just an exfoliating cleanser.
Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub
This is also an excellent scrub that some users with sensitive skin can use daily.
It’s dermatologist-tested, non-comedogenic, and clinically proven to renew the skin.
The creamy texture is packed with skin conditioners and moisturizers like panthenol, glycerin, and Vitamin E.
There are also microfine granules to help it remove dead cells.
Although it has no synthetic perfume, it does have a masking fragrance.
Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant
Dermalogica’s unique Daily Microfoliant is a powder when it comes out of the container. It’s made out of rice powder and other natural ingredients.
Once it comes in contact with water, it goes creamy and activates.
It has salicylic acid to unclog pores, while rice enzymes repair the skin. Licorice and white tea soothe and brighten the complexion.
There are no parabens or gluten in the formula. It only takes about half a teaspoon to cover the entire face.
DRMTLGY Microdermabrasion Facial Scrub
Save money by doing your own microdermabrasion treatment at home. Or at least, you can enjoy this gentle scrub made for sensitive skin.
This product uses glycolic acid made from sugar cane to renew your complexion. It removes dead skin and impurities and stimulates circulation.
It also has green tea leaf, lemon, and apple to tighten pores and fade acne scars.
Happily, one jar lasts for about 120 uses. Plus, it comes with a satisfaction guarantee.
Neutrogena Microdermabrasion Starter Kit
I was going to recommend the Clarisonic cleansing brush, but I think everyone knows about that already.
Have you also heard about Neutrogena’s microdermabrasion kit?
It comes with an applicator, two AA batteries, and a dozen puffs. Each puff is covered in ultra-fine crystals and purifying ingredients.
Put the puff on the applicator, then dampen it. Select the speed, turn on the device, then massage your face. In the end, rinse thoroughly.
On the downside, you can only use each puff one time. And each contains sodium laureth sulfate and parabens, plus a fragrance. It’s just as well that this is a product that you won’t be leaving on the skin.
But on the bright side, clinical trials reported excellent results. Ninety-percent of first-time users saw an immediate improvement in their complexion.
After four weeks, users noticed that wrinkles and age spots were fading significantly.
Honeyskin Face and Body Microdermabrasion Scrub
We’re about to bridge the gray area between the face and body scrubs. This exfoliator can be used on your entire body.
I suppose I should clarify that “gray area.” Please don’t use a body scrub on your face. But feel free to use a facial scrub on your body.
There are several benefits to this exfoliator.
First, it’s pH-balanced to avoid dehydration and irritation. Second, it contains Manuka honey, a potent antimicrobial ingredient that promotes healing.
Third, it also has cehami from Australia. It’s a plant extract that prevents inflammation and reverses sun damage.
And finally, the formula is free of gluten, sulfates, fragrances, parabens, and mineral oil.
CeraVe Body Wash with Salicylic Acid
What’s the best body scrub for ingrown hairs? Or how about treating keratosis pilaris?
I’d say start with CeraVe’s body wash that contains salicylic acid. It’s mild enough to prevent damage, yet potent enough to encourage skin renewal.
I must point out, though, that if you use this product with salicylic acid, you shouldn’t use any others with that ingredient at the same time. For example, don’t slather on lotion with salicylic acid later.
What makes CeraVe’s products unique is that they all contain three essential ceramides. These crucial molecules help the skin retain moisture and resist infection.
Moreover, CeraVe uses controlled-release technology to keep the skin hydrated throughout the day after you use the product. And they include hyaluronic acid and niacinamide to maintain the moisture.
Therefore, not only are you removing problematic patches of skin, but you’re also helping it stay healthy.
The body wash has no parabens or artificial fragrance, and it’s non-comedogenic.
First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub
“KP” stands for keratosis pilaris. It’s that bumpy chicken skin that some people have on the backs of their arms, their legs, and their bottoms.
This scrub endeavors to solve the problem by smoothing the skin. It releases ingrown hairs and clears up the redness and inflammation.
Of course, like all similar products, it takes time to work. You may notice a positive difference after only one scrub, but you’ll need to maintain the habit of using it. Make it part of your weekly routine to improve your skin.
