5 Versatile Exfoliators That Are Safe To Use On Dry Skin

by Deanna McCormack

Typically, a great exfoliator reduces surface imperfections, clears dead skin and excess oil, and leaves your face feeling smooth and soft. With dry skin, however, exfoliation often also causes unwanted irritation and redness. That’s why the best exfoliators for dry skin, compared to those you would choose for other skin types, are gentle, non-irritating, and include hydrating ingredients like aloe, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E.

Facial exfoliators come in many different forms. While physical exfoliation from scrubs that contain things like sugar, salt, coconut shells, and micro beads are widely used, they aren't always the best choice, especially if your skin is prone to irritation. Instead, the better choice might be chemical exfoliators like alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, and retinols. Chemical exfoliators have risen in popularity in recent years because they're better at targeting specific issues and can be either gentle or strong, depending on the formula Also, since chemical exfoliators can be easily added to moisturizers, cleansers, masks, and on-the-go pre-soaked pads, there are often more products and brands to choose from.

Either way, you shouldn't avoid exfoliation just because you have dry skin. The best exfoliators for dry skin, like the five listed below, will clear away dead skin cells, debris, and excess oil, and will leave your skin looking (and feeling) smoother and softer, no matter how often you use them.


Best Mask: A Budget-Friendly, Wash-Off Mask With Mineral-Rich Black Sugar Granules

Great for anyone with dry skin, Skinfood's super popular Black Sugar Mask Wash Off Exfoliator — which is just under $10 — gently exfoliates the skin with hydrating black sugar granules. The Brazilian black sugar used in the formula is unrefined and rich in vitamins and minerals, so your skin will look smooth and feel nourished. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes and wash off with warm water: Your face definitely won't feel dry afterwards, and will look luminous and glow-y. With over 1,000 reviews and a near-perfect rating, there's a reason this best-selling product is a cult-favorite.


Best for Breakouts: An Exfoliating Acid Toner That Fights Acne And Clogged Pores With Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid, like you'll find in Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, is one of the most gentle, non-irritating acids you can find and is perfectly safe for dry skin that is prone to irritation or acne. In fact, the formula is so gentle, it can be applied up to twice a day on all skin types. With its 2 percent BHA, this acid toner reduces inflammation, unclogs pores, exfoliates dead skin cells, and evens out skin tone. Plus, it keeps breakouts at bay.


Best For Sensitive Skin: A Daily Moisturizer With Retinol And Hyaluronic Acid That Reduces Blackheads And Smooths Skin

Here to change your mind about what defines an exfoliator, Radha Beauty's Retinol Moisturizing Cream is perfect for everyday use on dry skin because it increases your skin cell turnover rate without ever irritating or over-drying. The cream formulation — which contains 2.5 percent retinol, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E and green tea — keeps dry skin hydrated and calms irritation as it works to reduce acne, discoloration, and dry spots. It's also cruelty-free and vegan and doesn't include any harmful fragrances, fillers, or parabens.


Best Organic Option: A Facial Cleansing Gel That Gently Exfoliates Skin With A Natural AHA/BHA Complex

Ursa Major's Fantastic Face Wash is a non-drying, 99.5 percent naturally-derived daily facial cleanser that exfoliates skin with a combination of natural AHAs and BHAs. Additionally, the wash contains aloe, white tea, lemon, sugarcane, rice seed, and coconut-derived surfactants to hydrate the skin as it cleanses away unwanted dirt, oil, and debris. The ingredients in this formula also include antioxidants that contribute to healthier, more resilient skin, and they won't mess with your natural pH levels. As a huge bonus, this all-natural product is free of sulfates, parabens, and fragrances, and is also cruelty-free and vegan.


Best For Travel: Alcohol-Free Daily Exfoliating Pads Infused With AHAs And Soothing Cucumber

If you're always on-the-go or want an exfoliator that's quick and easy to use, try First Aid Beauty's Facial Radiance Pads. The pads are alcohol-, fragrance-, and paraben-free and are designed for sensitive skin types as they contain just the right amount of lactic and glycolic acids. These two AHAs expertly exfoliate and tone, ridding your face of dead skin and smoothing out its texture. Also, with the help of soothing cucumber, Indian gooseberry, and white tea, these pads tone and hydrate the skin so that it's left smooth, glowing, and prepped for makeup application.

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