Ways to Exfoliate Sensitive Skin

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Take exfoliation, for example. You know you gotta do it, but if you have sensitive skin, that ain’t so easy. Your skin turns red when you look at it. It screams in pain when you wash it.

How can you go the extra mile and get those dead cells off without traumatising your skin even more?!

I hear ya, girlfriend. And I’m here to help. Exfoliating sensitive skin is hard but doable. Here are your three best options:

  • 1. Best Exfoliant For Mildly Sensitive Skin: Lactic Acid
  • 2. Best Exfoliant Sensitive And Acne-Prone Skin: Salicylic Acid
  • 3. Best Exfoliant For Super Sensitive Skin: Washcloth

1. Best Exfoliant For Mildly Sensitive Skin: Lactic Acid

If your skin can take exfoliating acids, go with lactic acid. It’s an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHAs) that dissolves the “glue” that holds skin cells together and hydrates skin to boot. Out of all the AHAs, it’s the gentlest.

The only problem? It’s hard to find an exfoliant or serum with just lactic acid. Usually, it tags along with his other AHAs friends, like glycolic acid. You could use those too, but you may find they irritate your skin.

FYI, just because lactic acid is gentle, it doesn’t mean you should abuse it. Once or twice a week is enough. Your skin can’t take more exfoliation than that.

Best picks:

  • The Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum (£7.99): available at Cult Beauty and Feel Unique
  • The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% (£5.50): available at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique

2. Best Exfoliant Sensitive And Acne-Prone Skin: Salicylic Acid

Cursed with both sensitive skin and acne (cos, you know, bad things never come alone)?

Then your best bet is salicylic acid. It’s a superexfoliant that gets inside the pores and removes all the crap that clogs them up and makes you breakout. It also has anti-inflammatory properties so it can soothe your sensitive skin too.

When you’re dealing with sensitive skin, less is always more. Use small doses (no more than 2%, but 1% is better) once or twice a week.

Best picks:

  • Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief 1% BHA Lotion Exfoliant ($27.00): available at Feel Unique and Paula’s Choice
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% Bha Liquid ($29.00): available at Cult Beauty, Paula’s Choice, and SpaceNK
  • The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid (£9.99): Available at Cult Beauty, Feel Unique, Look Fantastic, and Sephora

3. Best Exfoliant For Super Sensitive Skin: Washcloth

When all else fails, try a washcloth. It’s by far the gentlest option there is. So gentle, even most people with sensitive skin can use it daily. But if you find your sensitive skin can’t take even that, cut back to once or twice a week.

How do you exfoliate your sensitive skin? Share your tips and fave products in the comments below.

Read more on: skin, exfoliate


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