Micro-Exfoliators Are Better for Sensitive Skin and the Environment–Here Are 8 to Try

Dermatologists explain why these gentle exfoliants might be your best option for a smooth complexion.


courtesy of manufacturers

Routine exfoliation is one of the best things you can do for your skin. It helps remove dead skin cells that create dull skin, and can even promote better absorption of the rest of your skincare products. That said, certain exfoliators can be irritating, particularly if you have sensitive skin. Cue “micro-exfoliators,” which physically polish skin using ultra-fine ingredients like volcanic ash or powdered seashells. 

“Micro-exfoliators are designed to accomplish the same goal of exfoliation, but [they] use a more gentle process,” explains Nava Greenfield, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “This kind of exfoliation is helpful for sensitive skin, which may not be a good candidate for harsher forms of exfoliation.”

Onyeka Obioha-Lolagne, MD, board-certified dermatologist, agrees. She notes that tiny, fine exfoliating scrubs are less inflammatory compared to physical exfoliators with larger particles. These larger pieces can be jagged and overly aggressive when used on delicate skin, leading to small tears, redness, and irritation. 

You might be wondering, “Well, can’t I just use a physical exfoliator with larger, softer beads?” Unfortunately, these plastic pieces found in some skincare products are bad for both our plumbing and the Earth. While the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 banned these plastic microbeads, you might still find them in products manufactured abroad. If sustainability is important to you, it’s best to seek out exfoliators that use natural ingredients and dissolve upon application. 

Want to give microexfoliation a try? We’ve rounded up eight of the best microfoliant products out there. 

Best Micro-Exfoliants

01 of 08

Versed Day Maker Microcrystal Exfoliator

best-microexfoliator-Versed Day Maker Microcrystal Exfoliator

This budget-friendly exfoliator is often sold out, so if you see one on the shelves at your local Target snatch it up! The formula features superfine, biodegradable microcrystalline that gently buffs away dead skin cells for instantly smoother skin. Oh, and the lemongrass scent is *chef's kiss*. 

02 of 08

Kiehl's Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion

best-microexfoliator-Kiehl's Since Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion

Micronized seashells are the hero in this supremely gentle gommage from Kiehl's. The formula also contains creamy shea butter to help soften and hydrate skin while willow herb lends its antimicrobial powers and soothes any redness or irritation. If you have dry hands, pair this with Kiehl's heavy-duty hand cream.

03 of 08

Youth to the People Resurfacing Energy Facial Dual-Action Microdermabrasion Facial

best-microexfoliator-Youth To The People Resurfacing Energy Facial Dual-Action Microdermabrasion Facial

For a triple-threat approach, try this microdermabrasion treatment from Youth to the People. It combines the exfoliating powers of sustainable micro-exfoliants (bamboo and diatomaceous earth) with active papain (papaya) and bromelain (pineapple) enzymes. A dash of caffeine helps boost radiance. The result is brighter skin and more even texture and tone.

04 of 08

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator

best-microexfoliator-Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, try this micro-exfoliator from derm-favorite brand Dermalogica. It utilizes powdered rice and microcrystalline cellulose to smooth skin while salicylic acid helps clear acne and prevents more bumps from popping up. Colloidal oatmeal calms and soothes irritated or sensitive skin.

05 of 08

Bliss Micro Magic Skin-Renewing Microdermabrasion Scrub

best-microexfoliator-Bliss Micro Magic Skin-Renewing Microdermabrasion Scrub

This is one of our favorite picks for a spa-worthy facial at home. It polishes away lingering dead skin cells and flaky bits with fine volcanic pumice. At the same time, aloe vera helps soothe skin and peppermint offers a refreshing zing. The formula also includes a roundup of skin-nourishing ingredients, including vitamin B5, jojoba seed oil, and chamomile and lavender extracts.

06 of 08

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Resurfacing Micro-Exfoliant

best-microexfoliator-Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Resurfacing Micro-Exfoliant

This gentle scrub from Juice Beauty utilizes grapeseed micro-particles to exfoliate, resurface, and refine. And true to the brand, it features a proprietary blend of antioxidant-rich fruit stem cells to help promote a glowing, youthful complexion.

07 of 08

Luzern Laboratories L'Essentials Micro-Exfoliant

best-microexfoliator-Luzern Laboratories L'Essentials Micro-Exfoliant

Feeling splurge-y? Add this micro-exfoliating powerhouse to your shopping cart. It boasts quite the lineup of ingredients: jojoba microspheres to exfoliate with zero irritation, jojoba seed oil to boost moisture and elasticity, and glacial water and vegetable glycerin to further soothe and moisturize. It also contains organic cucumber extract and alcohol-free witch hazel to tone and refine pores.

08 of 08

Soft Services Buffing Bar

best-microexfoliator-Soft Services Buffing Bar

Your body needs a little scrubby action every once in a while, too. This luxurious buffing barfrom Soft Services, which is one of our favorite keratosis treatments, combines shea butter, aloe vera, spirulina, and microcrystals to nourish, hydrate, and exfoliate from the neck down. The New Spice scent feels like a warm hug. 

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles