10 Best Exfoliators for Sensitive Skin 2019

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Here at SELF, we know how tricky—and high-key scary—it can be to dabble with new skin-care products when you have sensitive skin. Avoiding skin flare-ups is essential, though that shouldn't scare you away from using exfoliants (which get a bad rap for causing redness and burning) completely.

“Both chemical and physical exfoliants can be used for those with sensitive skin, and moisturizing immediately afterwards can help with tolerability,” Shari Marchbein, M.D., assistant professor of clinical dermatology at NYU School of Medicine, tells SELF.

Exfoliators, both physical (think, scrubs and facial brushes) and chemical (typically alpha-hydroxy acids like glycolic or lactic acid and beta-hydroxy acids like salicylic acid) play a key role in helping to slough away dirt and dead skin cells, and resurface your skin. They also make it easier for your products to penetrate the surface of your skin more effectively. You can basically consider exfoliation the gateway to softer, brighter skin overall, though dermatologists suggest easing into it if you have easily reactive skin, especially for touch-and-go conditions like eczema or rosacea.

“Because people with sensitive skin are more prone to redness, burning, flaking, and irritation from these treatments, it’s important to use them less frequently and use lower strengths than someone with oily or combination skin may be able to use,” Dr. Marchbein says. “Over-exfoliating can result in red, flaky, irritated skin especially on the face.”

On the hunt for your next sensitive skin-friendly scrub or peel and not sure where to start? Read on for some of the most gentle and effective face exfoliators dermatologists swear by.


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