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These 11 Best Exfoliators for Dry Skin Will Have You Saying Hello Glow

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Not all exfoliators are created equal—especially if you have dry skin. But good news! It’s possible to achieve a soft, smooth radiance without redness and irritation. Select the right exfoliator for your dry skin, and you’ll be able to slough off dead cells without any harsh side effects and also soothe your skin in the process.

Before you begin to buff away at your complexion, it’s important to understand your options as you decide whether a physical exfoliator or a chemical exfoliator is the right choice for you. In short: Physical exfoliation typically incorporates sugar, microbeads, or salt to scrub away at the surface of the skin. Chemical exfoliation, on the other hand, employs powerful alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, or retinoids to gently break down dead skin cells. No scrubbing needed! While many products fall in either category, there’s also quite a few that employ both methods to treat your skin. To learn more, read everything you need to know about alpha and beta hydroxy acids.

But don’t worry just yet! We’re here to help make the process of choosing an exfoliator simple, so we reached out to board-certified dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson, M.D., to help us categorize the following beloved options for clearing away imperfections. These gentle-yet-effective formulas use key ingredients to both exfoliate and nourish your skin in the process. Pair this with our tips on how to properly exfoliate your face, and you’ll be on your way to smoother skin!

About the Expert: 

Deanne Mraz Robinson, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist with cosmetic fellowship training. Her professional medical advice has been in publications including Women's Health and Allure.

1. MURAD AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

Type: Chemical and Physical Exfoliator

MURAD AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

Achieve a super-soft complexion (even if you have dry skin!) with this exfoliator, which uses a blend of glycolic acid and lactic acid to slough off dull, dry skin without scrubbing. “This product is also a physical exfoliant,” Dr. Robinson says. “It contains gentle jojoba beads instead of grainy, rough particles as the physical exfoliant.”

2. JUICE BEAUTY Prebiotix™ Instant Flash Facial

Type: Chemical and Physical Exfoliator

JUICE BEAUTY Prebiotix™ Instant Flash Facial

Made with organic ingredients and eco-friendly, sustainable packaging, this product will make you and your complexion feel good. It has glycolic acid, which is a great exfoliating ingredient for dry skin “because it attracts water, working synergistically with other hydrating products in your skincare routine,” says Dr. Robinson.

3. DR. BRANDT SKINCARE Microdermabrasion Age Defying Exfoliator

Type: Chemical and Physical Exfoliator

DR. BRANDT SKINCARE Microdermabrasion Age Defying Exfoliator

Part physical exfoliator, part chemical exfoliator, this dual-action scrub combines gentle acids and micro crystals to buff away dull skin and dead cells, while lactic acid clears out impurities and aloe vera and chamomile soothe, hydrate, and nourish even the most sensitive of skin. ”Lactic acid is a good ingredient for dry and sensitive skin,” Dr. Robinson says. “It gently exfoliates, while also softens and brightens.”

4. SKIN&CO ROMA Truffle Therapy Face Gommage

Type: Physical Exfoliator

SKIN&CO ROMA Truffle Therapy Face Gommage

This gentle-yet-effective facial scrub makes imperfections (like blackheads, breakouts, and, of course, patches of dry skin) disappear (fun fact: the word gommage means “erase” in French!) without stripping your complexion. Even more gentle than glycolic and lactic acids are citric acids—which this product contains—that work on the uppermost layer of the skin. The formula also contains truffle extract to help maintain skin’s moisture levels, while apricot oil buffs away at dead cells on the surface. 

5. TULA SKINCARE So Polished Exfoliating Sugar Scrub

Type: Physical Exfoliator

TULA SKINCARE So Polished Exfoliating Sugar Scrub

You’ll love this cruelty-free, probiotic-packed scrub made with sugar particles to help buff away excess oil and dead cells without stripping or irritating your dry skin. “Hands down, one of my favorites now,” one Ipster praised. “I didn’t expect how great this item was going to be. I’m already on my second tube and had bought other kinds as well.” For more face scrub recommendations, check out our top picks!

6. GENERATION SKIN Ultra Violet Brightening Purple Clay Mask

Type: Chemical Exfoliator

GENERATION SKIN Ultra Violet Brightening Purple Clay Mask

This exfoliating mask is loaded with Davidson plum, a super fruit that works as a natural alpha-hydroxy acid, to brighten, exfoliate, and rejuvenate—plus vitamin E to moisturize and protect dry, sensitive skin. The result? A luminous complexion. “I used this for the first time last night and I LOVED IT!! My face was so broken out and miserable yesterday, and today it’s like new,” raved one Ipster.

7. PURLISSE BEAUTY Blue Lotus Seed Mud Mask + Exfoliant

Type: Chemical Exfoliator

PURLISSE BEAUTY Blue Lotus Seed Mud Mask + Exfoliant

Luminous glow in a tube? Yes, please. This exfoliating, nourishing mask contains a combination of blue lotus, bamboo, ginger, mushroom extract, and white tea to help draw out your skin’s impurities, leaving you with a smoother complexion. Say hello to baby-soft skin!

“This and the Generation Skin product are both masks,” Dr. Robinson notes. “They are gently exfoliating but more so clarifying.” Sounds like a win-win to us. For more, check out these 10 best exfoliating face masks according to Glam Bag reviews.

8. FIRST AID BEAUTY Facial Radiance Pads

Type: Chemical Exfoliator

Although these vegan and cruelty-free pads contain super-efficient exfoliants (glycolic acid and lactic acid, anyone?), they’re also gentle enough to use on a daily basis. Simply sweep one across your face to gently buff away at your skin’s surface and reveal the radiance underneath. Bonus: This product contains no artificial fragrance, an ingredient that Dr. Robinson says can irritate sensitive skin.

9. SUNDAY RILEY A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum

Type: Chemical Exfoliator

SUNDAY RILEY A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum

“Retinoids work by increasing the frequency at which we turnover skin cells,” Dr. Robinson explains. This lotion-like serum will target not only dry patches but also fine lines and large pores. Its effectiveness can be summarized in this one Ipster review: “Made my skin feel amazing.”

10. ELIZABETH MOTT Vitamin C Face Scrub

Type: Physical Exfoliator

ELIZABETH MOTT Vitamin C Face Scrub

Give your skin the glow-up it deserves. This warming face scrub gently buffs away dead skin cells, buildup, and excess oil to smooth your skin. “As a general guideline, I recommend someone with dry skin using an exfoliator once or twice per week,” Dr. Robinson says. “Of course, this depends on what other exfoliating ingredients are in your routine—like a retinol or a glycolic acid cleanser.”

11. OUAI Scalp & Body Scrub

Type: Physical Exfoliator

OUAI Scalp & Body Scrub

Dry skin isn’t just found on the face. To slough off dullness wherever it appears, try a sugar scrub like this. Dr. Robinson also recommends applying it with a pair of exfoliating gloves to help with the buffing action. As for the scalp, “try a scalp massager with a scrub,” she says. Not convinced? Here’s why exfoliating your scalp should be part of your hair care routine

For more options to add into your routine, check out our best body scrubs and best scalp scrubs.

The secret to radiant skin all comes down to finding the right exfoliator—and deluxe samples are an effortless way to give new products a go. Take our Beauty Quiz now to join in on the IPSY Glam Bag fun. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
Gerilyn Manago
Gerilyn Manago
Gerilyn is a freelance writer with more than nine years of editorial and social media experience in lifestyle and beauty. Her background includes Allure, Men’s Health, and PEOPLE. Currently, she oversees content for four Napa Valley wine brands.
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Article Last Updated July 24, 2023 12:00 AM