The Best Face Exfoliators for Sensitive Skin Start at Just $11

people using face exfoliants, and a tube of paulas choice the unscrub face exfoliant
The 7 Best Face Exfoliator for Sensitive Skin

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Caring for sensitive skin isn't easy, but finding the right face exfoliator can make all the difference in giving your skin the rejuvenation it *so* desperately needs — and as our beauty editor, I'm here to help. After careful research and hands-on testing, I found the best face exfoliators for sensitive skin to both gift to yourself and to your favorite skincare-obsessed loved ones. Our selections were carefully vetted by yours truly, so you won't have to worry about stinging, burning, and itching with any of these picks. I'll dive into my research process ahead, but in the meantime, know that you're in safe hands as a few of these products are personal favorites of our team and esthetician Hannah Zaborowski of Face Foundiré.

Best Face Exfoliators for Sensitive Skin

What to Consider

Chemical Versus Physical Exfoliants

Exfoliating ingredients can be classified into two types: chemical and physical.

  • Chemical exfoliants, such as lactic, glycolic, and salicylic acids, break apart the bonds of dead skin cells. A high concentration of any of these alpha or beta hydroxy acids might be too intense for your sensitive skin, so you'll want to use a face exfoliant for sensitive skin with a relatively low concentration of the active ingredients.

  • Physical exfoliants, like sugar, salt, and nutshells, use tiny particles to buff away dead skin cells. Just remember that when it comes to physical exfoliants, always use a face scrub made with small and smooth granules instead of rough, large ones.

Although both options are very effective, deciding between them comes down to personal preference. For someone who just can't choose, you can use a face exfoliator for sensitive skin that combines the two types of ingredients for the optimal balance of exfoliation.


As for how often you should exfoliate your sensitive skin, it's best to start low before increasing the frequency. "Don't be scared of exfoliants, but don't over-exfoliate by doing it too frequently. Start with once a week and work up to three times per week," says Zaborowski. "Always follow with hydrating and productive ingredients [like hyaluronic acid, squalane, and ceramides]. It is a very slow build, and that's OK!"

Need more incentive to skip over-exfoliation? z“Avoid over-exfoliating the skin because this can damage the skin barrier. A damaged skin barrier can predispose the skin to dryness, eczema, irritation, and infection,” board double board-certified dermatologist Dr. Brendan Camp, M.D., recently told me in our guide to the best face exfoliators. He also noted exfoliation can make your skin more sun-sensitive, so you'll need to be more ardent about sun protection.

How We Chose

A 2019 study found that at least 60% of women and at least 50% of men surveyed have experienced some type of skin sensitivity, like itching, burning, stinging, tightness, and dryness. I also know the struggle of dealing with sensitive skin and it's not fun. However, my personal skincare struggles also make me determined to help you discover impressive products that actually deliver on their promises.

To help you find great products, I tested several face exfoliants for sensitive skin and landed on two impressive picks. One of my fellow editors with 20 years of beauty experience also tested some face scrubs and is impressed by a brand-new release from one of our favorite eyebrow grooming brands. I also asked Zaborowski to share her no-fail suggestion, and it's one of my old reliable products.

I also considered if each product was a chemical, physical, or combination of both exfoliants. Next, I evaluated the physical exfoliants to ensure they use small, refined particles instead of large, rough, jagged particles, like walnuts, to buff away dead skin cells.

Check out our 7 favorite face exfoliators for sensitive skin below!

ReSURFACE Skin Polish

ReSURFACE Skin Polish deserves our best overall pick because it combines the best of both physical and chemical exfoliants. It uses a gentle volcanic mineral to buff away pesky flakes and dryness, while glycolic acid further enhances the exfoliation process and minimizes acne and fine lines.

My skin always feels softer, smoother, and honestly more hydrated whenever I use this violet face scrub. It's non-irritating to sensitive skin, which can be a major problem for me during frigid NYC winters.

I also noticed that my face serums and moisturizers soak into my skin quicker whenever I use this face exfoliant for sensitive skin. That alone makes it worthy of the $68 price tag. And don't worry, the price per use is pretty tame. You only need to use this once or twice weekly, so a tube can last at least a couple of months before you repurchase.

