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22 Best Face Exfoliators for Glowing Skin of 2023

Slough off dead skin cells on every skin type, even dry and sensitive.

By Catharine Malzahn
22 best face exfoliators for glowing skin of 2023
Courtesy of Ulta, Amazon, and Dermstore

Feeling like you're missing glowy, light-reflecting skin? Wanting to get that social media-loved "glass skin" effect? Try exfoliating your face! Your skin naturally exfoliates itself, but "exfoliants step in when this regenerative process is slowed down and dead skin cells accumulate," says Good Housekeeping Beauty, Health & Sustainability Lab Senior Chemist Sabina Wizemann. This can create a thick, rough layer of skin that causes it to appear dull and dry. "The over-accumulation of dead skin can also lead to acne, clogged pores and premature signs of aging," she adds.

Wondering what to exfoliate your face with? There are two types of exfoliants: physical and chemical, so you'll want to choose between those two. Chemical exfoliators, such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) and enzymes, "work by breaking down the bonds between skin cells to increase cell turnover," says Carmen Castilla, M.D., a dermatologist and clinical instructor at Mount Sinai in New York City. Physical exfoliators are products like face scrubs and polishes that mechanically "lift and remove dirt, pollution particles and cells simply by friction," explains Wizemann.

The Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab has tested face peels and scrubs, both of which can exfoliate your face. In these two tests, our scientists evaluated a combined total of nearly 3,000 data points to find the best on the market. Ahead, we've rounded up the 22 best face exfoliators for every skin type from oily to dry and mature to sensitive, including top performers from those tests, dermatologist-recommended products and editor-loved picks.

Our top picks:

  • 1
    Rapid Reveal Peel

    Best Overall Face Exfoliator

    Dermalogica Rapid Reveal Peel

    $79 at Amazon
    $79 at Amazon
    Read more
  • 2
    Brightening Facial Scrub

    Best Value Face Exfoliator

    Acure Brightening Facial Scrub

    $8 at Amazon
    $8 at Amazon
    Read more
  • 3
    Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub

    Best Drugstore Face Exfoliator

    St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub

    $5 at Walmart
    $5 at Walmart
    Read more
  • 4
    Exfoliating Polish

    Best Face Exfoliator for Sensitive Skin

    Zo Skin Health Exfoliating Polish

    $68 at zoskinhealth.com
    $68 at zoskinhealth.com
    Read more
  • 5
    Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel

    Best Face Exfoliator for Mature Skin

    Philosophy Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel

    $72 at Macy's
    $72 at Macy's
    Read more

You can read more about how we evaluate face exfoliators in our Lab and consumer tests — plus everything you need to know to shop for the best one for you — at the end of this guide. Looking for more ways to get bright, radiant skin? Check out our guides to the best natural, homemade face scrubs and the best vitamin C serums for your money.

1
Best Overall Face Exfoliator

Dermalogica Rapid Reveal Peel

Rapid Reveal Peel
1
Best Overall Face Exfoliator

Dermalogica Rapid Reveal Peel

$79 at Amazon$37 at Walmart$40 at Ulta Beauty
Credit: Dermalogica
Pros
  • Improves skin tone and wrinkles
  • Makes pores appear less visible
  • Smooths and brightens
Cons
  • Some testers found the tubes hard to open

Looking for professional-grade results from a peel without having to leave the house? Turn to this Beauty Lab test-winning peel from Dermalogica. It earned top scores for improving skin tone, smoothing skin, brightening skin, improving wrinkles and making pores less visible, with an impressive 100% of consumers agreeing that their skin tone was more even and their skin was smoother and brighter. Meanwhile, 75% of consumers agreed fine lines, wrinkles and pores were less visible. However, some testers found the tubes difficult to open.

Key ingredientsLactic acid
Skin typeNormal, dry
FormulaChemical peel
2
Best Value Face Exfoliator

Acure Brightening Facial Scrub

Brightening Facial Scrub
2
Best Value Face Exfoliator

Acure Brightening Facial Scrub

$8 at Amazon$10 at Ulta Beauty$10 at Bed Bath and Beyond
Credit: Acure
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Doesn't cause excessive skin irritation
  • Visibly brightens skin and increases glow
Cons
  • May be messy to use

GH Beauty Lab testers found this scrub performed best for not causing excessive skin irritation, making it a great pick for those with sensitive skin. The Lab test winner also provided the deepest cleanse and was best at making skin look brighter and more radiant. "Love that it gives a deep feeling of clean but leaves my skin feeling soft and moisturized," a tester raves. Take note: The rich color of this scrub can stain your sink, so it may be a bit messy to use.

