The 8 Best Exfoliators of 2021

Get healthy, smooth skin with these picks

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First Look

Best Overall: Drunk Elephant T.L.C Sukari Babyfacial at Sephora

"It will transform your skin similar to an expensive treatment at your derm’s office."

Best for Face: SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew at Amazon

"It uses 10 percent glycolic acid to gently rid your skin off all the dry cells in order to make way for new growth."

Best Body Wash: OGX Smoothing + Coconut Coffee Scrub & Wash at Amazon

"The lathering solution is infused with arabica coffee and coconut oil."

Best for Sensitive Skin: Maelove The Night Renewer at maelove.com

"Dr. Saedi dubs this one—which fans attest is the equivalent of a gentle chemical peel in a bottle—her favorite."

Best for Dry Skin: Kate Somerville ExfoliKate at Amazon

"The exfoliator uses papaya, pineapple, and pumpkin enzymes to naturally smooth skin without overdrying."

Best for Oily Skin: Tula So Poreless Deep Exfoliating Blackhead Scrub at Amazon

"Perfect for anyone with oily or acne prone skin as it targets pores and blackheads."

Best Scrub: Acure Brightening Facial Scrub at Amazon

"Just gritty enough to help you achieve immediate results, but simultaneously gentle to keep your skin calm."

Best for Legs: Mario Badescu Raspberry Body Scrub at Amazon

"A sensational smelling treatment infused with raspberry and papaya extract, that provides immediately gratifying results."

Exfoliating is an important step in your skincare regimen, regardless of skin type. Why? It helps get rid of the old skin cells to make way for the new. “We need to exfoliate to get rid of the dead cells on our skin,” Nazanin Saedi, MD, director of Jefferson Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Center explains to Verywell Health

Dr. Saedi explains that cellular growth slows down over time, making exfoliating more important as you age. “The cell life cycle when we are young is 28 days and as we get older, the dead skin cells are around for longer,” she points out. What does that mean for our skin? It will look “duller, more discolored and can have clogged pores,” she says. There’s another benefit of exfoliating, per Dr. Saedi. “The products that you use don't penetrate as well when you don't exfoliate,” she points out. 

There are two forms of exfoliation. Physical uses force to remove dead skin, usually via beads, grains, or other ground up material. “I don't recommend using physical at home because it can be abrasive and damaging to the skin barrier.” Chemical, on the other hand, uses gentle acids to get the job done. “There are alpha hydroxy acidslike glycolic acid and lactic acidand beta hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid which are good for acne prone skin,” Dr. Saedi explains. 

Here are the best exfoliating treatments for your face and body. 

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Drunk Elephant T.L.C Sukari Babyfacial

Drunk Elephant T.L.C Sukari Babyfacial
Courtesy of Sephora.

Drunk Elephant is a newish beauty brand created as a one-size-fits-all solution that could tackle every skin issue imaginable. In the last couple of years, their products have secured spots on Best of Beauty lists, with their 20-minute exfoliating treatment, the T.L.C Sukari Babyfacial, as one of their most coveted offerings. 

Like the name implies, it's a “baby facial” offering your skin the tender loving care it deserves, and will transform your skin similar to an expensive treatment at your derm’s office. Apply this 20-minute mask to clean skin, where it will first start to tingle. You might not feel anything, but don’t worry—it's working its magic. Once you wash the product off your face, don’t be surprised if your skin is a little bit redsimilar to what it looks like after a laser or microdermabrasion treatment. The redness will disappear by morning and your skin will literally feel baby soft and smooth. 

This product is powerful enough for dry skin but sensitive enough for those who are prone to irritation, packed with 25 percent AHAsglycolic, tartaric, lactic, and citric acids. While it is one of the more expensive treatments on our list, consider it a bargain compared to a chemical peel at your derm’s office

Best for Face: SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew

Dr. Saedi is a huge fan of SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew, an overnight chemical exfoliating treatment. Unlike a scrub, it uses 10 percent glycolic acid to gently rid your skin off all the dry cells in order to make way for new growth and improve skin tone and texture. “It feels great and leaves behind zero residue,” she explains. In addition to the sugar cane derived fruit acid, it also is packed with active ingredients such as skin brightening two percent phytic acid derived from legumes and seeds, and a combination of natural oils and botanicals to help soothe and hydrate the skin. Per an eight-week clinical study conducted by the dermatologist-endorsed brand, it is incredibly effective with users reporting a 36 percent average improvement in radiance, 37 percent in skin texture, and 19 percent in skin tone.

Best Body Wash: OGX Smoothing + Coconut Coffee Scrub & Wash

If you want a daily body exfoliating treatment, you are better off with a body wash that will gradually and gently smooth and soften your skin. OGX Smoothing + Coconut Coffee Scrub & Wash is an affordable, effective, and aromatic option. Formulated to treat the body only, the lathering solution is infused with arabica coffee and coconut oil, giving it the power to simultaneously remove dead skin cells while moisturizing the remaining ones.

Best for Sensitive Skin: Maelove The Night Renewer

Maelove The Night Renewer
Courtesy of Maelove.

Out of all the exfoliators on the market, Dr. Saedi dubs this onewhich fans attest is the equivalent of a gentle chemical peel in a bottleher favorite. At one point there was a waiting list of over 11,000 people for the product, which was formulated to help those with sensitive skin reap the benefits of an exfoliating treatment without irritation. It uses medical grade glycolic acid in addition to other soothing ingredients (vitamin E, squalane, shea butter, arnica flower and aloe) and hydrating hyaluronic acid to keep skin looking and feeling great. And, in case you aren’t familiar with Maelove, the brand is devoted to using medical and scientific research to create superior products at a super fair price point.