The secret to this exfoliator’s success is a mild concentration of lactic and glycolic acids. They loosen dead skin and unclog pores. Then, tiny little pumice buffing beads let you rinse the impurities right off your body.
Like other products, from this company, it’s free of harsh ingredients like artificial fragrances, colors, parabens, phthalates, sulfates, formaldehyde, alcohol, and so on.
Alba Botanica Revitalizing Sea Salt Hawaiian Body Scrub
You may not be able to go on a tropical vacation this year, so bring the beach to you.
This is a body scrub that exfoliates with salt from the Pacific Ocean. It also has macadamia, avocado, and sweet almond oil to nourish the skin.
Not only is it kind your skin, but it’s also it’s cruelty-free and vegetarian. There are no sulfates, parabens, or phthalates in it.
OGX Pink Sea Salt & Rosewater Gentle Soothing Body Scrub
Pamper yourself as if you went to the spa. This might be a body wash, but it’s unlike any other you’ve ever tried.
It uses pink sea salt and rose quartz to gently remove dead skin and impurities. Meanwhile, rosewater soothes and hydrates the body.
It’s perfect for exfoliating in combination with a washcloth or soft loofah.
Furthermore, it doesn’t have drying sulfates that strip the skin’s natural oil.
Majestic Pure Himalayan Salt Body Scrub
In general, my experience with salt scrubs is that they are harsher than sugar scrubs. But it’s hard to resist Himalayan pink salt and lychee berry oil.
The combination stimulates the skin while it removes impurities. It helps minimize large pores and leaves the body silky smooth.
What’s more, the cruelty-free product is made in the USA and free from harmful chemicals.
Tree Hut Shea Sugar Scrub Coco Colada
Don’t wash with a scrub if you’re hungry! It smells delicious.
It’s based on natural Shea butter and plant oils plus pineapple and coconut. The tropical blend gently smooths rough skin and moisturizes.
It’s an American-made product with no parabens or formaldehyde donors. But be careful if you’re avoiding artificial fragrances.
The Seaweed Bath Co. Exfoliating Detox Body Scrub
I like this detox body scrub with certified organic ingredients.
Yes, it has finally-ground walnut shells. That’s the classic biodegradable exfoliant.
But it also contains French clay that’s packed with minerals to purify the skin.
Then, there’s green coffee bean extract to neutralize dangerous free radicals that damage healthy skin cells.
And the highlighted ingredient is bladderwrack seaweed. It alone contains over 65 minerals and vitamins. These essential nutrients leave the skin more supple.
Of course, this is a natural product with no gluten to trigger allergies or parabens to disrupt hormones.
SheaMoisture Lavender & Wild Orchid Hand & Body Scrub
Relax before bed with this soothing lavender sugar scrub. It’s ideal for smoothing chapped hands and cracked heels.
But it’s not just fragrant and moisturizing. It’s also good for erasing signs of aging like wrinkles and discoloration.
The formula contains certified organic shea butter that moisturizes without clogging pores.
Dove Exfoliating Body Scrub
Someone asked about whether Dove’s exfoliating body scrub is suitable for sensitive skin. After all, their body wash and bath soap are very moisturizing.
I hesitate to recommend it, although it’s very appealing. The label lists naughty ingredients like an artificial fragrance and a sulfate. (It could also be problematic if you have nut allergies.)
On the other hand, body polish also has powerful moisturizers and conditioners like macadamia nut oil and rice milk.
It’s inexpensive and pleasant to use, so it may be worth a try.
Exfoliating sensitive skin can be tricky, but it’s certainly not impossible.
Use a mild moisturizing scrub or a chemical peel, for example, and you’re likely to have the results you desire.
Go slow, be gentle, and don’t exfoliate more than twice a week. If your skin gets red and irritated, stop immediately and change tactics.
I hope you found the perfect exfoliators for your body and face today. Come back and tell us about your experience using them.
1. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-exfoliate by Jane Chertoff on November 13, 2018, accessed July 23, 2020
2. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-secrets/routine/safely-exfoliate-at-home, accessed July 23, 2020
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