The 6 Best Face Exfoliators In 2024

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Our faces are covered with dead skin cells, makeup or sunscreen residue, and dirt and grime from the outside world—sounds gross, but it’s true. 

And the best way to remove this unwanted buildup and uncover glowing skin underneath is by exfoliating your face. 

While many people think that exfoliators are always rough scrubs that make your face raw and red, there are actually two different types of face exfoliators: physical and chemical. 

As you’ll see in this article, physical exfoliators use micro-sized coarse particles (like sugar, salt, walnut shells, or lemon peel) to physically remove dead cells from your face—but it shouldn’t be so rough that it hurts afterward.

Conversely, chemical exfoliants are typically acid-based serums that unclog pores by breaking the bonds that hold skin cells together and promoting skin cell turnover, allowing the “gunk” to rise to the top and be sloughed off by physical exfoliants (which is why we recommend using both on alternating days). 

If you’re not sure which is right for you, keep reading to find out more about the six best facial exfoliators on the market today, including our top choices for physical and chemical exfoliants and options for sensitive skin, acne-prone skin, exfoliating masks, drugstore picks, and more. 

TNI Main Logo 700x432 1 Best Overall
TULA So Poreless Exfoliating Blackhead Scrub
Best Chemical Exfoliator
CLEARstem CLEARITY
Drugstore
Acure Brightening Facial Scrub
Product TULA CLEARstem Acure
Cost $34 for 2.89oz($11.76/oz)
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$65 for 1oz($65/oz)
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$9.99 for 4oz($2.50/oz)
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Best for: Anyone looking for a gentle physical exfoliating scrub with natural ingredients; people wanting to minimize blackheads and pores and create a smoother skin texture. 

Our number one pick for physical exfoliants (AKA facial scrubs) is TULA So Poreless Exfoliating Blackhead Scrub

This facial scrub has a handful of beneficial ingredients that make it perfect for exfoliating, unclogging pores, and smoothing skin texture. 

Pink salt and volcanic sand are physical exfoliants that slough off dead cells and dirt, while witch hazel, hibiscus acid, and lactic acid gently unclog pores without drying the skin. 

TULA So Poreless Exfoliating Blackhead Scrub also contains probiotics, raspberry leaf, and pomegranate to increase healthy skin bacteria and smooth out the skin’s texture. 

We love this exfoliator because the raspberry and pomegranate create a refreshing and fruity scent that doesn’t come from synthetic fragrances—plus, it’s free of harmful chemicals and ingredients like parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, and phthalates. 

While it is on the pricier side—and comes in a small 2.89oz container—we think this facial scrub is worth it for anyone wanting a gentle physical exfoliator with additional skin-supporting ingredients.

Best for: People of all skin types (especially acne-prone or oily skin) looking for a high-quality chemical face exfoliator with non-toxic ingredients.

For a powerful chemical exfoliator that doesn’t dry out the skin excessively, CLEARstem CLEARITY is your best bet. 

The primary exfoliator in CLEARITY is mandelic acid, a gentle alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that minimizes pores, smoothes uneven skin tone, fights acne, and battles blackheads—so much so that CLEARstem has nicknamed this serum “The Blackhead Dissolver.” 

Although the word “chemical” gets a bad rep, chemical exfoliants are not made of toxic chemicals—they are simply acid- or enzyme-based compounds that penetrate the skin more deeply than a physical exfoliator. 

CLEARITY also contains turmeric to soothe skin and vitamin C to brighten and stimulate collagen production, making it great for mature skin. 

This exfoliating serum works for all skin types (especially acne-prone and oily skin).

People with dry or sensitive skin can also use it—but they may need to start off slow, using it once every 3-7 days in the beginning. 

However, this serum is very expensive ($65/oz—although you don’t use very much of it at one time), and mandelic acid makes the skin more sun-sensitive, so it’s best to use it only at night and wear SPF during the day.

Best for: People wanting an affordable facial scrub that can be found at most drugstores. 

For just under $10—and available at most drugstores or big-box stores—Acure Brightening Facial Scrub is an excellent choice for a facial scrub that won’t break the bank.

This scrub uses physical exfoliants—lemon peel, walnut shell, and French green clay—and adds natural ingredients like sea kelp, Madonna lily, chamomile, acai, blackberry, calendula, clary sage, and lemongrass to brighten, detoxify, and provide natural fragrance. 