Key ingredientsSea kelp, French green clay, walnut shell powder
Skin typeAll
FormulaScrub
3
Best Drugstore Face Exfoliator

St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub

Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub
3
Best Drugstore Face Exfoliator

St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub

$5 at Walmart
Credit: St. Ives
Pros
  • Appealing scent
  • Reduces the appearance of pores
  • Great value
Cons
  • Coarse particles may irritate skin

St. Ives' classic creamy scrub is a multitasking Lab test winner: In testing, it effectively removed dirt, oil and other impurities, reduced the appearance of pores and effectively cleansed and removed makeup. "It made my skin feel clean, moisturized, smooth and healthy," a tester reports. "It gave my skin a glow and made my makeup go on smoother." Note that the coarse particles of this physical exfoliant may be too irritating for some.

Key ingredientsApricot pit, walnut shell powder
Skin typeAcne-prone
FormulaScrub
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4
Best Face Exfoliator for Sensitive Skin

Zo Skin Health Exfoliating Polish

Exfoliating Polish
4
Best Face Exfoliator for Sensitive Skin

Zo Skin Health Exfoliating Polish

$68 at zoskinhealth.com
Credit: Zo Skin Health
Pros
  • Removes oil, dirt and other impurities
  • Adequate amount of exfoliation without being too harsh
  • Makes skin feel soft and smooth
Cons
  • Some testers feel it dries out their skin

A GH Beauty Lab test winner and ranked best for making skin feel smooth and having the ideal level of exfoliation, Zo Skin Health's exfoliating polish performed well in Lab testing across the board. It also scored high for making skin feel soft and look bright as well as removing oil, dirt and other impurities. "Good exfoliation without being too rough," a tester shares, so you can try this on even sensitive skin. However, take note that some consumer testers share it left their skin feeling dry.

Key ingredientsMagnesium oxide crystals
Skin typeAll
FormulaScrub
5
Best Face Exfoliator for Mature Skin

Philosophy Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel

Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel
5
Best Face Exfoliator for Mature Skin

Philosophy Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel

$72 at Macy's$73 at Walmart
Credit: Philosophy
Pros
  • Visibly improves wrinkles and diminishes fine lines
  • Non-irritating
Cons
  • Product may not smell the best

In the Beauty Lab's peel test, this at-home pick from Philosophy was the only product to show visible wrinkle improvement via the Visia Complexion Analyzer machine, making it a standout for those with mature skin. Testers also enjoyed that this Lab test winner didn't excessively irritate; it improves skin texture, brightness and tone and diminishes fine lines. "After each use, my skin looked brighter," a tester shares. "It also felt softer and smoother." The scent of this product was polarizing to testers, though.

Key ingredientsGlycolic acid, mandelic acid
Skin typeAging
FormulaChemical peel pad
6
Best Face Exfoliator for Combination Skin

Origins GinZing Refreshing Scrub Cleanser

GinZing Refreshing Scrub Cleanser
6
Best Face Exfoliator for Combination Skin

Origins GinZing Refreshing Scrub Cleanser

$25 at Ulta Beauty$20 at Walmart$27 at Nordstrom
Credit: Origins
Pros
  • Fresh scent
  • Gentle on skin
Cons
  • Doesn't provide deep exfoliation

With a fresh citrus scent, Origins impressed GH Beauty Lab consumer testers for its ability to cleanse skin without causing irritation. One tester said it's the perfect combination face wash and gentle scrub, while another tester who has clogged pores and oily skin shared they saw a visible change after just one week of use. "My face is so soft; I haven't had a soft face in years," one tester raves. Testers noted its light exfoliation, so if you're looking for something deeper, then this may not be for you.

Key ingredientsGinseng, caffeine, jojoba, salt
Skin typeNormal, oily, combination
FormulaScrub
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7
Best Face Exfoliator for Dry Skin

IS Clinical Cleansing Complex Polish

Cleansing Complex Polish
7
Best Face Exfoliator for Dry Skin

IS Clinical Cleansing Complex Polish

$48 at Dermstore$69 at Walmart$48 at Skinstore
Credit: iS Clinical
Pros
  • Smooth beads
  • Softens skin
Cons
  • Pricey

GH's Beauty Assistant has used this IS Clinical cleansing polish throughout the winter without any skin irritation. With super smooth beads, this wash exfoliates but doesn't strip the skin. It also features salicylic acid as a chemical exfoliant. "My skin feels significantly softer after using this," she notes. "It's been gentle on my skin even when it gets dry throughout the winter." However, this is on the expensive side, especially for a face wash.

