Including picks from The Ordinary, Drunk Elephant, and more.

Pia Velasco
Jan 01, 2021 @ 10:00 am
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
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best exfoliators
Credit: REVOLVE, Target, Sephora

Finding the best beauty products has never been easier thanks to Pia’s Picks, our weekly curated list. As the senior beauty editor at HelloGiggles, I test and examine the latest skincare, makeup, hair, and nail products so I can confidently recommend the best ones to you.

If your skin is looking a little dull and you're trying to make it look radiant again, the answer could be a simple exfoliator. Exfoliants, both chemical and physical, work by gently buffing away dead skin cells to reveal a brighter complexion. They use an array of exfoliating chemical acids, biodegradable micro-beads, and enzymes to break down build-up to refresh the skin—but with so many exfoliators on the market, it can be hard to choose the right one for your skin type, concerns, and budget. To help you sort through the thousands of skincare products available, we've listed 10 of our favorite exfoliators below.

Best drugstore chemical exfoliator

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
$7.20
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Sephora

This exfoliating mask will help keep breakouts under control, and at such an affordable price, it’s a steal. It combines glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acid, and it has a 4.5-star rating from over 1,000 reviewers on Sephora. To use, apply a thin layer onto clean skin and leave it on for 10 minutes before washing off with lukewarm water. For best results, use twice a week.

Best celebrity-loved chemical exfoliator

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial
$80
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Sephora

This resurfacing face mask has a cult following, and for good reason. As the name implies, it will give you baby-smooth skin with continued use. Yes, really. Plus, it works to smooth out uneven skin tone, fine lines, and wrinkles. Leave it on for 20 minutes and use it once a week for best results. Hey, if Drew Barrymore loves it, so do we.

Best drugstore physical exfoliator

Versed Day Maker Microcrystal Exfoliator
$21.99
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Target

Give yourself a pore detox with the help of this gentle exfoliator. It uses a blend of black currant, raspberry leaf extract, and superfine microcrystalline (a biodegradable alternative to exfoliating beads) to help decongest and clean out your pores. Once you're done, you'll notice that your face feels infinitely smoother and refreshed.

Best Black-owned exfoliator

Golde Mascara Facial Lucuma Bright
$34
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REVOLVE

This powder-to-gel brightening face mask is here for the glow. It's packed with vitamin C, papaya, lucuma, and sea-buckthorn to help exfoliate the skin and brighten it. To use, simply take one teaspoon of the mask powder and mix it with a few drops of water to make a creamy consistency, then apply to your face and wait 15 minutes before rinsing it off with warm water.

Best chemical exfoliator

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
$29.50
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Nordstrom

The Paula's Choice exfoliating liquid uses 2% salicylic acid, which decongests pores of dead skin cell buildup on the surface level and then goes into the pores to clean up any harvesting bacteria. This helps treat existing acne and prevent future blemishes while also correcting skin texture. Just note that it is an acid, and, as with every other active ingredient, you should start using it once or twice a week before building up to daily use. Using too much too quickly can result in dehydrated, flaky skin. But, when used correctly, it can transform your skin.

Best clean physical exfoliator

Youth to the People Yerba Mate Resurfacing Energy Facial
$54
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Sephora

If you're looking for a heavy-duty scrub, look no further. This exfoliating mask uses papaya and pineapple enzymes to buff away dead skin cells while the micro-exfoliants from bamboo physically scrub away any lingering buildup to reveal an instantly brighter face. All you need is two minutes to find out how effective this clean exfoliator is.

Best do-it-all exfoliator

Glossier Solution
$24
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Glossier

Usually, when we see products that feature AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs, they cost upwards of $80. The fact that this product retails for $24 is incredible. These powerful active ingredients help exfoliate, moisturize, and condition skin. The addition of aloe, glycerin, and niacinamide means it will also soothe your skin, leaving it much less irritated than traditional chemical exfoliants.

Best exfoliating scrub for sensitive skin

Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Exfoliating Daily Facial Scrub
$5.09
($6.79 save 25%)
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Amazon

If you like to streamline your skincare routine and want a quick in-shower solution, this Aveeno scrub will do the trick. Apart from buffing away dead skin cells, it also has a cocktail of moisturizing ingredients like jojoba seed oil, castor oil, and soy extract. It's gentle enough to use once a day, and after just a week, you'll notice your skin looks brighter, smoother, and more evenly toned.

Best exfoliating peel pads

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads
$34
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Ulta

Soaked in lactic and glycolic acid, these peels are super easy to use and effective AF. They're gentle enough to be used daily and are proven to work on all skin types, but if you have super sensitive skin, you can ease into it by using it twice a week.

Best exfoliator for shrinking pores

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment
$85
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Ulta

Unclog congested pores with this mighty scrub. It uses chemical exfoliants like lactic and salicylic acids to cause brighter-looking skin. Plus, it helps minimize the appearance of pores.