7 Best Natural & Organic Face Scrubs + Skin Exfoliators 2020
Our Black Friday/Cyber Monday offer ends in Use Coupon: ZLBLACK25 for 25% OFF

7 Best Natural & Organic Face Scrubs + Skin Exfoliators

If you buy through external links, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more.

best natural exfoliator
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:
BEST FOR OILY SKIN, ORGANIC ZELEN Life Exfoliator
BEST FOR COMBINATION SKIN Caudalie Deep Cleansing Exfoliator

 

The best way to keep your skin young and healthy, or to restore its youthful appearance, is to adopt good skincare habits. Proper cleansing, moisturizing, and daily sunscreen use are of the utmost importance. However, exfoliators are a set of often-overlooked products.

Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the top layer of your skin. This process happens naturally but is not perfect, and dead skin cells can buildup on the surface.

Even worse, this process slows as we age and can inhibit cell turnover—the process whereby dead cells are broken down, removed, and then replaced. Exfoliating can help to remove dead skin cells and contribute to increased cell turnover while helping to unclog your pores.[1]

Now that you know why you need to exfoliate, you are probably wondering how to choose the best natural exfoliator for you.

Quick summary

bb2-table__imageZELEN Life Exfoliator
  • Gentle for all skin types thanks to fine sugar powder
  • Non-comedogenic jojoba oil unclogs pores and regulates sebum
  • Sunflower oil soothes and hydrates skin
Check It Out
bb2-table__imageCaudalie Deep Cleansing Exfoliator
  • Creamy texture and rounded corn beads for gentle exfoliation
  • Grape pulp offers moisturizing benefits
  • Relaxing minty aroma
Check on Amazon
bb2-table__imageELEMIS Superfood Blackcurrant Jelly Exfoliator
  • Soft on sensitive skin
  • Loaded with antioxidant superfoods
  • Suitable for vegans
Check on Amazon
bb2-table__imageMario Badescu Botanical Exfoliating Scrub
  • Powerful formula, de-clogs and smoothes skin
  • Helps boost collagen
  • Deep moisturizing properties
Check on Amazon
bb2-table__imageL'Occitane Radiance Face Scrub
  • Exfoliates and can be used as a mask
  • Can help against breakouts
  • Only need a small amount for full effects
Check on Amazon
bb2-table__imageBaxter of California Exfoliating Facial Scrub for Men
  • Helps to prevent razor burns and ingrown hairs
  • Easy to use and wash off
  • Useful for men with facial hair
Check on Amazon
bb2-table__imageELEMIS Gentle Rose Exfoliator Smoothing Skin Polish
  • Dissolving jojoba beads to avoid over exfoliation
  • Soothing rose oil and cucumber
  • Encourages collagen formation
Check on Amazon

Here is what you need to know before you buy:

Before you buy: 6 Things to consider when purchasing a natural exfoliator

Before you search for the best exfoliator for your skin, there are six things you need to know when making your choice.

1. There are two different methods of exfoliation

Exfoliators come in two broad categories:

  • Manual (physical) exfoliators use physical action to remove the dead cells from your skin. In most creams and cleansers, this physical action is provided by small particles such as seeds, powders, beads, or ground nutshells. There are also brushes, gloves, and sponges that can provide the necessary action to slough off dead skin. These work on surface layers and do not penetrate the deeper layers of the skin.
  • Chemical exfoliators use ingredients like enzymes or acids to dissolve the bonds between the dead cells to expedite their removal from your skin. Chemical exfoliators work on surface skin as well as deeper layers.

Which option is best is always determined by your skin. In general, it is best to start with mild exfoliators as they are softer on your skin. However, if you’ve tried a product and it isn’t working, make sure you are using it correctly—read the label and check out our How to Use a Natural Exfoliator Properly section in this article below.

If you’ve been using it correctly, try another product that works by different means or provides stronger exfoliating action. Check out the Types of Natural Exfoliators portion of this article further down for a review of different natural exfoliators, how they work, and the type of skin to which they are suited.

Everyone’s body responds differently, and you may need to experiment a bit to find what works for you and your skin. There are a few more considerations to take into account before we review the 7 best natural and organic exfoliants you can use on your face.

