The Best Exfoliators For Sensitive Skin

the best exfoliators for sensitive skin

I didn’t always have sensitive skin. Growing up, my skin was breakout-free, wrinkle-free and didn’t really react harshly to any of the mostly-harsh products I lathered on it. I didn’t realize how lucky I was, and I definitely took it all for granted. It wasn’t until I started developing cystic acne in my early 20’s that everything started to change. My skin, which was once so easy going, suddenly reacted to almost everything I put on it. Every product I tried would make my skin super dry and flaky. Or red and inflamed. And my acne kept getting worse. And once I started treating my acne with prescription medications, my skin became even more sensitive. And now, many years later, although my acne is gone, it seems that the sensitivity is here to stay.

When my skin started changing and becoming more acne-prone, I thought that maybe my pores were super clogged. I bought all of these harsh face scrubs, and the worse my acne got, the more I’d scrub and scrub. It turns out, this was only irritating my skin, creating more and more breakouts. Exfoliation is extremely important because it gets rid of dead skin cells and encourages the growth of new skin cells, which helps get rid of fine lines and wrinkles, and evens out skin tone, but it’s only effective if done sparingly and gently. No one should exfoliate more than once (maybe) twice a week, and if you have super sensitive skin like me, avoid all harsh face scrubs. Here are my three favorite products that gently exfoliate, and don’t irritate my sensitive skin:

1. Aqua Reveal Satin Bright Soft Water Peel

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Ok, so this is a true miracle product. Wash your face, gently pat it dry, then put a few pumps of this stuff on your fingers and massage it on your face. The Aqua Reveal Satin Bright Soft Water Peel is a water-based exfoliator with hyaluronic acid to help retain your skin’s moisture, and it doesn’t have the acids, scrubs or enzymes that most exfoliators have. 

You can actually feel (and see) your dead skin cells peel off your face. Remove all of this gunk with some cold water, pat your face dry, and behold skin that’s so incredibly smooth and soft. This stuff has a slightly high price tag ($60), but it is SO. WORTH. IT. (Also FYI I just found it for $40 on Amazon so YAY!)


2. Honey I Peel Good! Biomimetic Honey Peel Cream

I love Hey Honey products. They all have two key ingredients: honey and propolis. Honey is an amazing nutrient for the skin and propolis is an antiseptic and has amazing restorative properties.

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I Peel Good! Biomimetic Honey Peel Cream is an almost honey-like gel that you lather onto your face and rub in circular motions for 3-5 minutes. It’s a little difficult to do at first, but as the product warms up, it becomes very smooth and easy to rub around. I’ll admit, doing this for 5 whole minutes makes your fingers feel a bit funny, and possibly even numb, but when you’re done and rinse the gel off your face, you’ll immediately know it was worth it. This product claims to improve skin texture after just one use, and it does. It smooths fine lines, reduces dark eye circles, eliminates breakouts, promotes even skin texture and tone, and enhances skin elasticity. I mean, this stuff truly does it all. You can get it online from Ulta Beauty.

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3. Lactic Acid

A few years ago, I never would have thought to use an acid on my face. If you have sensitive skin, the word “acid” sounds like something you should avoid like the plague. But some acids are actually so gentle, like this one from The Ordinary. (Here is more info about my favorite products from The Ordinary!). Lactic acid is not like other exfoliators, in that it’s not something you rub on your skin and then immediately wash off. This is a product that goes on at night underneath your moisturizer. You don’t see any dead skin cells come up off the skin while it’s on, but it is exfoliating all night long! Over time you’ll notice fine lines and wrinkles start to fade, and your face will become a brighter, more even tone. I love the Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% from The Ordinary because it has hyaluronic acid, which helps keep your skin moisturized, and it’s also formulated with purified Tasmanian pepperberry, which is supposed to reduce inflammation often associated with exfoliation! i.e. - it’s perfect for those of us with sensitive skin. And it's SO. AFFORDABLE. It's only $6.50 if you order from The Ordinary's website, but that might take a while to arrive, so you can get it on Amazon for $15 if you are super impatient (like me), or don't plan in advance when you're current bottle's almost empty (also me).