Key ingredientsJojoba, salicylic acid, microcrystalline cellulose
Skin typeAll
FormulaScrub
8
Best Face Exfoliator for Acne

E.L.F. Cosmetics Acne Fighting Putty Primer

Acne Fighting Putty Primer
8
Best Face Exfoliator for Acne

E.L.F. Cosmetics Acne Fighting Putty Primer

$12 at Ulta Beauty$18 at Walmart$12 at JCPenney
Credit: E.L.F.
Pros
  • Good value
  • Hides blemishes and pores
  • Doubles as makeup and a gentle exfoliator
Cons
  • May feel greasy on face

If you have active acne breakouts, you should avoid using a physical exfoliator that can irritate your skin further. Formulated with the chemical exfoliant salicylic acid, this primer fights breakouts and covers up blemishes at the same time to prepare your skin for makeup. "I like the thick putty texture for smoothing over pores, and it contains pore-blurring spherical powders," says GH Beauty Lab Reviews Analyst Chiara Butler. Some reviewers find the texture off-putting, leaving a greasy feeling on their face.

Key ingredientsSalicylic acid
Skin typeAcne-prone
FormulaMakeup primer
9
Best Face Exfoliator for Oily Skin

SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF

Silymarin CF
9
Best Face Exfoliator for Oily Skin

SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF

$166 at Dermstore$182 at Skinstore
Credit: SkinCeuticals
Pros
  • Protects skin with antioxidants
  • Improves skin clarity and texture
Cons
  • Expensive

With an impressive 15% vitamin C as well as exfoliating salicylic acid, SkinCeuticals' serum is made with oily, blemish-prone skin in mind. A 2022 GH Beauty Award winner, Beauty Lab data review shows that "this is effective for improving skin's clarity and texture,” says Wizemann. However, this pricey liquid is an investment.

Key ingredientsSalicylic acid, vitamin C
Skin typeAcne-prone, oily
FormulaSerum
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10
Best Face Exfoliator for Dry, Sensitive Skin

Mary Kay TimeWise Repair Revealing Radiance Facial Peel

GH Seal
TimeWise Repair Revealing Radiance Facial Peel
10
Best Face Exfoliator for Dry, Sensitive Skin

Mary Kay TimeWise Repair Revealing Radiance Facial Peel

$68 at Mary Kay
Credit: Mary Kay
Pros
  • Visibly improves texture and minimizes pores
  • Doesn't irritate or cause redness
Cons
  • Didn't wow consumer testers

A top performer across categories in GH Beauty Lab testing, Mary Kay's at-home peel also holds the Good Housekeeping Seal. From earning the best scores for improving texture and minimizing the appearance of pores to achieving a perfect score for not causing redness, this chemical peel did very well in Lab testing, though it didn't stand out to our consumer testers as a favorite. It uses glycolic acid to exfoliate yet was least likely to sting in testing as well, so you can try this on dry, sensitive skin. "It did not irritate my skin," one tester explains. "It was easy to use and my skin looked brighter after one use."

Key ingredientsGlycolic acid
Skin typeAll
FormulaFacial peel
11
Best Face Exfoliating Toner

Pixi Glow Tonic

On Sale
Glow Tonic
11
Best Face Exfoliating Toner

Pixi Glow Tonic

Now 17% Off
$17 at Amazon$23 at Walmart$29 at Skinstore
Credit: Pixi
Pros
  • Soothes skin
  • Gently exfoliates
Cons
  • Some reviewers find it causes breakouts

Accelerate cell renewal with Pixi's glycolic acid exfoliating toner. This liquid is also one of Butler's favorites. "It's easy to incorporate in a nightly skincare routine to gradually exfoliate skin and prevent congested pores," she shares. It includes other soothing ingredients like aloe vera and urea to prevent irritation as well. Though there are many online reviewers who love this product and consider it their holy grail, some report breakouts after using the toner.

Key ingredientsGlycolic acid
Skin typeAll
FormulaLiquid toner
12
Best Face Exfoliator for Blackheads

Paula's Choice Clear Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution

Clear Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution
12
Best Face Exfoliator for Blackheads

Paula's Choice Clear Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution

$34 at Amazon$29 at paulaschoice.com$34 at Dermstore
Credit: Paula's Choice
Pros
  • Minimizes the appearance of pores
  • Exfoliates and treats blackheads
Cons
  • Bottle may leak

Dealing with blackheads? Try this gentle Paula's Choice product, a multitasking salicylic acid treatment that helps to refine the appearance of pores, minimize breakouts and exfoliate the face sans redness. GH Beauty Lab Senior Chemist Danusia Wnek loves this toner, sharing that it "does a really good job of keeping blackheads at bay and minimizing the appearance of pores." Some online reviewers would like better packaging, noting that the bottle tends to leak, so make sure to screw the cap on tightly.

Key ingredientsSalicylic acid
Skin typeBlemish-prone
FormulaLiquid toner
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13
Best Natural Face Exfoliator

Suki Exfoliating Foaming Cleanser

On Sale
Exfoliating Foaming Cleanser
13
Best Natural Face Exfoliator

Suki Exfoliating Foaming Cleanser

Now 20% Off
$20 at Amazon
Credit: Suki Skincare
Pros
  • Buffs skin with a sugar-based scrub
  • Well-priced
Cons
  • Intense physical exfoliation may irritate sensitive skin

What's better than a fresh face? A fresh face that smells great. This citrusy cleanser does more than just wash your face. The sugary scrub is filled with naturally-derived botanical oils and extracts such as coconut, lemongrass, sweet orange, chamomile, calendula and lavender. GH Beauty Director April Franzino loves this wash, sharing that "this formula intensively buffs skin, leaving it baby-smooth." As a strong exfoliant, it may be best to start slow with this pick to avoid irritation.

Key ingredientsBotanical oils, sugar, oats
Skin typeAll
FormulaScrub
14
Best Physical Face Exfoliator

The Body Shop Seaweed Pore-Cleansing Exfoliator

Seaweed Pore-Cleansing Exfoliator
14
Best Physical Face Exfoliator

The Body Shop Seaweed Pore-Cleansing Exfoliator

$18 at Amazon$18 at The Body Shop
Credit: The Body Shop
Pros
  • Doesn't overdry skin
  • Refines the appearance of pores
Cons
  • Doesn't have the best scent

Made with polishing jojoba beads, this GH Beauty Lab test-winning and expert-loved exfoliator earned the best consumer score for reducing the appearance of pores and not overdrying skin. "My skin felt so soft after I used it and I could look in the mirror and see a difference after the first use," one tester shares. "By the end of the week I felt like my skin looked brighter, tighter, clearer, smaller pores, smoother." Some testers didn't love the smell, though.

Key ingredientsSeaweed, jojoba beads
Skin typeCombination, oily
FormulaScrub
15
Best Chemical Face Exfoliator

La Prairie Cellular 3-Minute Peel

Cellular 3-Minute Peel
15
Best Chemical Face Exfoliator

La Prairie Cellular 3-Minute Peel

$285 at Nordstrom$169 at Walmart$285 at Bloomingdale's
Credit: La Prairie
Pros
  • Quick results
  • Gently exfoliates without causing skin to peel or flake
  • Brightens skin
Cons
  • Very expensive

Sometimes, the splurge is worth it. Case in point: La Prairie's pricey at-home peel, a GH Beauty Lab test winner. Aptly named, it's recommended to use this peel for three minutes once a week. In Lab testing, an impressive 100% of testers reported no peeling or flaking after application; the exfoliator also earned top scores for improving skin tone and radiance, as well as brightening and smoothing. The salicylic acid-based peel works quickly, with one tester reporting, "I saw immediate results — my skin looked smoother and brighter as soon as I washed off the product."

Key ingredientsSalicylic, lactic, glycolic and malic acids
Skin typeAll
FormulaFacial peel
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16
Best Enzyme Face Exfoliator

Naturopathica Sweet Cherry Brightening Enzyme Peel

Sweet Cherry Brightening Enzyme Peel
16
Best Enzyme Face Exfoliator

Naturopathica Sweet Cherry Brightening Enzyme Peel

$62 at Amazon$47 at Walmart$62 at Neiman Marcus
Credit: Naturopathica
Pros
  • Brightening
  • Non-irritating
Cons
  • Some users would like it to be a bit stronger

Naturopathica's cherry enzyme and lactic acid-based face peel promotes radiant skin without irritation, even for sensitive skin. Franzino loves this exfoliator as well, sharing, "This peel gives skin a brightening, smoothing refresh and is such at treat to use thanks to the fruity-sweet scent. Plus, it didn't irritate my eczema-prone skin." Some online reviewers looking for a stronger exfoliant feel they didn't see a significant change in their skin after using this.