2. Assess the gentleness of the product

Depending on your skin type, you may need a very gentle exfoliator. There are a few ways to determine how mild each product is.

For manual exfoliators:

Read the label and check that the beads they use have been rounded. Rounded beads provide a gentler sloughing action to avoid microtears in your skin. Even if you have oily skin, which is more resilient and usually requires a more potent exfoliant, you want to look for rounded beads milled from things like corn or seeds.

Remember: round is best!

If you have sensitive skin, look for a product with dissolving beads, which help prevent over-exfoliation. Jojoba beads, silica, and oatmeal all generally provide a gentle scrub.

Finally, test the scrub on the back of your hand. It shouldn’t feel scratchy on your skin. Look at the particles in the scrub, are they nice rounded particles or are they jagged, irregular, skin-tearing particles?

For chemical exfoliators:

If you need a gentle solution, look for products that contain Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)—for more information on types of chemical exfoliators scroll down to the Types of Natural Exfoliators section. AHA’s, especially lactic acid, are mild on the skin. If you have tougher skin, try glycolic acid, which is a stronger AHA. Or try salicylic acid, an even stronger acid from the Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) family.[2]

3. Look for products that also have hydrating, soothing ingredients

All exfoliation is hard on the skin. Aside from following up on an exfoliation treatment with moisturizer and the rest of your skincare routine, you want to look for an exfoliator that has ingredients that hydrate and moisturize your skin.

The addition of oils and fruit or fruit extracts will have ingredients that help to moisturize as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Coconut oil, olive oil, and jojoba oil all help to moisturize,[3][4] while fruits high in vitamin C and honey can help hydrate and also mitigate the inflammation that can arise from exfoliating.[5]

4. Don’t believe that natural is always good

Some natural products can do damage to your skin. Manual exfoliators that use large, irregular-shaped particles that haven’t been rounded can damage your skin even if they are made from natural products like nutshells, seeds, or corn. You want to make sure the manufacturers use round particles.

Generally, if you stick with trustworthy brands and read labels, you can figure out which products will do damage, and which will help. That’s why we have only included trusted brands that we have researched in our list of the seven most effective natural exfoliators you can use to scrub your face.

5. Look for antioxidant properties

Free radicals are molecules that damage and kill cells. Using a product that fights free radicals, called antioxidants, will help to slow the progression of dead skin buildup[6], meaning you won’t need to exfoliate as often. Products with antioxidants will help keep your skin looking younger and brighter.

6. Avoid products with these ingredients

Avoid products that contain parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals, or synthetic colors or fragrances. Exfoliating already causes a bit of irritation to the skin that is necessary to remove the build of dead cells. The ingredients listed above will only add to the irritation and can cause damage.[7]

Parabens, sulfates, and petrochemicals are also known to be harmful to your skin. Some evidence suggests that they cause other disruptions in your body as well.

While most of these ingredients are regulated in North America and Europe, if you are ordering products from other countries online, you want to check the ingredient list carefully. Better yet, stick to the products we’ve reviewed here, and you can be confident they won’t contain any of these potentially harmful products.

Keeping these six factors in mind when shopping for an exfoliator for your face will help you find the best product while avoiding ones that could do your skin more harm than good.

So, without further ado, let’s dig into the 7 best natural face scrub and organic exfoliators you can use to cleanse your face in 2020.

The 7 best natural and organic facial scrubs in 2020

1. ZELEN Life Exfoliator

exfoliator zelen life

Best features:

  • Gentle exfoliating action from the sugar powder
  • Limits sebum production to reduce pore-clogging
  • Added ingredients to help moisturize and soothe skin
  • Jojoba oil helps promote skin healing

Best exfoliator for:

Those with oily skin. This ZELEN Life Exfoliator is gentle enough to be used on all skin types. However, the addition of jojoba oil and sunflower oil makes this exfoliator particularly great for those with excess sebum (the skins natural oil) and those who are in need of a natural exfoliator for acne.

Overview:

The sugar powder used in this natural exfoliator is fine enough that it won’t cause irritation even for sensitive skin, and it can penetrate to those hard to reach areas like the creases around your nose.

