This list of Best Exfoliants encompasses what you will see on our individual lists for Best AHA Exfoliants, Best BHA Exfoliants, and Best Scrubs. The idea was to put all of our recommended exfoliants in one place for those who want to see the entire list. Generally speaking, a well formulated exfoliant should:
- Make skin smoother and eliminate dry, rough patches
- Increase skin cell turnover rate
- Allow other skin-care products to work better
- Help fade signs of sun damage, including wrinkles
Why is exfoliation so essential to healthy skin? Skin naturally sheds billions of skin cells each day. When this natural shedding slows or stops due to sun damage, dry skin, oily skin, genetics, or different skin disorders, the results are unmistakable: dull, dry, or flaky skin; clogged pores; blemishes; white bumps; and uneven skin tone.
Using an exfoliant steps in to help put everything in balance again. When you gently get rid of built-up skin cells you can undo clogged pores, stop breakouts, smooth out wrinkles, even make dry skin become a thing of the past!
Scrubs are certainly an option for exfoliating your skin, but they have limitations you don't have to worry about with an AHA or BHA exfoliant. Scrubs only deal with the very top, superficial layer of skin while most of the unhealthy, built-up skin cells are beyond the reach of a scrub.
What is most problematic is that many scrubs have a rough, coarse, uneven texture that can cause skin damage by tearing into the skin as it abrades away the surface, causing tiny tears that damage the skin's barrier. Scrubs often cause more problems than they could possibly solve, but the ones on this list are the best options for those who prefer a scrub, whether for daily or occasional use.
On balance, the Paula's Choice Research Team recommends considering an AHA or BHA exfoliant before a scrub, and use of a washcloth with your cleanser is a great way to get the same effect a scrub provides but for a lot less money! Be sure to use a fresh, clean washcloth each time.