The Best Physical Exfoliators for Smooth, Glowing Skin

If your complexion can handle scrubs and powders, put these formulas on your radar.

close up smear of exfoliating gels
Photo: Getty Images

When we think of products that are essential to a well-rounded skin care routine, an exfoliator is certainly one of them. These resurfacing formulas instantly slough off dry skin, unclog pores, and leave your complexion silky smooth. What's more, a freshly exfoliated visage is a blank canvas for the products that follow, and this process can even maximize their effects.

Physical exfoliators come in the form of scrubs, powders, and even tools, and use particles to manually resurface your complexion. Due to their abrasive nature, they aren't for everyone. "If you are going to opt for a physical exfoliant, the best one for you will depend on the thickness and sensitivity of your skin," explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Maiman of Marmur Medical. "In general, people with oilier complexions tend to have thicker skin and can tolerate larger, more abrasive particles while those with drier, sensitive skin; they should use products with smaller granules," she continues. Regardless of your skin type, overuse of physical exfoliators can actually cause irritation, so it's best to use these powerful formulas just once or twice a week.

Top Picks

01 of 17


Buf Puf Gentle Facial Sponge

The Buf-Puf sponge is an oldie but a goodie and boasts over 10,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. This reusable sponge can be used with any of your favorite cleansers and is designed to gently buff away makeup, oils, and dry skin.

Shop Now: Buf Puf Gentle Facial Sponge, $4.66,

02 of 17


Aveeno Positively Radiant

There's nothing better than discovering a drugstore product that's effective and budget-friendly. We love this dermatologist-approved cleanser for its exfoliating, brightening formula that leaves skin soft and, well, positively radiant.

Shop Now: Aveeno Positively Radiant, $3.59,

03 of 17


SkinCeuticals Micro-Exfoliating Scrub

If you're looking for a mechanical exfoliator that's gentle enough for daily use, opt for this scrub from SkinCeuticals. Hydrated silica—a naturally occurring mineral—works to lift and remove dead cells while aloe leaf extract hydrates and soothes.

Shop Now: SkinCeuticals Micro-Exfoliating Scrub, $31,

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Révive Le Polish Micro-Surfacing Treatment

It's a facial in a bottle: This micro-surfacing treatment uses ultra-fine aluminum oxide crystals to instantly refine and polish the skin's surface. This transformative formula also contains nourishing ingredients like green tea and shea butter to protect and bolster your moisture barrier.

Shop Now: Révive Le Polish Micro-Surfacing Treatment, $125,

05 of 17


Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator

This powder cleanser is a smart and safe pick for those who suffer from sensitive skin. When mixed with water, the rice-based formula turns into a creamy paste that provides gentle exfoliation without the use of harsh grit or irritating micro-beads.

Shop Now: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator, $59,

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SheaMoisture African Black Soap Problem Skin Facial Wash & Scrub

A dynamic combination of African black soap and tamarind extract work together to clarify and exfoliate oily and acne-prone skin. As an added bonus, this formula also contains tea tree oil, which regulates oil production.

Shop Now: SheaMoisture African Black Soap Problem Skin Facial Wash & Scrub, $8.38,

07 of 17


Fresh Sugar Face Exfoliator

This brown sugar and wild strawberry scrub is guaranteed to turn any skin care routine into a spa-like experience. Beyond its sweet citrus scent, the product leaves skin velvety smooth. Use it as an exfoliator or nourishing mask.

Shop Now: Fresh Sugar Face Exfoliator, from $25,

08 of 17


Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub

Since overuse of physical exfoliators can cause irritation, Dr. Rachel Maiman of Marmur Medical always recommends choosing a scrub that's not too abrasive or overly drying. "I really like the Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub, which is safe for everyday use," she says. "It cleanses and exfoliates simultaneously and contains skin-nourishing compounds like vitamin B5 and vitamin E."

Shop Now: Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub, $9.99,

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Dermaflash Luxe

Darmaflash Luxe kit

Dermaflash is a battery-operated tool that uses a vibrating blade to very gently scrape away dead cells. This form of exfoliation is called dermaplaning; it is highly effective in resurfacing the skin, as well as removing facial hair. For the best results, and to avoid any irritation, use the Dermaflash just once per week.

Shop Now: Dermaflash Luxe, $199,

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La Roche-Posay

La Roche-Posay Ultra-Fine Face Scrub

This gentle facial scrub was designed to revive dull-looking skin without irritating sensitive complexions. Ultra-fine pumice particles and a super creamy formula deliver light exfoliation without stripping moisture.

Shop Now: La Roche-Posay Ultra-Fine Face Scrub, 17.99,

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Kate Somerville

Kate Somerville Intensive Pore Exfoliating Treatment

In just two minutes, this dual-action treatment unclogs pores, evens skin tone, and brightens your complexion. Plus, its powerful blend of physical and plant-based exfoliators have anti-aging properties that help to soften fine lines and wrinkles.

Shop Now: Kate Somerville Intensive Pore Exfoliating Treatment, $88,

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Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Scrub

For those looking to keep pesky pimples at bay, this oil-free acne wash is your new go-to. Together, salicylic acid and a scrub-based delivery system deeply penetrate congested pores and cleanse away dirt, oil, and bacteria. As an added bonus, this acne wash boasts a fresh grapefruit scent that leaves you feeling reinvigorated after every use.

Shop Now: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Scrub, $6.67,

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Clarins Fresh Scrub

A plant-based product that leaves skin fresh, smooth, and hydrated? Sign us up. This scrub contains natural exfoliating micro-beads made from wood cellulose; they gently buff away dead skin and encourage cell turnover. The cream-gel formula soothes skin and locks in moisture.

Shop Now: Clarins Fresh Scrub, $27,

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L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Facial Cleanser

This scrub from L'Oreal contains micro-pearls and glycolic acid that exfoliate and reverse the signs of aging, too.

Shop Now: L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Facial Cleanser, $13.99,

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Dr. Barbara Sturm

Dr. Barbara Sturm Facial Scrub

Kick your skin care routine up a notch with this luxe scrub designed to buff away dry skin, encourage blood flow, and reduce the appearance of fine lines. Powerhouse ingredients like vitamin A and purslane—an herb known for its anti-inflammatory properties—will leave your complexion feeling soft, soothed, and radiant.

Shop Now: Dr. Barbara Sturm Facial Scrub, $70,

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Lancer Skincare

Lancer Skincare The Method: Polish

By harnessing the power of both plant-based and physical exfoliators, this scrub boasts serious results. Its formula is packed with ingredients like quartz particles and pomegranate enzymes that resurface the skin and promote cellular turnover. Since this scrub is stronger than most, it's best reserved for combination or mature skin types.

Shop Now: Lancer Skincare The Method: Polish, $75,

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Chanel Sublimage Les Grain de Vanille Face Scrub

Treat yourself to this ultra-luxe and radiance-revealing scrub formulated with vanilla and jojoba seeds. These two purifying and exfoliating ingredients will leave your skin softer, smoother, and more luminous after every use. To get the most of this scrub, apply it two to three times per week to your face and neck.

Shop Now: Chanel Sublimage Les Grain de Vanille Face Scrub, $140,

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