The addition of jojoba oil also brings a whole host of benefits for your skin. Jojoba oil is similar to the skin’s natural oils, which means it helps to limit sebum production in those who have oily skin, helping keep pores free from clogs.

This similarity to sebum also makes jojoba oil a great moisturizer for those with dry skin. Jojoba oil also works well to lock moisture into the skin. It achieves all of this without being greasy, a genuinely amazing ingredient.[8]

Sunflower oil hydrates your skin and absorbs quickly, trapping moisture inside skin cells. It helps to make skin less sensitive, balances the skin’s natural oils, and reduces redness and inflammation. Sunflower oil also helps to maintain and strengthen your skin’s natural barrier.[9]

ZELEN Life Exfoliator is also rich in beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A.[10] Vitamin A can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, making your skin tighter by promoting collagen growth. It has also been shown to help prevent future damage by revitalizing skin collagen formation.[11]

The good:

  • The use of a fine sugar powder makes this scrub gentle enough for almost anyone’s skin
  • Added ingredients help to soothe, smooth, and hydrate skin
  • Sunflower oil and jojoba oil help to heal and prevent damage
  • Non-greasy oils help to limit sebum production while giving you a smooth application that feels great on your skin and reduces pore-clogging

Things to think about:

  • Those with hypersensitive skin may see some irritation from the sugar particles

Bottom line:

This is a fantastic overall exfoliator that will not irritate most skin. It’s added ingredients not only help to heal the damage that is already present and unclog pores, but it can also prevent further damage and keep pores clear.

2. Caudalie Deep Cleansing Exfoliator

Caudalie Deep Cleansing Exfoliator

Best features:

  • “Whipped cream” texture goes on smooth and light
  • Uses rounded corn beads to gently slough away dead skin cells
  • Clears out pores
  • Nourishes skin
  • Contains mint and sweet orange scent to relax you while exfoliating

Best exfoliator for:

Those with combination skin should use this product. Its perfectly rounded corn beads slough away dead skin cells while being gentle on your living skin. This product is free of any harmful chemicals for pregnant women. Thus, it also makes an excellent exfoliator for expectant mothers.

Overview:

This powerful yet gentle exfoliator uses rounded corn beads to remove dead skin from the surface layer of the skin.

The grape pulp extract that is used helps to hydrate your skin as well. Grapes contain active compounds that are known as occlusives, which help to form a protective barrier that locks in moisture. Beeswax is another occlusive moisturize, but it also helps to reduce inflammation in your skin.[12]

Caudalie has added mint, which adds an element of aromatherapy, making this a great nighttime exfoliator that will help relax you before bed.

The list of ingredients also contains citric acid, which has some exfoliating properties but not at the concentrations in this formula. Its inclusion is likely for the pore shrinking effects, to help close pores once they have been cleansed from the exfoliation treatment.

The good:

  • The whipped cream texture and rounded corn beads are gentle on your skin while effectively removing dead skin.
  • The grape pulp helps to hydrate and soothe your skin while exfoliating
  • The minty scent is relaxing

Things to think about:

  • Those with sensitivities may find that the mint irritates their skin
  • Some users have reported that the rounded corn beads do not provide enough sloughing action for their tougher skin
  • The beads are quite grainy and may irritate those with extra sensitive skin

Bottom line:

Almost anybody can use this product as the rounded corn beads are relatively gentle on the skin. This mild to medium strength product is best for combination skin. However, for oily skin that requires stronger exfoliating, this product might not be enough to get the desired results.

Rub gently with this product as the beads do not dissolve. The addition of mint is excellent for some but can cause irritation in others.

3. ELEMIS Superfood Blackcurrant Jelly Exfoliator

ELEMIS Superfood Blackcurrant Jelly Exfoliator

Best features:

  • Blackcurrant particles help to remove dead cells from skin surface gently
  • Rich in antioxidants to fight damage from free radicals in the skin
  • Its thick jam-like consistency allows you to add water if you need to dilute the scrub for hypersensitive skin

Best exfoliator for:

This exfoliant is best for sensitive and hypersensitive skin as the large scrubbing particles are soft on the skin, and the product can be diluted to make it even more gentle.

