The Best 5 Exfoliants for Sensitive Skin

December 8, 2019
Black woman exfoliating her skin

I used to be scared of using exfoliants for my sensitive skin because of the negative feedback I heard! I’d hear people say how their faces turned red and irritated, and some even complained about soreness. Why would I set myself up for that when I’ve been warned?!

Since my skin is very sensitive, I put off using an exfoliant for the longest, however, I’m glad I decided to do research and try products that now work wonders for me!

No matter what your skin type is, exfoliating regularly is an important step to have in your routine. Exfoliation is key if you’re looking for brighter, smoother skin! The main issue with many people isn’t exfoliating — it’s the type of exfoliant they’re using and how often they’re doing it that ends up backfiring.

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Why is Exfoliating Important?

Before we talk about what the best exfoliants for sensitive skin are, what is exfoliating and why is it a huge deal?

Exfoliating removes the build-up of dead skin cells. As those cells continue to pile on top of your skin, it can lead to dullness, dark spots, and acne — three concerns we all try to avoid. When you exfoliate, you reveal new, brighter skin that is soft with a natural glow.

Another benefit of exfoliating is your products will become more effective. Since those dead skin cells will be removed, your skincare products will be able to penetrate deeper and work better. Those acne treatments, retinol, and serums will work great if you keep your skin exfoliated.

Different Ways to Exfoliate

There are two ways you can exfoliate:

  • Physical Exfoliation
  • Chemical Exfoliation

If you have sensitive skin, then I’m sure looking at the word “chemical” makes you nervous, I felt the same when I heard of this option. However, after research and trial & error, I can honestly say it’s not bad. If anything, chemical exfoliants are more effective.

Physical Exfoliants

One way to exfoliate sensitive skin is by using physical exfoliants such as sugar scrubs, gloves, and facial tools.

When you use a physical exfoliant, you’re manually scrubbing away dead skin cells. Some popular ones you may have heard of are:

  • Sugar/Salt Scrubs
  • Exfoliating Gloves
  • Washcloth
  • Facial Tools

Chemical Exfoliants

Chemical exfoliants contain acids that help dissolve the “glue” that holds skin cells together which ensures they can be removed easily. A few acids you can use are:

  • Glycolic Acid
  • Salicylic Acid
  • Lactic Acid

Best Exfoliants for Sensitive Skin

Skin + Co Face Gommage

The Face Gommage contains finely milled Apricot Seed Powder which provides a gentle exfoliation.

The first exfoliant I recommend trying is the Face Gommage from Skin & Co. I love that this is a cleanser and exfoliant in one! It polishes the skin, removes impurities, and provides a radiant appearance. Here are some of the ingredients:

  • Black Winter Truffle
  • Sweet Almond Oil
  • Apricot Seed Powder
  • Olive Oil
  • Allantoin

The finely milled Apricot Seed Powder isn’t abrasive and will help you gently exfoliate while removing dead skin cells. I’ve been using this in my routine for some time now and it’s not going anywhere any time soon! I highly recommend this if you’re new to exfoliating and want to start off with something that’s easy to use.

DIY Sugar Scrub

I’ve tried a variety of sugar scrubs but, of course, my top favorite will have to be my DIY. I decided to make an exfoliant one day out of curiosity and ended up loving it. The beauty of DIY’s is you know exactly what you’re putting in your products. You’re able to customize it based on your skin type and concerns.

I posted the tutorial on Instagram and included the ingredients in the caption which you can check out here. The ingredients are affordable and the scrub takes no longer than 5-10 minutes to mix. You don’t have to follow the same recipe! There are many DIY’s you can try with ingredients you already have!

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

A must-have exfoliant for dry, sensitive skin is Paula's Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant.

The Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant is a leave-on chemical exfoliant that unclogs pores, smooths wrinkles, brightens, and even out skin tone. You apply this after using your toner. All you need is a few drops on a cotton round and then rub it all over your face and neck.

This contains one of my favorite ingredients – Salicylic Acid. Here are some benefits of using this in your routine:

  • Promotes exfoliation
  • Reduces appearance of blackheads
  • Combats acne
  • Reduces oily skin
  • Helps reduce blemishes

They say it’s gentle enough for daily use, however, you have to experiment with it to see how much your skin can tolerate. When I used it for one week, it cleared up a breakout I had on my cheeks and jawline! I don’t use this as often as other exfoliants, but it’s great to fall back on when my skin is acting funny.

Make sure you’re wearing a sunscreen with SPF 30 and following up with a good moisturizer. It can be a little drying for the skin, but it’s nothing to be concerned about.

Michael Todd Beauty Sonicsmooth

As I stated above, facial tools can be used as a physical exfoliant. One of my favorites is the Sonicsmooth from Michael Todd Beauty. The Sonicsmooth is a hair removal and exfoliation treatment that’ll help to remove dead skin, build-up, debris, and peach fuzz. It should be used once a week!

I was nervous the first time I used it, but I ended up falling in love with it after seeing the results. You’ll be surprised how much it removes from your face once you look at the blade! Yeah, it’s a little gross, but at least it’s no longer sitting on top of your skin.

This leaves my skin feeling smooth and it has helped with my hyperpigmentation I’ve always struggled with. For a more in-depth review of this tool and the products that come with it, check out my blog post: Effective Tools for Your Skincare Routine.

Exfoliating Gloves

Exfoliating gloves are a great exfoliant for dry, sensitive skin since they aren't abrasive.

Exfoliating gloves can be used on every part of your body which is beneficial! I don’t like using a sugar scrub all over because it’ll get messy and I’ll run out of the product faster. This is when the gloves come in handy. These are gentle enough to be used daily and will leave your skin feeling smooth.

I love that I can cleanse my entire body while receiving the benefits of exfoliation when using these. Make sure you’re being gentle, you don’t have to press down hard or rush the process. Take your time and make sure you’re reaching all areas that are usually neglected.

Exfoliating gloves can be used multiple times, however, I recommend switching them out regularly. The last thing you want is for bacteria or mold to start growing in them. I purchase a pack off Amazon and switch them out after 2-3 uses. You can find a great deal below:

If you have sensitive skin and have been hesitant to use an exfoliant, I hope this post helped you realize they aren’t bad! You have to keep your skin type in mind and make sure you’re gentle when exfoliating. This step has been a game-changer in my skincare routine and I can’t imagine not doing it.

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