15 Best Scrubs for Sensitive Skin (2018)

Updated 4 years ago

We all know that exfoliation is an essential step in our skincare regime for glowing, flawless skin. Yes, our skin does have its own natural shedding process whereby the old cells are replaced by new ones every 25 days. However, as we get older, our skin’s ability to naturally exfoliate becomes less efficient. This leads to a pile-up of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface which is the no. 1 contributing factor to dullness and visible signs of aging. As such, using a scrub for external exfoliation provides the assistance our skin needs in order to maintain a healthy, clear, and radiant complexion.

Yet, for those with sensitive skin, exfoliation may be something that is often missed out on since this delicate skin type reacts to just about anything, much less added stimulation from an exfoliating product. Some might even think that it’s ok for sensitive skin individuals to skip exfoliation altogether. Unfortunately, this is a misconception that can be detrimental to your skin’s health as sensitive skin types also require regular exfoliation in order to shed off the accumulated skin cell debris. The trick is to choose an exfoliating scrub that will slough off the dead skin cells without over-stimulating your sensitive skin. In order to cater to sensitive skin types, numerous beauty brands have released scrubs with gentle formulations that provide a mild exfoliation intensity. As such, the risk of over-stimulation is kept to a bare minimum.

Here, we look at the 15 best scrubs for sensitive skin types so that you never have to dread exfoliating again.

Reviews of the Top Scrubs for Sensitive Skin

Fresh Sugar Face Polish

A cult classic among sensitive skin types, this scrub bagged the InStyle Magazine 2017 Best  Beauty Buy award. It contains Pure Brown Sugar which not only gently buffs away dead skin but also acts as a natural humectant to seal in your skin’s moisture. In fact, sensitive skin users who had tried this product reported no adverse skin reaction to it. The added Real Strawberries effectively brightens up your skin for enhanced radiance and clarity. To leave your skin soft and hydrated, the polish is also infused with moisture-rich Plum Seed Oil and Grapeseed Oil. While the product suggests using it three to four times a week, you should still listen to your skin to accommodate the frequency of exfoliation that it can tolerate.

Bobbi Brown Buffing Grains for Face

This customizable exfoliator is perfect for concocting your own DIY scrub. Simply pour a preferred amount of the exfoliator out and mix it with either water or your cleanser. This also means that you are in complete control of the exfoliator/water/cleanser ratio to vary how much exfoliation your skin needs at the moment. Sensitive skin types will be assured to hear that the scrub is formulated with a super-fine Japanese Adzuki Bean Powder that will not irritate your skin. Instead, the exquisite grains get rid of dry flakes and skin dullness effectively, leaving your skin with a purified and soft texture. The pour-top feature of the glass bottle also makes it easy for you to control how much product to pour out so that none is wasted.

L'Oréal Pure Sugar Face Scrub with Real Kiwi Seeds

For a high-street alternative that won’t break the bank, try L’Oreal’s sugar scrub. Some even likened this to a dupe of Fresh’s Sugar Face Polish, albeit containing Kiwi Seeds instead of strawberries. Using a natural blend of Brown, Blonde, and White Sugars, this gel-like scrub effectively unclogs pores to rid of acne-causing impurities and other accumulated dirt. Despite containing sugar granules and kiwi seeds, the gentle scrub does not feel harsh or abrasive on your sensitive skin.

Origins Never A Dull Moment Skin-Brightening Face Polisher

Using finely ground Apricot and Mango Seeds, this scrub cleanses and polishes without aggravating your sensitive skin. Moreover, it has been enhanced with Papaya Extract to unglue the dead skin cells stuck on the skin’s surface and brightens up your complexion for a radiant, blemish-free look. The end result is a glowing, refreshed, and smoother complexion as your skin looks its best. With regards to its texture, the polish feels thick and gloopy so a dime-sized amount of it is sufficient to cover your entire face.

Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Scrub

If you are into chemical exfoliants, this scrub harnesses the power of 3% Glycolic Acid that gently exfoliates your skin for an improved texture. Meanwhile, its relatively low concentration makes it non-irritating to sensitive skin. The added Salicylic Acid also eliminates inflammation and dissolves acne-causing pore debris to reduce the formation of pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. As such, this exfoliator is best suited for acne-prone skin. Many users have indeed experienced lesser breakouts and improved skin clarity after consistent use. Moreover, the product has also been effective in fading fine lines and wrinkles for a more youthful appearance. Lastly, its refreshing, zesty grapefruit scent makes for an invigorating facial experience.