We love that this product is 100% vegan, cruelty free, and does not contain parabens, mineral oil, or sulfates. 

However, the walnut shell exfoliants may be a bit too harsh for people with ultra-sensitive skin—and it’s recommended to be used just three times per week. 

Best for: Anyone wanting to splurge on a premium facial exfoliator with high-quality ingredients.

For people who like to spend a lot on their skin, Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser Daily Exfoliating Treatment is the exfoliator for you. 

This exfoliating cleanser is a double-whammy of both physical and chemical exfoliants, with the former coming from apricot “microspheres” and pomegranate and the latter being white willow bark, a natural BHA or beta-hydroxy acid. 

White willow bark is beneficial for acne-prone skin because it’s a natural source of the acne-fighter salicylic acid—however, this product also contains cetearyl alcohol, which can be problematic for people with acne. 

Therefore, this facial exfoliator is best for people with normal, dry, uneven, or mature skin. 

In addition to dissolving buildup and exfoliating, Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser Daily Exfoliating Treatment also provides hydration with their “Olive Oil Liquid Crystal Complex” that includes four versions of olive oil (olive oil fatty acids, olive oil lipids, olive oil esters, and olive oil skin softener) to smooth and plump skin. 

Best for: People with sensitive skin that need a gentle exfoliating scrub. 

We love Paula’s Choice The UnScrub as a gentle facial scrub for sensitive skin—although it contains physical exfoliators, it’s soothing enough to barely be considered a scrub, as its name suggests. 

Many physical exfoliators cause microtears in the skin, but this scrub uses jojoba beads that dissolve as you cleanse, making it impossible to over-exfoliate.

Jojoba beads are one of the gentlest forms of physical exfoliants that remove dead skin cells without damaging the skin and come in a perfectly round sphere shape that doesn’t scratch or cause skin irritation. 

Plus, this product contains soapberry extract—as the name implies, this plant is a natural cleansing agent—to remove impurities and buildup, and chamomile and green tea extract to soothe skin and redness. 

With this combination of ingredients, Paula’s Choice The UnScrub is like a cross between a soothing cream cleanser and a gentle exfoliator—the best of both worlds. 

Best for: People wanting an organic exfoliating face mask that soothes the skin.

Last but not least, The Organic Skin Co. Coming Up Roses is our top pick for a natural exfoliating mask for people who have a bit more time for their skincare routine. 

This multi-tasking mask exfoliates and removes dead skin cells, hydrates and calms skin, and has anti-aging properties for glowing skin. 

The key ingredients in this rose face mask are CO2 honeysuckle, CO2 rosemary, rose oil, and evening primrose oil—CO2 refers to the extraction process, which avoids chemical/alcoholic solvents to extract the goodness from a plant or herb. 

The Organic Skin Co. is well-known for focusing on supercritical CO2 extraction, which provides ultra-concentrated plant extracts and is better for the environment. 

In addition to exfoliating skin, the bamboo stem extract, aloe vera, honeysuckle, and evening primrose oil have anti-aging qualities and act as natural antioxidants to protect the skin. 

However, this mask also contains shea butter—while it is soothing for dry or dehydrated skin, it’s not great for people with acne. 

Facial Exfoliator FAQs 

Do Dermatologists Recommend Exfoliating Your Face?

Yes, a board certified dermatologist would typically recommend gently exfoliating your face, but they typically do not recommend harsh or abrasive physical exfoliants that leave your face feeling raw, red, or irritated. 

Do You Exfoliate Your Face Wet or Dry?

It depends on the product. The majority of physical exfoliants recommend starting with damp skin, while others (like Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser Daily Exfoliating Treatment) recommend starting with dry skin. 

If you’re using chemical exfoliators, start with completely dry skin. 

How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face?

If you have oily or acne prone skin, you could use a physical exfoliator every other day, with a chemical exfoliators on the days in between. 

If you have sensitive skin or dry skin, it may be best to exfoliate only once or twice per week. 

Which Exfoliator Is Best for Mature Skin?

Should You Use a Chemical Exfoliant or Physical Exfoliant?

It depends on your skin type. 

If you have acne prone, combination, normal, mature, or oily skin, you can alternate each day with a chemical and physical exfoliant to remove dead skin cells and promote skin cell turnover.

If you have dry or sensitive skin, you likely should not use a chemical exfoliant as it can further dry out the skin. The best exfoliator for sensitive skin is a gentle one, like Paula’s Choice The UnScrub



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