Best Drugstore Facial Exfoliator and Scrub

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For people with sensitive skin, exfoliating helps clear clogged pores that are the primary cause of breakouts. It also accelerates the fading out of acne-caused scars by stimulating the production of collagen. If you are searching for the best drugstore facial exfoliator, I’ve got you covered.

In this article, I will share my top 9 chemical and physical facial exfoliators and help you learn the difference between the two. 

Physical Exfoliation Vs. Chemical Exfoliation

best drugstore facial exfoliator

Your skin naturally repairs and replaces itself constantly. For this reason, you can end up having layer after layer of dead skin on your face and the body at large. Exfoliating is a skincare routine aimed at removing these dead cells using an exfoliant. The exfoliant can be either physical or chemical. There are two ways of using a physical exfoliant:

  • You can use a gel, a scrub, or a liquid with granules or sugar particles to rub off the dead skin cells
  • Using skin care tools such as a brush, a sponge, or a towel to displace the dead skin on your face

Chemical exfoliation is achieved through the use of enzymes, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), and beta hydroxy acids.

Top 9 Drugstore Facial Exfoliators

For people with sensitive skin, adding another product to their skincare range is scary. This is particularly true for exfoliants, which are known to cause redness and burning. In this post, we point you out to nine of the best drugstore facial exfoliators.

 1. Paula’s Choice–SKIN PERFECTING 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Paula's Choice SKIN PERFECTING 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant with Glycolic Acid Chamomile & Green Tea, 3.3 Ounce Pump Leave-On Gentle Exfoliator

exfoliator from Paula’s Choice, the Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant is a lightweight exfoliant that promises to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and brown spots.

It contains glycolic acid that evens out the skin tone, improves your skin’s texture, and reduces visible signs of sun damage. Also, It contains green tea extract and chamomile plant extract, both of which have antioxidant properties.

Another key ingredient is Aloe Vera extract, which has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, skin lightening, and healing properties. It is sulfate, paraben, and fragrance-free. The manufacturer puts out a disclaimer that you might experience a stinging sensation as you start using this exfoliant, but this is normal. 

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2. Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Exfoliating Daily Scrub

Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Exfoliating Daily Facial Scrub with Moisture-Rich Soy Extract, Jojoba & Castor Oils, Soap-Free, Hypoallergenic & Non-Comedogenic Face Cleanser, 5 Oz

From a dermatologist-recommended brand, this drugstore facial exfoliator is soap-free, oil-free, hypoallergenic, and non-comedogenic.

It is gentle enough for daily use, even on sensitive or acne-prone skin. Plus, it is formulated using naturally derived granules that will gently scrub away any impurities from your face.

The exfoliator also contains castor and jojoba oil, which are great for sensitive skin. Also, it infused with moisture-rich soy extract, which hydrates the skin even as you exfoliate. The product promises to improve your skin tone, texture, and clarity. This results in radiant and brighter skin.

It is definitely my favorite best drugstore facial exfoliator for those who prefer using a physical exfoliator.

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3.  Caudalie Deep Cleansing Exfoliator

Caudalie Deep Cleansing Exfoliator, 2.5 Ounce

Caudalie Deep Cleansing Exfoliator harnesses the power of natural ingredients such as natural corn beads to exfoliate and cleanse your skin. Its ingredients are expertly blended and whipped into a formula that clarifies your skin without leaving it overly dry, sensitive, or uncomfortably tight.

A refreshing blend of Grape Pulp and Menthol leaves your skin feeling smooth, soft, and moisturized. Its non-comedogenic formulation makes it ideal for all skin types but particularly for people with sensitive skin as it won’t clog the pores.

It is free of animal-derived ingredients, mineral oils, and parabens. The manufacturer recommends that you use this exfoliator twice a week. 

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4. Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant, 2.6 Fl Oz

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant is a superfine powder that becomes a textured paste once you mix with some water. All you need to do is to dispense the exfoliant on very wet hands and rub them together to form a creamy paste.

Gently apply the paste on your face in small circular motions. The granulated rice gently sloughs away dead skin while keeping your face for a smooth, radiant look. The exfoliant contains colloidal oatmeal that soothes the skin, salicylic acid that chemically exfoliates your face, and tea tree that targets oiliness.

The product is paraben-free, sulfate-free, synthetic fragrance-free, and phthalate-free. 

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5. Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser

Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Facial Cleanser, 6.7 fl. oz, Pack of 3


Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser is less abrasive compared to other exfoliators from the same brand. It contains alpha and beta hydroxy acids, which are known to reduce the appearance of pores visibly. This drugstore chemical facial exfoliator is one of my favorites for those who on a budget.

The manufacturer claims that with daily use, the pores on your face will be reduced by half in two weeks. They do this by penetrating deep into the pores and remove oil, dirt, and makeup that clogs and enlarges them.

It contains glycolic acid, which not only sloughs away dead skin cells but also improves your skin tone. This exfoliator is safe for daily use as it is non-comedogenic.

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6. Paula’s Choice-SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant

Paulas Choice--SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant--Facial Exfoliant for Blackheads, Enlarged Pores, Wrinkles & Fine Lines, 4 oz Bottle

Paula’s Choice brand has gained its reputation from making science-backed formulas that deliver, and this exfoliant is no exception. Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid exfoliant is a leave-on, meaning that you do not have to rinse it away.

It has a lightweight texture that will be absorbed deep in the skin, sloughing away dead cells for a renewed and radiant skin tone. Apart from having antioxidant properties, salicylic acid increases collagen production, so your skin feels healthier, firmer, and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.

This drugstore facial exfoliator is safe for daily use and is ideal for all skin types. 