La Roche-Posay Ultra-Fine Face Scrub

Formulated especially for sensitive skin, this dermatologically-approved scrub contains ultra-fine Pumice Particles that slough off dead skin and dry patches easily without too much stimulation. Further fortified with Thermal Spring Water, it soothes the skin and reduces redness for a more even skin tone. Glycerin has also been included to ensure your skin stays moisturized and soft. The gel-like texture feels cool and refreshing on your face and is delicate enough to provide a light exfoliation. The addition of Perlite in the scrub absorbs excess sebum which makes it ideal for those with oily to combination skin.

Mineral Fusion Skin-Renewing Face Scrub

This stellar product combines both physical and enzymatic exfoliation to provide the ultimate grime-busting, deep-cleansing experience. The scrub consists of ultra-fine granules of Garnet, Sea Clay, and Walnut to lift off dead skin cells. Botanical enzymes like Papain and Bromelain have also been added to fade blemishes and hyperpigmentation for enhanced skin clarity and perfection. To calm and hydrate sensitive skin, nourishing Aloe Vera, Lavender, and Cucumber are also included in the scrub. Capping it off, the scrub’s formulation is hypoallergenic and free of parabens, artificial colors, and phthalates to minimize skin irritation.

Clinique Exfoliating Scrub

This water-based scrub is perfect for those with oily, acne-prone, and sensitive skin. It contains Salicylic Acid to clean up bumpy clogged pores for a more refined skin texture. The inclusion of anti-inflammatory Caffeine works to soothe redness and calm the skin. Shea Butter provides a boost of much-needed moisture to keep the skin from over-drying during the exfoliation process. This refreshing scrub also contains tiny granules that feel delicate on your skin and leaves behind a cool, tingling sensation. Sensitive skin types swear by this stuff as their go-to for exfoliation that does not make their skin feel raw.

SkinCeuticals Micro Exfoliating Scrub

A powerful yet gentle on the skin facial scrub, it leverages hydrated Silica, a natural anti-inflammatory that soothes skin sensitivity. Other skin-nourishing extracts like Glycerin and Aloe Vera have also been added to protect and restore the skin’s vitality. As the scrub contains small microbeads, it effectively decongests clogged pores and smoothes rough patches. Given that the intensity of the exfoliation is quite mild, sensitive skin reviewers reported no complaints after using the scrub. In fact, they attributed their softer and better-looking skin to this miracle product.

Pharmagel Enzyme Ex-Cell Facial Scrub

This Papaya-based scrub is infused with natural Walnut Polishing Grains to provide a one-two punch of chemical and manual exfoliation. Papaya contains the proteolytic enzyme, Papain, which has traditionally been used in acne-fighting and skin-brightening products. Moreover, its natural exfoliating property makes it a good choice for sensitive skin without causing overstimulation. To ensure sensitive skin is kept happy, moisturizing Allantoin calms the skin and protects it. Given that the Papaya extract has impressive anti-aging abilities, this scrub is also a great way to keep those fine lines and dullness at bay. As such, it also ideal for dull and mature skin types.  

Cleure Gentle Cleansing & Exfoliating Scrub

Highly recommended by dermatologists, Cleure’s scrub features a hypoallergenic formula that draws out skin impurities without triggering irritation. The fine pumice easily buffs away dead skin debris and oil clogs for an improved complexion. In fact, this formula is so gentle that it is even suitable for those dealing with Rosacea and other skin conditions. This has become a lifesaver among sensitive skin types who have tried numerous other brands to no avail and returned time and again to this scrub instead. Acne users will be happy to know that this formula is also non-comedogenic and will not clog pores.  

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant (Travel Size)

A super-fine Rice powder-based scrub which can be mixed with water according to your preferences to create a customized exfoliant. Upon contact with water, Papain, Salicylic Acid, and Rice Enzymes are activated to unleash the product’s full exfoliating power. It sheds off surface debris and sebum effectively to resurface new, healthy skin. Moreover, the soothing blend of Green Tea, Ginseng, and Colloidal Oatmeal helps to calm the skin and keep it well-moisturized. This scrub is so gentle that you can even use it on a daily basis. For those who tend to scrub their face overzealously, this will be a good bet for you. If you suffer from acne, note that this exfoliant contains a Skin Brightening Complex to fade pigmentation and blemishes. Get this in travel size so that your skin will be able to get its needed dose of exfoliation during vacations and work trips.