Overview:

ELEMIS uses sustainably sourced blackcurrant particles from the juicing industry, which means less waste is put into the environment. These large particles are soft on your skin and remove the dead cells from the surface layer.

Its jam-like consistency can be diluted with water. This yields a milkier substance, making an even milder exfoliator for hypersensitive skin.

Hydrating compounds like almond oil and glycerin help to moisturize your skin and keep the moisture in while you exfoliate.[13] However, if you have allergies to almonds, this product may cause an allergic reaction, which often manifests as atopic dermatitis or eczema.

ELEMIS has also included a ton of antioxidants derived from natural sources, hence the superfood title in the name.

Superfoods in this product:

Blackcurrant provides the scrubbing particles but is also rich in antioxidants like vitamin C as well as essential fatty acids like omega-6 that help repair your skin cells.[14]

Nordic Bilberry (European blackberry) and black tea are also rich in antioxidants and help fight off free radicals, leading to healthier, more resilient skin.

The good:

  • The blackcurrant particles are sustainably sourced as a by-product from the juicing industry
  • Vegan friendly
  • Soft on sensitive skin, and can be diluted with water for use on hypersensitive skin
  • Packed with antioxidant-rich superfoods

Things to think about:

  • The color from the berries can come off on your clothes and washcloth, so use a dark cloth when wiping clean
  • Does not provide as much help with clogged pores
  • As with many superfood skincare products, there can be a “grassy” fragrance which some users did not care for (however, the dominant scent notes in this product are fruity)
  • The blackcurrant particles were too large for some users to get into the contours of their face, such as around the nose
  • Some users reported that they still felt a film left from the product even after thorough rinsing
  • Those who are allergic almonds may experience and allergic reaction when using this product

Bottom line:

This superfood exfoliator is great for sensitive skin and is jam-packed (pun intended) with superfoods rich in antioxidants. It also contains ingredients that help keep moisture locked in skin cells. If your trouble areas include the contours around your nose, you may have some trouble getting the larger beads into these tighter areas.

Be careful around clothes and linens as the dark color from the fruits can stain. If you are allergic to almonds, you may experience a reaction to this product.

4. Mario Badescu Botanical Exfoliating Scrub

Mario Badescu Botanical Exfoliating Scrub

Best features:

  • Exfoliates skin
  • Helps to prevent pore congestion
  • Evens out skin tone and texture

Best exfoliator for:

This scrub is best for those with combination or dry skin who want to keep their pores clear and need to even out their skin tone. While this product can help to keep your pores clear by removing potential impurities that can clog them, it does not remove contaminants from the pores themselves.

Thus, Mario Badescu does not recommend that those with active acne use this product.

Overview:

This product uses carefully milled Ecuadorian ivory palm seeds to create a powder of microbeads suspended in a gel that scrubs away dead skin cells. The particles’ size and roundedness are carefully controlled to ensure there are no jagged edges to cause micro-tears in your skin.

The inclusion of coconut and aloe vera extracts both help to trap moisture in your skin and provide anti-inflammatory properties to soothe your skin post-exfoliation.[15][16]

Mario Badescu has also added green tea, which functions as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. It also improves cell turnover and can help to prevent UV damage from the sun, and inhibit the growth of cancers. Aloe vera also helps the skin heal itself.[17]

Ginger contains several powerful antioxidants that function as anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic agents, helping prevent the formation of cancer cells. Ginger has also been shown to aid in the growth of new blood vessels that provide nutrients and moisture to deep layers of the skin.[18]

Finally, Gingko’s inclusion provides further anti-inflammatory properties and helps reinvigorate fibroblasts, promoting the production of healthy collagen, bringing a tighter, more even skin texture.[19]

The good:

  • Helps remove contaminants that can clog pores
  • Deeply moisturizes skin
  • Rejuvenates collagen growth
  • Powerful ingredients help to even out skin tone

Things to think about:

  • This product is not recommended for use by those who have active acne breakouts
  • Users with hypersensitive skin have reported adverse effects including a rash and redness
  • Some reported that the formula was oily and harder to wash off of their face than other products
  • Not strong enough for those with oily skin
  • Some user reported breakouts (however, this will vary for every person)

Bottom line:

The inclusion of several anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and hydrating compounds that promote healthy collagen production makes this scrub great for those who have combination or dry skin and for those who wish to even out there skin tone and texture.

