11 skin-smoothing exfoliants for a soft, glowy complexion
Kick dullness to the curb
By Team BEAUTYcrew
June 03 2022
We don’t like to pick favourites, but we must admit we’re pretty obsessed with exfoliants. Because it’s basically impossible to have great skin without a good exfoliant. Big call, we know, but we’ve got facts to back it up.
When we think ‘bad skin’ (no skin is bad, though, just for the record), we think dull and lacklustre, maybe congested with acne, or perhaps dry, flaky and downright sad. All not ideal, but all fixable with a worthy exfoliant.
An exfoliant’s job is to remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin and encourage cell turnover so you’re left with a clearer, smoother and brighter complexion. If you leave all that debris – which builds up every day – just sitting there, it can get in the way of your skin functioning properly and your products sinking in and doing their thing (AKA getting you glowing).
But given the overwhelming number of exfoliants on the market (FYI, they come in a lot of variants from physical to chemical, and many don’t outright call themselves exfoliants), it’s no wonder you’re yet to meet ‘The One’.
Thankfully, we’ve been lucky enough to find some pretty amazing options ourselves, which we think you’ll love, too...
Koéna Gentle Exfoliator
If you thought that having sensitive skin, eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis meant you had to steer clear of physical exfoliators – think again. This gentle scrub utilises a combination of patented Resta-Plex® (a complex comprising of four effective hydrating ingredients) and biodegradable Florabeads® to buff away dead skin cells, dirt and impurities lying on the surface of the skin.
$34.75 at Koéna
WISHFUL Yo Detox Face and Body Enzyme Scrub
This highly-rated, 3-in-1 gentle and enzyme-infused face and body scrub (hold up, give us a chance to catch our breath) is finally available down under. Suitable for all skin types and boasting a formula that utilises both hydroxy acids and physical exfoliators to help renew the complexion, we’re talking seriously smooth skin results. The combination of oil-absorbing charcoal, AHA, BHAs, pineapple and papaya enzymes slough away dead skin cells and refine the texture and tone of skin, while astringent witch hazel helps to tighten pores and reduce the appearance of breakouts.
$32 at Sephora
Skinstitut Glycolic Scrub 14%
If acne, blackheads, congestion and/or pigmentation are among your top concerns, this exfoliant will help sort your skin out in no time. Glycolic acid is an excellent resurfacing anti-ageing ingredient, and you’ll find 14 per cent of it in this chemical and physical exfoliant hybrid; jojoba beads take care of the manual exfoliation, in case you were wondering. The addition of antibacterial tea tree oil also helps clear breakouts and keep them from reappearing.
$49 at Adore Beauty
Frank Body Original Face Scrub
Freshly ground robusta coffee (the hero ingredient the brand is known and loved for) is in charge of smoothing and refining your skin texture with this guy. Then it’s over to white clay to detoxify skin, and a team of nourishing oils (coconut, rosehip, sweet almond and grapeseed) to ensure your complexion is topped up in the hydration department post-exfoliation, too. Our tip? Use it in the morning; its fresh coffee scent will perk you right up.
$25 at MECCA
QV Face Exfoliating Polish
If your skin type runs sensitive and you're worried that a physical exfoliant will trigger major inflammation, take solace in the fact that this skin-smoothing and soothing face polish will change your mind. With super fine, gentle beads in the formula to take care of the exfoliating part, it's also packed with vitamin B3 which helps to reduce skin sensitivity. Oh, and there’s also moisturising safflower oil and complexion-calming vitamin E for a little something extra in the soothing arena.
$10.50 at Chemist Warehouse
Neutrogena Deep Clean Purifying Cooling Gel Scrub
We love it when a pharmacy product can compete with the best of them, and this bargain-status salicylic acid scrub will definitely leave you pleasantly surprised and keen to restock. Not only is it oil-free and cooling on skin, making it the perfect pick for shine-prone skin types, but it also contains tiny, environmentally-friendly natural exfoliating beads to polish the face while a salicylic and glycolic acid duo delivers a gentle chemical exfoliation. Pretty damn impressive, huh?
$10.49 at Chemist Warehouse
Sand & Sky Exfoliating Treatment
You've probably seen this cult-status cool kid floating round Instagram, but we promise you it's good for more than just a selfie. Bamboo and macadamia slough away that skin-dulling layer of dead cells while clever Australian finger limes work to speed up cell turnover, AHA style. And of course we can’t forget the brand's infamous ingredient, Australian pink clay, which chips in to soak up excess oil while the rest of the magic is happening.
$56.90 at Adore Beauty
ASAP Clear Complexion Gel
Tell stubborn pimples to watch their backs, because this chemical exfoliant is determined to leave no breakout behind. Using a mix of AHAs (glycolic acid and lactic acid) and BHA salicylic acid, the gel formula unclogs pores, gently removes dead skin, washes away acne-causing bacteria, and decongests skin all in one go. On top of that, liquorice, bilberry and calendula extracts are there to help the skin stay calm throughout the process, while also tackling those pesky issues that long-term acne can cause, like uneven skin tone and scarring.
$55 at Adore Beauty
Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Concerned with large pores, ageing, redness and blackheads? Reach for this lightweight leave-on exfoliant option. It’s enriched with two per cent salicylic acid, which we all know is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to a good exfoliation, and at that impressive concentration it's no surprise it works wonders in the brightening, purifying arenas. Not sold yet? Did we mention it's Paula’s Choice’s number one product worldwide? That's certainly saying something...
$42 at Paula's Choice
NIP+FAB Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads
Yep, these solution-soaked pads technically fall under 'exfoliant' too; we told you it was a versatile category. Exfoliating pads are basically the easiest, most effortless and yet effective way to clear your skin of dead skin cells, so they're an absolute time-saving blessing – these ones have 2.8 per cent glycolic acid to refine uneven texture, witch hazel to even out the skin tone, and hyaluronic acid to calm and hydrate. What you’re left with is silky smooth skin and a pretty covetable glow; and who wouldn’t want that?! P.S. Kylie Jenner is a big fan, too.
$34.99 at RY
ELEMIS Dynamic Resurfacing Pads
Another pack of exfoliating pads we rate? This top notch texture-resurfacing option. 'Baby-smooth' is the result they work toward, harnessing the powers of a patented tri-enzyme technology blend (as well as refreshing but non-irritating lactic acid) to get there. Smoothness and softness isn't all they aid, either; their radiance-revealing abilities are also impressive. They'll fight against dark spots and dullness, lifting away any dead skin cells getting in the way of your glow.
$90 at ELEMIS