10 Best Exfoliators for Sensitive Skin in 2018

Updated 6 years ago

Are you looking to revamp your skincare routine? Are you afraid to try a new product on your sensitive skin? You are not alone. It’s scary to try a new product when your skin is already ultra-sensitive. Beautiful, smooth skin is the foundation for more youthful, vibrant looking skin. You can invest in the best makeup, but it will not produce your desired outcome if your skin is dry, dull, and flaky. Let’s revamp your routine and get your skin glowing.

Should I Exfoliate if I Have Sensitive Skin?

Absolutely. Everyone can and should exfoliate. The trick is what exfoliant you use and how you exfoliate. Use products that are known to be good for sensitive skin, such as lactic acid, rosehip oil, and fruit and plant enzymes. An exfoliate cleanser is a great option because it is usually more gentle than traditional exfoliates.

What to Avoid in Exfoliants:

  • Synthetic fragrances
  • Alcohol
  • Soaps
  • Very gritty exfoliates

What Kind of Exfoliators are Best for Sensitive Skin?

Your skin and how it reacts to exfoliating will determine what kind of exfoliators are best for your sensitive skin. There are two types of exfoliators: physical and chemical. A physical exfoliator is exactly how it sounds - it’s a scrub that sloughs layers of dead skin cells. A chemical exfoliator is in the form of a serum, gel, or liquid and uses chemicals to dissolve dead skin cells. However, those with very sensitive skin tend to do better using a mild chemical exfoliator, as physical scrubs can tend to be too irritating on sensitive skin. On the other hand, using a scrub allows you to determine the amount of pressure you apply, so regular scrubs are definitely still an option for people with sensitive skin. Lactic acid is great for sensitive skin, so look for a product with lactic acid. You even may find that using both a chemical and physical exfoliator works for your skin.

Top 10 Exfoliators for Your Sensitive Skin: Reviews & Product Guide

Microdermabrasion Face Scrub & Face Mask

This exfoliator was MADE for sensitive skin. Made with manuka honey, walnut, Vitamin C, and aloe vera, your skin will thank you for using this product. This sugar-based scrub is gentle and simultaneously exfoliates and moisturizes your skin, leaving it smoother, softer, and brighter. Plus, the scrub is cruelty free, paraben free, alcohol free, and non-toxic. Do good while feeling (and looking) good.

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment

This Kate Somerville is a skincare staple. Reviewers with sensitive skin swear by this product. It has even been hailed as one users favorite skincare product. This exfoliant is packed with Vitamins A and E, aloe vera, and honey to help sooth skin. Though the instructions indicate to leave the product on for two minutes, it is recommended that those with sensitive skin use for one minute or less. A little bit goes a long way, so you will certainly get your money’s worth with this product. Still not convinced? Try ExfoliKate Gentle Exfoliating Treatment, which is made specifically for sensitive skin.

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant

This daily microfoliant is highly rated by reviewers. It can be used daily, meaning that it is gentle on the skin, but still effective in sloughing off dry skin. Users with sensitive skin have attested that they use the product daily and have had no negative reactions.

Drunk Elephant T.L.C Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

Reviewers noticed clearer, blemish-free skin after just a few months of using this serum. Even skin tone, faded sun spots, and disappearance of fine lines are all results users have experienced after using this product. The brand uses only non-toxic ingredients that help the skin and make their products a great option for those with sensitive skin. This serum gently lifts dead skin cells, resulting in clearer and smoother skin. Use this before going to bed and you will wake up with beautiful, luminous skin.

Murad Age Reform AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

Scrub away the years with Murad’s exfoliating cleanser. The cleanser gently exfoliates and polishes dull skin, revealing vibrant and glowing skin. Sodium PCA keeps your skin hydrated by increasing moisture-binding properties, so you aren’t left with dry and irritated skin after using the product. It is recommended to use this product two to three times per week.

Philosophy Microdelivery Exfoliating Facial Wash

Philosophy is like the reliable, yet underappreciated pair of jeans we all have in our closet. It is not always our first choice when picking an outfit - or skin care products in this case - but you can always rely on it. Users love this exfoliant because the tiny microbeads get in the tiny, tough-to-reach crevices around your nose and mouth. Even recommended by estheticians, this daily face wash exfoliator is gentle on your skin while gradually revealing a younger, more vibrant you.