Key ingredientsLactic acid, cherry enzyme
Skin typeAll
FormulaFacial peel
17
Best Liquid Face Exfoliator

Neutrogena Skin Perfecting Oily Skin Liquid Facial Exfoliant

Skin Perfecting Oily Skin Liquid Facial Exfoliant
17
Best Liquid Face Exfoliator

Neutrogena Skin Perfecting Oily Skin Liquid Facial Exfoliant

$16 at Walmart$18 at Bed Bath and Beyond
Credit: Neutrogena
Pros
  • Evens skin tone
  • Can help reduce breakouts
Cons
  • May leave a residue on skin

Featuring both glycolic and citric acids, smooth on Neutrogena's liquid exfoliator to fight skin dullness and congestion. The GH Beauty Award winner helps even out skin tone over four weeks of daily use, according to Beauty Lab data evaluation. "My skin appears clearer and more even," shares an online reviewer. "Plus, my skin doesn't become overly oily. It also seems to be reducing my occasional breakouts." Some other reviewers say it leaves a residue on skin, so keep an eye out for that.

Key ingredientsGlycolic acid, citric acid
Skin typeOily
FormulaLiquid
18
Best Face Exfoliating Peel Pads

L'Oréal Paris RevitaLift Bright Reveal Brightening Peel Pads

RevitaLift Bright Reveal Brightening Peel Pads
18
Best Face Exfoliating Peel Pads

L'Oréal Paris RevitaLift Bright Reveal Brightening Peel Pads

$18 at Walmart$17 at Bed Bath and Beyond
Credit: L'Oréal Paris
Pros
  • Easy to use
  • No harsh smell
  • Well-priced
Cons
  • May leave too much product lingering on face

Exfoliating has never been easier, thanks to this Beauty Lab test winner. Swipe one of these peel pads on your face for quick and convenient exfoliation. In Lab testing, L'Oréal Paris' brightening pads earned the best score for ease of use, as well as top scores for brightening skin and improving wrinkles. One tester shares that they were "incredibly easy to use, weren't harsh and there was no horrid smell. Love how smooth they make my skin feel." For some pads, they seemed to be overly wet, leaving a little too much product lingering on some testers' faces.

Key ingredientsGlycolic and citric acids
Skin typeAll
FormulaChemical peel pads
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19
Best Dermatologist-Recommended Face Exfoliator

SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Exfoliating Peel Pads

AlphaRet Exfoliating Peel Pads
19
Best Dermatologist-Recommended Face Exfoliator

SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Exfoliating Peel Pads

$115 at Skinbetter
Credit: Skin Better Science
Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Stronger exfoliation without being too harsh
Cons
  • Expensive

Make exfoliating easy with swipe-on, no-rinse pads like these from SkinBetter Science. "Exfoliating peel pads in general tend to be stronger than using a wash," Dr. Castilla says. However, this moderate strength peel pad "combines acids with a retinol without being overly harsh on the skin," she explains. The easy-to-use pads can just be swiped onto your face to exfoliate and remove dead skin cells. Note that for a pack of 30, this is a pricier option.

Key ingredientsGlycolic, lactic and salicylic acids
Skin typeAll
FormulaChemical peel pads
20
Best Exfoliating Face Wash

Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser

Mild Gel Cleanser
20
Best Exfoliating Face Wash

Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser

$36 at Amazon$36 at Dermstore$36 at Skinstore
Credit: Glytone
Pros
  • Gentle cleansing wash
  • Easy to incorporate into a skincare routine
Cons
  • May be drying

Dr. Castilla recommends this Glytone face wash for those looking for a "very gentle cleanser," she says. It's "easy to incorporate into your skincare routine and works well for most skin types," she adds. The face wash is made with glycolic acid yet still feels gentle on skin according to many online reviewers, though some feel it's a bit drying.

Key ingredientsGlycolic acid
Skin typeAll
FormulaCleanser
Headshot of Catharine Malzahn
Catharine Malzahn
Beauty Assistant

Catharine (she/her) is the beauty assistant at Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day and Prevention, working closely with the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab to write science-backed beauty content. She was previously an assistant beauty editor at Group Nine Media and returned to Hearst in 2022 after having held editorial internships at Harper’s Bazaar and CR Fashion Book. Catharine received a B.A. in journalism from the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

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