22 Best Face Exfoliators, According to Dermatologists 2024


Applying the best face exfoliators for your skin type can make a huge difference in your skin care routine. While exfoliation is a straightforward task, it’s one with a multitude of benefits and goes beyond a deep clean: “Exfoliation removes dead skin cells, which helps brighten the skin, fade hyperpigmentation, improve skin texture, and stimulate cell turnover,” Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Shafer Clinic in New York City, tells Glamour. “It can also help remove debris and clear the pores after cleansing, resulting in clearer skin.” We spoke with experts to find the best face exfoliators beloved by testers and dermatologists alike.

The best face exfoliators, at a glance

What’s the best exfoliator for your face?

According to Michael I. Jacobs, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College, the kind of exfoliation that’s best depends on your skin type. Oily-skin complexions are able to tolerate stronger alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), says Dr. Engelman. If you have dry skin, exfoliation can also be helpful since it “can help remove the layers of debris and buildup to help heal the skin, rather than harm it,” says Dr. Jacobs. While he and Dr. Engelman both agree that everyone can benefit from a chemical exfoliant, Dr. Engelman says, “Sensitive-skin types may react better to a gentle enzyme exfoliator, rather than a BHA or AHA.” It’s a gentler alternative to physical exfoliants like face scrubs. Those are best left for below the neck, as they could potentially cause micro-tears and cause irritation. As always, if you have any doubts, try a patch test on your wrist first.

How often should you use a face exfoliator?

While exfoliation is a net positive for your skin, it is very possible to overdo it, which can disrupt the natural oils protecting the skin and damage the skin barrier, says Dr. Jacobs. He recommends exfoliating twice a week, max (although it often depends on your formula and the sensitivity of your skin). The best face exfoliators account for this by incorporating moisturizing ingredients to protect the skin barrier.

If your exfoliation is too frequent or too intense for your skin type, you’ll see it in your skin. “Overexfoliated skin usually presents as red, irritated and inflamed, with increased sensitivity,” says Dr. Engelman. “Often it will be flaky and peeling.” Paradoxically, acne can also be a cue that you’ve overexfoliated. If that’s the case, hit pause in exfoliation until your skin returns to normal.

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