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The Best Face Exfoliators for Every Skin Type

By Ellie Child - 1 year ago | Updated

Gone are the days of rubbing our faces raw with a harsh microbead scrub. The beauty world has since moved forward in leaps and bounds when it comes to exfoliating face scrubs, and quite frankly, our complexions have never been happier.

Our once limited options, that consisted mostly of harsh nut shell-based scrubs, have had a jazzy new makeover and now include a range of chemical exfoliants, enzymatic exfoliants, exfoliating face washes and face exfoliator brushes.

So much to choose from, so little time! With that in mind, we set out to discover the best face exfoliator for all skin types to take the hard work out of your search. We’ve split this guide into different subsections where you can discover the best exfoliating formulations that meet your personal needs, and don't miss out on all our exfoliation advice at the end.

It’s time to kick dull, dry skin to the curb – for good!

Best for normal skin:

The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA


Lucky you with your normal, unproblematic skin! Since you only need a little refinement, a gentle peel like this mandelic acid-based product are best for you. The superficial exfoliation doesn't cause irritation and the addition of hyaluronic acid will keep your skin hydrated during and after use.

Best for dry skin:

ELEMIS Gentle Rose Exfoliator

ELEMIS Gentle Rose Exfoliator

£22.35 £38.00 (42% off)

Dry skin requires a little extra TLC when it comes to exfoliating. Luckily, this rose-infused exfoliator has just the answer to your flaky skin woes, teaming powerful blemish-busting ingredients together with soothing properties that leave your complexion feeling truly nourished.

Best for oily skin:

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant - 118ml

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant


You’ll often see this Paula’s Choice liquid exfoliator on our wish lists, and with good reason!

This powerful chemical exfoliant melts away dead skin cells, dirt and oils by using a potent mixture of ingredients that leave you with a blemish-free complexion. The formula is fortified with salicylic acid which works on encouraging collagen production and renewing skin cell turnover for a filter-worthy visage.

Best for sensitive skin:

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant

£14.18 £18.00 (22% off)

Yeah, your sensitive skin can't always handle super strong formulas, but that doesn't mean you should settle for too gentle of a formula that doesn't actually do anything. Go for a chemical exfoliant (rather than a face scrub, where you have a larger chance of over-rubbing your skin and irritating it). Choose one that soothes while also removing dead skin cells, like this exfoliant from Dermalogica. It brightens and nourishes dull skin effectively and leaves out irritating ingredients like parabens to make it sensitive skin-friendly.

Best for mature skin:

REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask

REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask

£39.38 £42.43 (8% off)

Specially formulated for mature and sun damaged skin types, this skin-enhancing exfoliator is made up from 100% plant and mineral-derived actives that brighten up lacklustre skin. Incorporate this skin care essential into your routine to smooth, firm and minimise the appearance of pores and fine lines. Trust us, it’s a game changer.

Best for men:

Clinique for Men Exfoliating Tonic

Clinique for Men Exfoliating Tonic

£18.99 £21.00 (10% off)

This exfoliating tonic for men targets flaky patches of skin and congested pores, and if you like to be clean shaven, it even helps prep your skin for a closer shave! It's jam-packed with active ingredients and super easy to use since it doesn't need to be washed off. No mess, no stress!

Best for dull, textured skin:

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution


If your skin's feeling congested and dull, there's nothing like this AHA and BHA serum from The Ordinary to gently remove the top layer of skin for a brighter, more refined complexion. Hyaluronic acid ensures optimal skin hydration while Tasmanian pepperberry prevents the acids in this potent formula from causing irritation. We can personally testify that this chemical exfoliant is the perfect pick-me-up when your skin's looking a little 'blah'.

Best enzymatic exfoliator:

ELEMIS Papaya Enzyme Peel

ELEMIS Papaya Enzyme Peel

£21.50 £38.00 (44% off)

Most exfoliants are either chemical or physical, but the rarer type is an enzyme peel, which uses fruit enzymes to digest dead skin for a brighter complexion. That's exactly what you'll get out of this lovely peel from ELEMIS that uses papaya and pineapple extracts, as well as marine algae, milk protein and vitamin E to repair and moisture your skin.

