If you have acne, it can feel risky to introduce an exfoliant into your routine. After all, no one wants to tempt fate and make their breakouts worse. But, the best exfoliators for acne have the exact opposite effect, and are vital for anyone looking to treat pimples and dry skin. In fact, because acne-prone skin has an even greater habit of shedding dead particles that can get trapped in your pores, an exfoliator is a must-have for anyone looking to reduce and prevent acne.
When shopping around, keep a few things in mind. Most often, you’ll want to opt for chemical exfoliants over physical exfoliants, as physical exfoliants (like harsh scrubs) can irritate acne-prone skin and cause even more breakouts. Instead, look for cleansers with chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid, which simultaneously rid your face of dry skin and clear out your pores.
Additionally, while brushes and reusable devices are popular options, they can carry bacteria even after you rigorously clean them — bacteria that gets into your pores and exacerbates your acne. If you’re looking for more than a simple cleanser, try a disposable option, like exfoliating pads, which are preloaded with the amount of solution you need to wipe your skin clean of dead skin and oils.
No matter if your skin is sensitive, oily, dry, or a combination of the three, rest easy. This roundup of the best exfoliators for acne has just what you need.
1The Best For Oily, Acne-Prone Skin
This renewing exfoliating cleanser is packed with salicylic acid to balance the naturally-produced sebum on the surface of your face and rid your complexion of dry skin particles. Developed with dermatologists, this exfoliator also features three vital ceramides, natural oils that aid your skin in retaining moisture to prevent dryness. Its non-comedogenic and fragrance-free formula make this daily cleanser a great addition to your skin care regimen if you struggle with oily, acne-prone skin. And because you can use it all over your body, this is the best option on this list for anyone struggling with shoulder or back acne, as well.
2The Best For Dry, Acne-Prone Skin
With over 1,000 five-star reviews, this glycolic acid cleanser is a fan-favorite that delivers incredible results for anyone dealing with severe dryness. While a combination of kojic acid, rosehip oil, olive oil and tea tree oils works to clear out your pores, the glycolic acid in this cleanser removes the dead layer of skin on the surface of your face. The jojoba oils in this cleanser also give it plenty of moisturizing power to rehydrate severely dry skin. What you’re left with is a clean, clear complexion that feels soft and smooth to the touch.
3The Best For Sensitive, Acne-Prone Skin
While most physical exfoliators would be too harsh for sensitive skin (and a general no-no for acne-prone skin), this gentle facial scrub and mask was designed to be soft and safe for skin prone to sensitivity. Made with manuka honey to balance your skin’s pH level, and walnut to gently scrub your face, this product even serves double duty. You can use this mild scrub as a face mask: simply leave the product on your face for five to ten minutes, and let your skin absorb the healing vitamin C and aloe vera. And it will battle your acne as well. One reviewer says, “Since I started using the cream, NO acne... It’s magic, seriously."
4The Best Disposable Exfoliating Pads
Cleansers and scrubs are great, but sometimes you want something you can quickly use and throw away in just a few seconds. If you’re looking for the best disposable exfoliator for acne, these exfoliating pads with glycolic and salicylic acid are fantastic. Rub these pads once or twice daily all over your face and then watch as they quickly start to take action on your acne-prone skin. One reviewer even says, “This cleared my face up in 72 hours and now I use as maintenance and I have ZERO breakouts – miracle pads in a jar!” This jar comes with 60 salicylic and glycolic acid pads that will clear your pores and remove dry skin from your face, all in one simple swipe.
5The Best Dissolvable Exfoliating Crystals
These tiny exfoliating crystals are perfect if you’re looking for an exfoliating supplement to add to your favorite cleanser or scrub. Finer than salt, these crystals won’t irritate your skin the way that many other physical exfoliants can. Simply put a one to 10 ratio of the crystals into your regular cleanser and then go about your existing skin care regimen. Made with salicylic acid that will clear your pores and chemically exfoliate the dead particles and dirt on the surface of your skin, these crystals are legit. One reviewer said that after trying many products, “this is the only thing that keeps my acne away.”
Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments.