Best Chemical Exfoliants for Sensitive Skin: What is the best exfoliant for sensitive skin?

Published Categorized as Beauty Tips

Sensitive skin is a term that is used quite frequently when discussing skin care. This is used in beauty magazines, skincare and cosmetic labels. Nobody hears these two words more than dermatologists.

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Be that as it may, what precisely does it mean to have delicate skin from a dermatologist’s perspective?

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What do dermatologists recommend for exfoliating?

Most dermatologists have a lot to say about sensitive skin, starting with the fact that it is not a clinical term. This is because everyone’s skin can be sensitive from time to time, and there are many factors that can contribute to this, which we will discuss in just a moment.

Some may feel that they need to enhance their skincare regimen, but that is actually the worst thing you can do, according to dermatologists. Also, try not to wash your face too much. In fact, your abrasive skincare products can irritate and make your sensitive skin worse.

The Ordinary Peeling Solution 30ml AHA 30% + BHA 2%

The seriousness of skin sensitivity can fluctuate from individual to individual, as well as from situation to situation. These situations can cause distressed, dry, flaky patches, imperfections, and redness. All of these factors can have a huge impact on an individual’s state of mind and confidence.

This is when exfoliating may come into play.

First, however, you have to understand what causes sensitive skin before you begin to formulate a skincare routine. Sensitive skin is brought about by nerve endings in the top layer of skin getting irritated. This happens when your skin’s common everyday functions have been interrupted by some form of trigger.

Why do I have sensitive skin?

Basic reasons for sensitive skin can include:

  • Exposure to the sun
  • Air contamination
  • Constant temperature fluctuation
  • Hard water
  • Lack of rest
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
  • Chemical irritants
  • Dry skin
  • Dehydration

With all of these potential causes, you can see why having the right skincare products is especially important for those with sensitive skin. Stick to an everyday skincare schedule that is reasonable for your skin type, detailed particularly for delicate skin.

Also, search for items with barely any extras. Wash your face each night, moisturize two times every day, and wear sunblock. Make sure to choose makeup for delicate skin.

Most skin types will profit from delicate peeling a 2-3 times per week. If your skin is sensitive or inclined to irritation, most dermatologists would prescribe reducing that to once every week or 10 days.

Chemical exfoliants offer another coarseness-free option. However, they’re usually formulated with high levels of alcohol which will dry out the skin and can be very brutal on sensitive dermal tissue.

That said, making sure you have the proper skincare products is vital. Even though you may have to exfoliate less, you still need a good chemical exfoliant in your kit. Let’s take a look at some of the best options available.

Best Chemical Exfoliant for Sensitive Skin

There are a lot of products that go into your skincare and cosmetic routine.

When you have sensitive skin, choosing the right product becomes even more important.

  1. The Ordinary Peeling Solution
  2. SECRET KEY Lemon Sparkling Purifying Exfoliator
  3. Neogen Dermalogy Bio-Peel
  4. DRMTLGY Natural Non-Abrasive Exfoliator
  5. InstaNatural Glycolic Facial Peel
  6. Paula’s Choice RESIST Exfoliant Lotion
  7. e.l.f. Cosmetics Gentle Peeling Exfoliant

Our Top Pick

The Ordinary Peeling Solution

The Ordinary Peeling Solution 30ml AHA 30% + BHA 2%
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If you are looking for a quick and effective peel, then look no further. This solution is applied to a freshly washed face and only takes 10 minutes to set. Its low viscosity formula makes it easy to apply and doesn’t feel heavy.

With this product, though, you will need to up your sunblock usage. However, many people cannot get enough of this peel. They love the feel and the quick-acting results. You will see a decrease in acne scars, as well as a brighter glow to your skin.

(Speaking of acne scars, check out our post on best foundation for acne scars.)



  1. Improves blemish prevention
  2. Lightweight feel
  3. Improves skin softness and brightness


  1. Heightens risk of sun damage
  2. Has been known to dry skin out

Best Korean Chemical Exfoliator

SECRET KEY Lemon Sparkling Purifying Exfoliator

SECRET KEY Lemon Sparkling Peeling Gel 4.05 fl.0z.(120ml) - Vitamin C Lemon Water and Sparkling Water Skin Purifying Exfoliater, Removes Dead Cells, Sebum Clear Pore Care, Soothing & Refreshing
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This exfoliant is designed to be gentle and effective. Formulated with citric acid, which also provides this product with a beautiful yet gentle lemon scent, it helps remove all those unwanted dead skin cells. It is also full of vitamin C, which helps nourish and brighten your skin.

The use of carbonated water helps your skin feel good while cleansing your pores. Quick results will have your skin feeling fresh and glowing like it hasn’t in years.



  1. One wash offers visible results
  2. Gentle exfoliant that doesn’t strip excessively
  3. Nice, fragrant, lemony scent


  1. Can be a bit messy
  2. Being damp or oily can make it hard to use

Best Exfoliator for Sensitive Skin with Rosacea

Neogen Dermalogy Bio-Peel

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These exfoliating pads are constructed to give you the most thorough exfoliation possible. The chemical peel that is applied by the three-layer cotton gauze helps get rid of dead skin and so much more.

Because it is full of antioxidants and firming agents, you will end up with healthy, brilliant-looking skin. Its antioxidants work to eliminate inflammation, and the formula is designed to be gentle on sensitive skin.

This is perfect for those suffering from rosacea. Easy to use and with an amazing fragrance, most customers agree this is one of the best exfoliants out there today.



  • Not harsh on your skin
  • Crafted with high-quality ingredients
  • Nice fragrance


  • Small pads
  • Results take a while to reveal themselves

Best Chemical Exfoliant for Blackheads

DRMTLGY Natural Non-Abrasive Exfoliator

DRMTLGY Microdermabrasion Facial Scrub and Face Exfoliator. Natural Non-Abrasive Face Exfoliator Improves Acne Scars, Blackheads, Pore Size, and Skin Texture. 2 oz
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This is a nonirritating face exfoliator, which means that there are no crystalline particles included in the formula. Even without these, you get profound skin renewal. Being that it is a nonabrasive skincare product, you may think it is going to dry out your skin. That is where you’d be wrong. This exfoliant does its job and still leaves your skin supple and radiant.

It is also known to improve the skin’s surface by evacuating the clogged pores and reducing the pore size. This product contains glycolic acid, which tenderly flushes out the pores and leaves the skin gleaming and wonderful.



  1. Helps get rid of blackheads
  2. Rids skin of free radicals for better skin health
  3. Oil-free product


  1. Have to moisturize for extra protection
  2. You will need to use sunblock after use

Best Chemical Exfoliant for Sensitive Acne-Prone Skin

InstaNatural Glycolic Facial Peel

Glycolic Acid 30% AHA Chemical Peel - Blackhead, Dark Spot & Acne Scar Removal & Treatment for Face - AHA Peeling Solution, Professional at Home Facial Exfoliant - Lactic Acid & Vitamin C - 1 oz
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This product is designed to exfoliate multiple layers of dead skin and remove it with ease; it will leave your skin looking younger and fresher. The removal of dirt from the skin, as well as the pores, will help with those awkward and annoying breakouts.

Due to the use of glycolic acid and sunflower oil, the formula penetrates deeper and is able to remove dirt and oils. This is why it not only fights breakouts but the signs of aging, as well.



  1. Helps reduce oil and acne flare-ups
  2. Helps with discoloration and wrinkles
  3. Increases the rate of dead skin removal


  1. Thin formula makes the application more difficult
  2. Tingling and slight inflammation may occur

Best Chemical Exfoliant for Dry Sensitive Skin

Paula’s Choice RESIST Exfoliant Lotion

Paulas Choice--SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant--Facial Exfoliant for Blackheads, Enlarged Pores, Wrinkles & Fine Lines, 4 oz Bottle
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This is a daily use exfoliant that people with sensitive skin can use. It is especially helpful for those suffering from dry skin. This nonabrasive formula is a leave-on lotion that is gentle and yet effective.

There are a lot of products that make you question their marketing, but with Paula’s Choice, you won’t.

The ingredients are carefully formulated to ensure that it lives up to what it says it can do.



  1. Skin is left soft and radiant
  2. Fragrance-free
  3. Nonabrasive


  1. It is a lotion exfoliant
  2. Possible allergic reactions

Best Drugstore Exfoliant for Sensitive Skin

e.l.f. Cosmetics Gentle Peeling Exfoliant

e.l.f. Gentle Peeling Exfoliant Enriched Face Cleanser, 3.04 Fl Oz
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This product is a gentle peeling exfoliant that helps keep your skin healthy and vibrant. The use of natural extracts from several fragrant and beneficial fruits and herbs is well worth the investment.

Free from harsh chemicals and crafted with eco-conscious formulas, e.l.f. has produced one of the best drugstore options. Plus, it doesn’t stop working even after you’ve washed it from your face.

Its formula allows your skin to be even, which then makes your makeup application much smoother.



  1. Fast results
  2. Leaves skin clean, smooth, and vibrant
  3. Make-up application is made smoother


  1. Formula is thin and could get messy
  2. Texture may not be great for everyone

Best Chemical Exfoliant for Sensitive Skin: A Recap

These are some of the best chemical exfoliants for sensitive skin available today. Each of our choices has its strengths, but only our top pick is designed for the most versatile use. The Ordinary Peeling Solution maybe a touch harsher than some of our other sources. However, when you look at the results you get from using it, a little extra tingle seems a small price to pay.

When you are done with your application and enjoy your soft radiant skin, you will know that you have made the right decision.

Then again, as we said before, you can’t go wrong with any of the options we have laid out for you.

Check out related skincare posts on our blog

Have you ever tried a chemical exfoliant for your skin type?

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  1. It really doesn’t hurt to do skincare using products for sensitive skin, you’re right! And we’re glad to hear your favorite is in our list!

  2. I don’t have a sensitive skin by any means, but just working under the assumption that I have a sensitive skin and only using gentle products has been a complete game changer for me. I particularly avoid cleansers with active ingredients and occasionally use chemical peels like the ones you have recommended. The one, by the ordinary is one of my absolute favourites.


  3. We’re happy to hear you found some products that piqued your interest from this post, Deb!

  4. At times, my skin can be really sensitive. I love all these great ideas for sensitive skin because I am not sure if and when my skin will react negatively to a product. Now, I have some great ideas to look into.

  5. Thanks so much, Sonia! And thank you for sharing with us your skin type and experience!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, Sophie! Good to know what ingredients work for you and what don’t, so perhaps others with sensitive skin can take note as well.

  7. Such an interesting read. I have sensitive skin that I always described as “weird” because most things would flare it up and yet there would be the occasional drug store brand that didn’t!


  8. I have extremely sensitive skin – I can’t use anything with a citrus base, no lavender, hardly any essential oils, no mineral SPFs, no glycolic – the list goes on. I can’t really exfoliate more than once a week and my skin is always too sensitive to wear makeup the day after I exfoliate, it’s so irritating. I like the sound of the Paula’s Choice one, I don’t find SA to be the most effective exfoliant but I do find it irritates my skin less than some others x


  9. Good to know and I was excited to see the Paula’s Choice product! I use that!


  10. These are all such great recommendations! Thanks so much for sharing these products. I will have to check them out!

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