Best for Dry Skin: Kate Somerville ExfoliKate

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate, dubbed a “cult favorite” by Dr. Saedi, has sustained the test of time. First created by the celebrity facialist in 2006 for her A-list clients, Somerville packaged the gentle but miraculous exfoliator and started selling it to the public in 2007, where it sold out in just six minutes on QVC. Over the years it has amassed nearly every beauty award imaginable, and is still her best-selling product with double-digit growth every year, according to the brand. What’s so great about it? In less than two minutes after lightly rubbing it into your skin, your face will feel as though you just walked out of an appointment with your facialist. The exfoliator uses papaya, pineapple, and pumpkin enzymes to naturally smooth skin without overdrying, while the chemical component, lactic acid works as a natural alpha hydroxy acid that exfoliates. Other ingredients include rosewood and cinnamon, which work to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as skin soothing and softening aloe vera, honey, and vitamin E. It is also free of all parabens, sulfates, and phthalates. Just to give you an idea about the popularity of ExfoliKate, an entire line of productsincluding a Daily Foaming Wash and a Glow Moisturizer have been developed around it.

Best for Oily Skin: Tula So Poreless Deep Exfoliating Blackhead Scrub

This award-winning scrub, which literally smells like the beach, is perfect for anyone with oily or acne prone skin as it targets pores and blackheads. While it is somewhat of a physical exfoliator, using pink sugar granules and volcanic sand to help relieve dead skin, they actually dissolve during the scrubbing process, resulting in instant gratification without irritation. The cruelty-free product is also formulated with probiotics, lactic acid, and superfoodslike papaya and pineapple. It is also free of a lot of ingredients most people like to shy away from, including parabens, sulfates, phthalates, formaldehydeand even dairy and gluten.

Best Scrub: Acure Brightening Facial Scrub

If you are on a tight budget and on the market for an effective facial scrub, order Acure Brightening Facial Scrub ASAP. Another big Best of Beauty winner, this delightfully affordable physical sloughing product should be your top contender. One of the cleanest products on the marketfree of parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, petrolatum, and formaldehyde in addition to being vegan and certified cruelty-freeit uses sea kelp super-nutrients to help soften and detoxify the skin, lemon peel and French green clay to cleanse, and Madonna lily to brighten. It is just gritty enough to help you achieve immediate results, but simultaneously gentle to keep your skin calm.

Best for Legs: Mario Badescu Raspberry Body Scrub

Yes, your legs need exfoliating love too. Using a gentle scrub on your legs will help buff away dead skin, not only making room for regrowth, but also help prep your skin for ample absorption of body treatments (such as cellulite cream) or a smooth surface for a self-tanning session. Mario Badescu Raspberry Body Scrub is a sensational smelling treatment infused with raspberry and papaya extract, that provides immediately gratifying results. Simply massage it on wet skin with hands or a loofah, and moments later smoother softer skin will be a reality.

Final Verdict

It was hard to pick a winner from this bunch of next-level exfoliation treatments. Why? They are all extremely effective. Before Drunk Elephant launched T.L.C Sukari Babyfacial, Kate Somerville ExfoliKate or Skinceuticals Glycolic 10 Renew probably would have topped our list. Both offer a high-quality concoction of effective ingredients and are favorites of beauty editors and dermatologists alike. However, as we mentioned in our review Drunk Elephant’s product is basically the closest thing you will get to a professional treatment at home. Formulated for every skin type, it transforms the appearance and feel of skin in just 20 minutes. Days after using it, your skin will continue to feel baby soft. 

But here’s the deal: we also love every other exfoliator on our list. If you have specific skin concerns, prefer a chemical over a physical product, gravitate toward specific ingredients, have a limited budget, or are simply a fan of another product line, you can’t go wrong with our other picks.

What to Look for in an Exfoliator

Budget: Before you start shopping, figure out how much you are willing to spend. You can pick up an exfoliator for a few bucks or spend nearly $100. However, try to keep in mind that most of these products aren’t for daily use. In other words, one bottle or jar will last you awhile. Additionally, many of the more expensive products are made with higher quality ingredients with higher concentrations of the magic working acids. 

Chemical vs. Physical: As Dr. Saedi mentioned there are two types of exfoliators. A few of the productssuch as ExfoliKateare somewhere in the middle. If you do opt for a physical product, use it with care in order to avoid damaging the skin barrier. 

Skin Type: While some of these products are formulated for specific skin types, many are perfectly suited for all. If you have sensitive or acne prone skin, pay special attention to the ingredient list and try and avoid any exfoliating product that is physically abrasive, as it will aggravate breakouts. 

Target Area: Most of the exfoliating treatments we reviewed are formulated for the face. If you do purchase a body treatment, keep in mind that the ingredients used are generally more aggressive, as the skin on your body is tougher than your face.

Why Trust Verywell Health

As an internationally recognized health writer and product guru, Leah Groth understands that nobody wants to waste their time or money on products that fail to rear results. Over the years, she has interviewed the world's top health experts and reviewed hundreds of items, to help readers like you discover the most effective health gadgets, goops, and aids that will help you look and feel your very best.

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