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7. Alba Botanica Even Advanced Sea Algae Enzyme Scrub

Alba Botanica Even and Bright Enzyme Scrub, 4 oz. (Packaging May Vary)

Alba Botanica Alba Even Advanced Sea Algae Enzyme is a gentle, hypoallergenic facial scrub designed to eliminate dull, dead skin for a smooth, glowing complexion. Almond oil and cornmeal help rejuvenate your skin’s moisture, remove impurities, and refine the skin’s texture.

It is formulated with a blend of plant enzymes and exfoliants that invigorate and brighten your skin tone. The Aloe Vera is not only soothing, but it also delivers minerals and amino acids that are necessary for a vibrant complexion.

This is my favorite drugstore facial exfoliator for those who search for a “clean skincare brand”. The exfoliator contains zero phthalates, sulfates, and parabens.

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8. Proactiv Skin Smoothing Exfoliator

Proactiv+ Skin Smoothing Exfoliator, 6 Ounce (90 Day)

Proactiv Skin Smoothing Exfoliant is recommended as Step One of Proactiv+’s 3-Step cleansing system. Its tiny exfoliating beads work alongside glycolic acid to get rid of dead skin cells and unclog pores.

A key ingredient in this drugstore facial exfoliator is the prescription-quality benzoyl peroxide 2.5%, which gets rid of acne-causing bacteria. It contains emollients and humectants which help retain moisture.

This leaves your skin feeling hydrated and supple. Simply apply the product on damp skin, gently massage for 1 to 2 minutes, and rinse off. It should be used once or twice a week. 

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9. St. Ives Green Tea Blackhead Clearing Face Scrub

St. Ives Blackhead Clearing Face Scrub Green Tea 6 oz(Pack of 3)

Ives Green Tea Blackhead Clearing Face Scrub is a dermatologist-tested scrub that promises to clear blackheads, unclog pores, and reduce redness. It is made of 100% natural exfoliants that promote healthy and clear skin.

Green tea is known to have antioxidant properties that protect the skin from free radicals as well as soothe it. The exfoliator is non-comedogenic, paraben-free, and oil-free.

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The Ultimate Guide to Face Exfoliation

To prevent damaging your face while exfoliating, consider the following tips:

  • Choose an exfoliation method that befits your skin type – persons with sensitive skin might want to consider using mild chemical exfoliators as mechanical exfoliators might prove too irritating. If you have oily and thicker skin, mechanical exfoliation or using an exfoliator with stronger chemicals might work just fine. For people with darker skin tones, exfoliating aggressively may result in the development of dark spots. 
  • Be gentle – whether you are using a chemical or physical exfoliator, apply it gently, and spread it across your face using small circular motions. If you are using a sponge or a brush, use light strokes. Use warm water to rinse the product off. Never exfoliate your face if you are suffering from sunburns or if you have an open wound. 
  • Consider other skincare products’ formulations – skin care products containing benzoyl peroxide or retinol or some prescription creams may increase your skin’s sensitivity. Using an exfoliator while using such products worsens the situation. 

How to exfoliate your face?

Whether using a chemical or physical exfoliator, start by washing your face using water or a non-drying cleanser. 

If you are using a physical exfoliator, pour out the recommended amount of the product on your hand and start applying it on your face. Start with the center of your forehead and spread the product out towards the temples in small, circular motions. Scrub the nose downwards, then, from the bridge to the tip.

Use stronger upward circular motions to rub the product in on the edges of your nose. Follow this up with gentle circular motions as you spread it out across your cheeks. Avoid the eye area. Massage the product on your face for as long as the manufacturer recommends.

This is normally from 30 seconds to a minute. Rinse the product off using warm (not hot) water and gently pat your face dry with a clean towel. 

Chemical exfoliants may either be liquid or a gel-like substance. If it’s in liquid form, use a moistened pad or cloth to apply it all over your face and neck. Let the product sit for a few minutes so that the skin fully absorbs it. Move on to the next step on your skincare routine, which may be applying cream or serum.  

5 Mistakes You Should Avoid When Exfoliating Your Face

Dermatologists insist that exfoliating is an effective way of shedding cells and reveal fresh, healthy skin. It follows that one of the most common mistakes is not doing it at all. When doing it, you must follow certain rules to ensure you achieve the best results without causing your face any harm.

1. Over-exfoliating

This is one of the most common mistakes. Although the exfoliation frequency depends on your skin type, it may be begging for a break if you start experiencing redness, irritation, or inflamed skin. Over-exfoliating may cause your skin to lose healthy cells and natural oils, thus leading to premature aging.

2. Exfoliating using the wrong product

If this is the case with your skincare products, you might need to experiment quite a bit before you find an exfoliator that’s perfect for your skin. If you are not over-exfoliating, but your skin is irritated, flaky, swollen, or red, you could be using the wrong product or application technique.

3. Dry exfoliation

You use the product only, a brush, or a sponge; you should never exfoliate your face while it is dry. Doing this does more harm than good to your skin. Always douse your face with water before you go in with the exfoliator.

4. Not moisturizing afterward

It gets rid of the outer layer of the skin. While this is helpful, it leaves it vulnerable to environmental damage such as sun damage and exposure to free radicals. Moisturizing after exfoliating keeps the new skin cells hydrated and supple. Once you’ve moisturized, follow it up with a sunscreen.

5. Irritation

These are the times you will need to refrain from exfoliating. For example, you should not exfoliate if your face has a breakout or if you are experiencing some form of skin irritation.

Doing so only exacerbates the problem and could result in pain. Also, avoid waxing, a mask, or peel treatments immediately after exfoliating. These may cause your skin to become overly sensitive.

Bottom Line

Exfoliating is the only way to avoid dull skin. People with sensitive skin find it hard to exfoliate as they might not which product would be the best. Use the mentioned products along with the exfoliating guide while avoiding the mentioned mistakes for the best results. 

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