More: Brighten Dark Spots With These Dermatologist-Favorite Skincare Products

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>ReSURFACE Skin Polish</p><p></p><p>$68.00</p>

Calm + Restore Nourishing PHA Facial Exfoliator

As a beauty editor, I'm constantly chasing newness to bring you buzzy products that are actually worth your money. But sometimes, it's best to bring back classic products from brands we grew up using. I've recently swapped my usual body care products for Aveeno Baby products to calm my skin the last couple of weeks and have been impressed with the results. Given my positive experience of recently using Aveeno products, I trust the brand's face exfoliator for sensitive skin will also perform really well for your skin.

This hypoallergenic exfoliant relies on polyhydroxy acid (PHA), a gentler version of AHAs. It also helps other skincare ingredients, including the oat oil in this face exfoliant, penetrate even deeper into the skin for mega hydration.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Calm + Restore Nourishing PHA Facial Exfoliator</p><p></p><p>$10.97</p>

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Calm + Restore Nourishing PHA Facial Exfoliator


The POREfessional Wow Polish

Senior editor Eunice Lucero-Lee is a huge fan of this new face scrub, which is perfect for sensitive skin. "You can customize the level of exfoliation by adding water. The more water, it's foamier and the less water, it's more of a paste, plus it has AHAs too," she says.

It also combines three types of powders so you can enjoy the benefits of both chemical (PHAs, perlite, and lactic acid) and physical exfoliation for smoother, softer skin after a single use.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>The POREfessional Wow Polish</p><p></p><p>$49.00</p>

UnScrub Gentle Cleansing Scrub

When you need an all-in-one product, opt for UnScrub, an exfoliating face wash that reduces the number of items you buy and steps in your nightly routine. This creamy cleanser gently removes makeup, sunscreen, dirt, and debris from the skin, leaving it clean but not overly dry.

A blend of soothing chamomile and antioxidant-rich green tea mellows irritated skin, while soapberry peel extract buffs away dead skin cells.

As a bonus, this fragrance-free face exfoliator for sensitive skin has a sustainable package free of plastic.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>UnScrub Gentle Cleansing Scrub</p><p></p><p>$33.25</p>

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UnScrub Gentle Cleansing Scrub


Resurfacing Serum

I've used this gentle exfoliating serum for months after being introduced to it by my esthetician. It uses lactic and glycolic acids which really helped brighten my complexion - and I'm not the only fan. Zaborowski can't get enough of this face serum and has high praise.

She says, "This is a slow-release glycolic acid serum that helps to dissolve the top layer of dead skin without causing irritation. Because it is in a serum form, it is gentle on almost every skin type. I can't say more good things about this product!"

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Resurfacing Serum</p><p></p><p>$105.00</p>

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Resurfacing Serum


Micro-Exfoliating Scrub

Aloe vera isn't just for sunburn relief. Dermatologists previously told me that it is safe for all skin types, including dry, acne-prone, and uneven skin. Micro-Exfoliating Scrub uses the calming ingredient to cool and refresh sensitive skin, while glycerin attracts water for longterm hydration.

This impressive face exfoliator for sensitive skin also uses hydrated silica, a naturally occurring mineral, to physically buff away dead skin cells.

Given the impressive ingredient list, this face scrub is ideal for tackling dryness, blackheads, and acne and minimizing the appearance of large pores without worrying about irritation.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Micro-Exfoliating Scrub</p><p></p><p>$35.00</p>

Daily Milkfoliant Exfoliator

Dermalogica's Microfoliant in the white bottle is super popular and almost made the list. However, upon further research, this Daily Milkfoliant in the blue container is that much better for sensitive skin.

As its name implies, Daily Milkfoliant has a milky consistency chock-full of calming and soothing ingredients, including coconut milk. Its sensitive skin-friendly formula combines coconut milk and grape extract rich in AHAs and BHAs to polish away rough flakes without any harsh granules that can irritate your complexion.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Daily Milkfoliant Exfoliator</p><p></p><p>$66.00</p>

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