Candid Essentials Microdermabrasion Scrub with Shea Butter and Vitamin E

This energizing and skin-regenerating scrub uses a potent blend of ingredients to resurface new skin cells for a brighter complexion. It is ideal for sensitive skin types due to the infusion of moisturizing Shea Butter, Avocado, Grape Seed, Hemp Seed, and Jojoba Oils which soothe the skin during exfoliation and restore its hydration levels. Reviewers like the fine-grain texture of the scrub for cleaning out congested pores and buffing off dull skin without causing their skin to burn or become irritated.

Reflekt Hydrating Facial Cleansing Scrub

A hydrating scrub that contains small, biodegradable beads which dissolve when you wash your face. As such, it provides a deep cleansing experience without irritating sensitive skin. To nourish your skin, the scrub is also formulated with Hyaluronic Acid to retain moisture, Vitamin B5 to regenerate damaged cells, and Vegetable Collagen to increase elasticity and combat signs of aging. It lathers up easily with a subtle fragrance and provides a mild exfoliation that is gentle on the skin. After using it, reviewers acknowledged the positive impact of this cleansing scrub on their skin as they noticed enhanced hydration and suppleness.

Despite the misconception that scrubs are too abrasive for sensitive skin types, our list of the best scrubs that are specially designed for this delicate skin type proves otherwise. Each of the reviewed scrubs above has been proven to help sensitive skin types reveal their most radiant and clarified complexion without any adverse side effects like rawness, burning or redness. Time to pick up one in your shopping cart!

Buff Up Your Skin to Look Its Best

Unlike what the majority thinks, facial scrubs are actually suitable for sensitive skin. But you have to choose the right kind for your skin. Don’t go for those that contain large, gritty granules or beads as these will cause too much abrasion and over-sensitize your skin. To give you a better idea of what to look for, we cover the types of ingredients in a facial scrub that will benefit sensitive skin without over-stimulating it:

Types of Ingredients

  • Enzymes: natural enzymatic extracts like Papain, which is derived from the Papaya plant, is a commonly-used ingredient in gentle facial scrubs. This is because enzyme exfoliation is the most gentle form of exfoliation as compared to chemical or physical exfoliators. Other suitable enzymatic extracts that you can also consider are Blueberry and Pineapple.

  • Anti-Inflammatory: to minimize the possibility of skin irritation when using a facial scrub, make sure the product contains anti-inflammatory ingredients to soothe and protect the skin while exfoliating. Go for ingredients like Chamomile, Aloe Vera, Colloidal Oat, and Panthenol. Additionally, oils like Jojoba and Almond Oils not only decrease inflammation, they also provide added moisture to keep the skin smooth and supple.

  • Hydrating: using a scrub on your face will undoubtedly make your skin feel drier than usual. While following up with a moisturizer is key, you should also make sure that the scrub contains hydrating ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides, and Essential Oils. This will replenish the moisture level within the skin while protecting its lipid barrier during exfoliation.

Exfoliating the Right Way

Yes, we know that exfoliating with the right products is essential to minimize skin irritation, particularly for sensitive skin. But the steps you take before and after exfoliation also matter greatly, and can affect the overall results of exfoliation:

  • Before Exfoliation: to make sure the scrub is able to penetrate and clean out your pores thoroughly, you will need to remove your makeup and accumulated dirt with a cleanser first. For best results, choose one that is catered to sensitive skin. This will then boost the efficacy of your scrub.

  • After Exfoliation: follow up with a moisturizer and sunscreen. After exfoliating your skin, you will need to lock in your skin’s moisture to prevent it from being overly-parched which can worsen skin sensitivity. At the same time, the scrub has revealed a new layer of skin that is now vulnerable and more sensitive to UV exposure. As such, a trusty sunscreen to protect your skin after exfoliating is indisputable.

Regular exfoliation is a step that cannot be missed in the search for healthy, glowing skin. Using the right facial scrub and exfoliating the right way will mean that even the most sensitive of skin types can receive the full benefits of exfoliation without risking skin damage.

Wrap Up

Sensitive skin individuals who have always wanted to try out facial scrubs but didn’t want to risk it can now throw away all their fears of over-stimulation and skin rawness. With the comprehensive list of exfoliating scrubs mentioned above, it is easy to find one that will give your skin the exfoliation it needs without being too harsh. Coupled with the accompanying guide on how to use a facial scrub correctly, you will never have to worry about overly-sensitized skin again.