Best leave-on exfoliant:

PIXI Glow Tonic

PIXI Glow Tonic


Of course we had to feature the OG of chemical exfoliators. PIXI have led the way with their Glow Tonic formulation – a product that now sits prettily in the cabinets of beauty addicts everywhere. This liquid exfoliator employs glycolic acid as its main ingredient to melt away dirt and dead skin cells, uncovering a naturally glowing complexion with minimal effort.

Best face exfoliating tool:

DERMAFLASH Luxe Facial Exfoliation Device

DERMAFLASH Luxe Facial Exfoliation Device

£135.00 £180.00 (25% off)

Don't have time or money to get to the clinic for a facial? Get glowing skin at home with the sonic edge technology in this exfoliation device, which painlessly removes dead skin, product build-up and facial hair to improve skin texture and tone and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Best exfoliating pads:

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads


We love any product that offers convenience and effectiveness within a single use, which is why we seriously rate the First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads. Each pad contains a blend of lactic and glycolic acids that work together to come down on spots, grease, oiliness and enlarged pores. They even include soothing ingredients such as cucumber, Indian gooseberry, lemon peel and liquorice root to improve the skin’s tone!

Face Scrub and Exfoliants FAQs

How do you use a face scrub vs a chemical exfoliant?

These are our general directions, but always check the directions on your product!

Face scrub:

Face scrubs offer mechanical exfoliation, which is a great way to remove impurities, while smoothing your skin in the process. Depending on your needs, you can find facial scrubs that can either boost brightness or even diminish dry patches. Wave goodbye to dull skin and hello to radiance!

Start with a makeup-free, cleansed face. Then choose which scrub you prefer depending on your skin type and needs. Take a small amount and smooth across dry skin, avoiding the delicate eye area. With clean fingertips gently massage the scrub across your skin and concentrate on the areas that need some extra attention – like the nose and forehead. Then it's time to rinse with lukewarm water and a face cloth. Pat your face dry and follow with your favourite serums and moisturisers.

Chemical exfoliant:

Chemical exfoliants use acids to slough off dead skin cells and remove other impurities, and as long as you use them as directed and not too often, they are usually less harsh on your skin than physical scrubs, which can be better for your body or on particularly flaky skin.

Start with a makeup-free, cleansed face as with a face scrub. Most products will be in a serum form, which you spread evenly across your face, avoiding the eyes and lips. Depending on the product, you'll either rinse it off with lukewarm water or leave on, before following with a serum and moisturiser like above.

How often should you use a face scrub vs a chemical exfoliant?

Face scrub:

Physical or mechanical exfoliation can be harsh on the skin, especially if you suffer with conditions such as eczema or rosacea. If that's the case, we recommend only using a face scrub once a week or using a chemical exfoliant. For oilier skin types, try two or three times. How often you implement these products into your regular routine depends on how sensitive your skin is and how much you need to control the excess build-up of oils and sebum.

Face scrubs help unclog your pores and smooth out the texture of your skin. However, it's important to be gentle when physically massaging them across your face. You don't want to scrub too hard, otherwise you can end up with redness or irritations.

Chemical exfoliants:

Generally gentler than face scrubs, most chemical exfoliants can be used two to three times a week if your skin can handle it. If you're just introducing a new product into your routine or you have sensitive skin (or the product directs you so), only use it once a week until your skin acclimates.

How do you tell if you're over-exfoliating?

While starting to use a new product can cause initial irritation, if you've been using an exfoliant or scrub for awhile and start to notice redness, irritation, dry patches or sensitivity when washing your face, you're probably overdoing it! Scale way back on your exfoliation and save that skin barrier. You want to get rid of the dead skin, not all the skin.

Ellie Child

Written by Ellie Child

With five years’ experience under her belt, Ellie has worked alongside a range of highly regarded makeup artists, giving her a real insight into what consumers should be spending their money on.

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