We round up our selection of the very best chemical and physical exfoliators for a glowing visage
All products featured on Vogue are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Regular exfoliation is key to bringing out the best in our skin. It aids us in removing layers of dead cells from our epidermis and brightens up our complexion by exposing new, fresh skin onto the world. Especially during winter, when our skin is exposed to a harsher, colder climate that might increase dehydration, scrubbing away the dead cells will both help in complexion but also in product absorption.
Whether you opt for mechanical ones — those that have grainy particles or texture that physically scrub off the dead skin — or prefer their chemical cousins — the ones that use skincare-safe acids to dissolve the glue-like bonds between skin cells on the surface of your skin creating a gentle peeling action — exfoliating is a must in every skincare routine. Below you can find our selection of the very best exfoliators to add to your beauty cupboard.
The best physical exfoliators to shop now:
Le Gommage Exfoliating Gel
This gentle scrub combines jojoba microbeads with extracts of violet micro-algae, which are known for their oxygenating properties that stimulate cellular respiration, and marine spring water, renowned for its remineralising benefits.
Deep Cleansing Scrub
Fragrance-free and recommended for all skin types, Wood Copenhagen’s Deep Cleansing Scrub utilises glycolic acid and multi-sized micrograins of environmentally friendly, natural volcanic rhyolite finely ground to deep-cleanse the skin.
The Replenishing Oil Exfoliator
Described as a sensorial experience, this facial scrub is meant to refine, detox and replenish. Riding on the scrubbing capabilities of sugar crystals and sea salt it’s meant to gently smooth away the impurities of dull and dry skin. Sea kelp fibres work like a cleansing cloth and La Mer’s iconic Miracle Broth oil replenishes and re-nourishes the skin.
With not only an iconic name, Mantle’s The Ex is made to scrub away everything we don’t want anymore in our face — ex-partner included. As their whole line of skincare products, it harnesses the power of CBD with fruit enzymes and AHA + PHA acids for a triple-acting exfoliating, renewing and nourishing formula.
Green Tea Exfoliator
Detoxifying and purifying Face Stockholm’s Green Tea Exfoliator combines the properties of tea with aloe and papaya fruit extract in a careful blend that delivers nutrients to the skin while micro-sized beads scrub away dead cells and reveal a brighter complexion.
Petitgrain Face Scrub
With orange essential oil, petitgrain essential oil, sea salt and sweet almond oil this scrub is both exfoliating and astringent, which allows it to counteract impurities in the skin, aid with clogged pores and help with dry spots. While the sea salt removes the dead cell, the almond oil soothes and calms and the petitgrain balances, refreshes and works as an astringent agent.
Deeply Purifying Birch Scrub
A very gentle scrub that is formulated with particles from the bark of the birch tree, a Scandinavian symbol of skincare and wellness. It’s oil-free formula is perfect for oily and combination type skin and allows for a fresh, smooth finish.
Gentle Buffing Gelee
Featured in our Eat It Up editorial, Omorovizca’s Gentle Buffing Gelee looks so good one could eat it, but truth is it shines when it’s used to scrub away dead cells and aid in texture improvement and pore cleansing. It’s formula is so gentle that it can be used everyday.
The best chemical exfoliators to shop now:
Estelle & Thild
Super BioAdvanced 10% PHA Dual-Action Exfoliant
This treatment combines acids, enzymes and microcrystals for an accelerated cellular renewal that aids in evening out skin tone while primes the skin in order for it to be ready for the rest of one’s skincare and makeup routine.
Juicy Mandarin Sorbet Enzyme Exfoliator
While it does sound like a delicious smoothie, this enzyme exfoliator is a cocktail for the skin thanks to its combination of enzymes from exotic mandarin, tamarind fruit, pineapple and crushed mineral powder. While it has a gentle massage feel to the skin, the star in the drink are the enzymes that stimulate skin renewal and allow for a glowing complexion.
Dr Barbara Sturm
Cult-favourite Dr Barbara Sturm got another home run with this two-in-one powder based enzyme cleanser that combines a mix of Vitamin C and enzymes. When combined with water, the ultra fine powder turns into a foam that deeply yet gently cleans and exfoliates to remove dry and dead skin in order to reveal a glowing complexion.
Dewtopia 20% Acid Night Treatment
Scandi icon Ole Henriksen designed this exfoliator as a night treatment that combines 20% of an AHA and PHA acid blend with aloe, birch sap and cotton water that is meant to sit on the skin overnight in order to reveal a smoother, renewed, brighter skin.
2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Easily known as one of the most popular chemical exfoliators out there, Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is a never-miss that doubles as a great first introduction to chemical and liquid exfoliators for those who wish to expand their skincare horizons.
AHA / BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
Doubling as a cleanser, Murad’s Exfoliating Cleanser rides on the chemical properties of AHA and BHA to smooth out the layers of the skin while cleansing and prepping for the following steps to come both in skincare and makeup.
Via Cult Beauty
Formulated as an instant mask, Verso’s Enzyme Peel takes AHA and BHA acids in a gel form that is meant to treat the skin and allow for a brighter and smoother complexion. In addition to the acids it contains enzymes from pomegranate that increase the effect of the formulation.
How often should I exfoliate?
Martin Lyne, founder of Scandi skincare brand Woods Copenhagen says that slow and steady wins the race. “No more than once a week with a scrub if your skin is on the dry side, or twice a week if skin is oily and acne prone”.
What happens if I over exfoliate?
“If you are too diligent with your favourite scrub or peel, you might end up disrupting your skin barrier, leaving it vulnerable and sensitive to external stressors. Instead of a bright, buffed and smooth complexion, you may experience a burning sensation, redness and irritation,” adds Lyne.
Is it really necessary to exfoliate?
Yes, it’s the key for a smooth and renewed skin. Gentle exfoliation will actually help your hydrating creams and other skincare products work better by increasing cell turnover and better absorption.