Bobbi Brown Buffing Grains for Face

Who doesn’t love Bobbi Brown’s products? The cosmetics queen has graced us with an amazing skin care line, too. This exfoliant is different than the others, in that it is a powder and not a pre-mixed liquid. Mix the grains with your favorite face wash or water to customize it to your needs and wants. Made with Japanese adzuki bean powder, this powder helps skin cell turnover while leaving your skin soft and smooth. Users suggest mixing the grains with your face wash, which is great for those with sensitive skin. You still get a great exfoliation using your favorite cleanser that works for your skin because you get to choose what to mix it with. Because you mix the beads with your face wash or water, you can customize your exfoliant, making it rough or gentle enough for your skin. The powder makes this a great travel product. Users recommend using this once a week.

Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser

This product almost seems too good to be true. This cleanser cleans, purifies, and protects your skin while also minimizing the appearance of pores. The Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser is free of soaps, alcohols, and detergents, making it a great for product for those with sensitive skin. This product can be used twice daily. It is a big hit with users who have sensitive skin!

Eminence Strawberry Rhubarb Dermafoliant

If you weren’t sold on this product by its name alone, we think you will be once you read about its superpowers. This product cleans your skin, tightens your pores, smoothes and soothes your skin, and hydrates your skin. To use, put a small amount into your palm and mix with water, creating a creamy paste to massage into your skin. Though it’s made for all skin types, some users with sensitive skin found that it slightly irritated their skin. If this happens to you, reduce usage to just once per week.

Sukiface Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser

Made with natural and pure ingredients, your delicate skin will thank you for using this exfoliant cleanser. The chamomile and lemongrass will leave your skin smelling and feeling good. This cleanser gently removes dirt and oil using a sugar as the exfoliate.

Why do You Need to Exfoliate?

Exfoliating gets rid of dead, dull skin, revealing bright, evenly-toned, glowing, and smooth skin. This sentence may have scared off many people with sensitive skin, who just pictured their face red and blotchy. But fear not! Exfoliating - which can be done gently - allows your skin cells to rebuild. This is important for many reasons, including in fighting aging. If that isn’t enough to convince you, celebrities and skin care professionals alike cite exfoliation as their number one anti-aging trick. Exfoliating is like scrubbing years off your face. Not only does exfoliating make your skin brighter and smoother, it also allows all of your other skin and makeup products to work at maximum efficiency. No matter how nice or expensive your makeup is, it won’t look good if your skin is flaky and dull.

Exfoliating: What to Know

Exfoliating is an important part of skincare. It can be tricky though, especially if you have sensitive skin. But fail to exfoliate and all of your other skincare products and makeup that you’ve invested in can’t work as well. Nervous to try a new product on your skin? We’ve got you covered. We’ve done the research, and have broken down the best exfoliators for sensitive skin, according to experts and users. With sensitive skin, it is extremely important to be careful when using an exfoliate. The last thing you want is for your exfoliate to cause irritation or inflammation.

How Frequently Should I Exfoliate?

This is a common question that raises significant concern and confusion. And for good reason. There is no agreed-upon answer for this. Dermatologists and estheticians tend to disagree on how often. But ultimately you have to do what works best for your skin. It also depends on the product you are using. If you are using a strong exfoliate, you will likely only want to use it once or twice per week. If it is a gentle cleansing exfoliate, you might be safe using it daily. Your skin may change with the weather, too. You may notice that you need to exfoliate more or less depending on what time of the year it is. The best advice is to start gently, and gradually see what works for your skin.

How to Care for Your Skin After Exfoliating

Your work is not finished once you have exfoliated. In fact, what you do next is crucial. Because you have just sloughed of dead skin cells by exfoliating, your pores are open and your skin is incredibly receptive to products that can help your skin.  


Serums are great to use right after exfoliating. Why, you ask? Because serums penetrate into your skin and can work wonders. Use a serum after exfoliating and before using moisturizer. Not sure what serum works best for and for your sensitive skin? We have got you covered. Check out our guide to serums.


Once you have exfoliated your skin, you want to moisturize with a product that is suitable for sensitive skin. This step is important because you want to retain as much hydration as you can. See this guide to the Top 16 Best Moisturizers for Sensitive Skin. Aloe vera, coconut oil, Jojoba oil, and glycerin are all great hydrating ingredients that will help your skin lock in the hydration.

Face Oils

Face oils are a great option for skin - either as a replacement or as a complement to moisturizers. There are so many great oils out there, check out our favorites.


Alright, now you have read about all of the different exfoliators for sensitive skin, you are convinced that you, too, can exfoliate, even with sensitive skin, AND we have answered all of your questions related to exfoliating. No more excuses...Let’s get glowing!