The finely milled palm seeds provide a powerful, yet gentle sloughing action to remove dead cells and impurities that can clog pores. Mario Badescu recommends trying a spot test if you have sensitive skin (always good advice when trying a new product).

5. L’Occitane Radiance Face Scrub

L'Occitane Radiance Face Scrub

Best features:

  • Provides a gentle manual exfoliation using the ground fruit of Sponge Lufa
  • Provides chemical exfoliation using citrus paradisi (grapefruit/pomelo) fruit extract
  • Can help to eliminate pore-clogging bacteria and fungus

Best exfoliator for:

Because of the double action and the inclusion of grapefruit extract, which acts as an astringent and exfoliator, cleaning out pores, this product is terrific as a natural exfoliant for oily and acne prone skin types.

Overview:

The luffa cylindrica fruit powder helps to exfoliate skin manually. At the same time, the citrus paradisi extract can act as an exfoliator and antibacterial and anti-fungal agent if used a mask. This requires leaving the mask on for 10 minutes before washing it away.

The astringent, exfoliant and anti-microbial properties of the grapefruit helps to unclog pores and prevents future congestion. This not only helps to prevent acne that comes from excess sebum but also bacterial and fungal acne.[20]

L’Occitane has also included hydrolyzed rice protein, which helps your skin retain its natural moisture and can act as an anti-irritant and antibacterial agent, helping to soothe the skin and prevent breakouts.

The good:

  • Uses both manual and chemical exfoliation (when used as a mask)
  • Can help to prevent breakouts
  • Used as a scrub a little goes a long way

Things to think about:

  • This product does not contain many other ingredients to soothe skin post-exfoliation
  • Used as a mask, you need to apply a thick layer which makes this product less affordable than other brands on our lists

Bottom line:

If you have acne-prone skin, using this product as a combination mask and scrub can help to prevent future breakouts, but you want to ensure you follow its use with hydrating and soothing products that will help to keep your skin moist.

6. Baxter Of California Exfoliating Facial Scrub for Men

Baxter Of California Exfoliating Facial Scrub for Men

Best features:

  • Helps to prevent razor burn
  • Helps to remove and prevent ingrown hairs
  • Soft on sensitive skin
  • Contains several soothing agents to calm irritated skin

Best exfoliator for:

This scrub is best suited for men with facial hair who often experience razor burn and ingrown hairs, as it helps prevent the red bumpy patches associated with these conditions. It contains powerful scrubbing agents that may be too strong for some skin.

Overview:

The high-quality ground walnut shells and cornmeal provide intense exfoliating action, which works well for men with beards as it is strong enough to work when applied onto areas of the skin covered with facial hair.

When used as a pre-shave treatment, it will help to prevent ingrown hairs and lift up whiskers for shaving.

The inclusion of green tea, aloe vera, sunflower oil, and jojoba oil will provide the same soothing, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and sebum regulating properties previously described for other products that use these ingredients.

Baxter of California has also included honey, which brings a whole host of benefits. It can help regulate sebum production and seal in moisture by lowering the pH of the skin while the sugars also help form a barrier that locks in moisture. Honey also helps to soothe irritation with its anti-inflammatory agents. It can also promote skin healing, which helps to prevent razor burn. Honey also has strong antioxidant properties.[21][22]

WARNING: Those with severe nut and seed allergies should avoid this product.

This product contains walnut shells, lavender, and almond extract, which can cause reactions in a small portion of the population. If you are allergic to these ingredients, you can do a spot test to assess whether the concentrations are high enough to elicit a reaction on your skin.

The good:

  • Helps to prevent razor burn and ingrown hairs
  • Lifts up whiskers to provide a smoother more even shave
  • Washes off easily
  • Soothing agents also provide a pleasant smell
  • Works well for those with facial hair
  • Teens that have used this product report that it has worked well although it has not received a “safe for teens” rating

Things to think about:

  • May be too intense for sensitive skin and those without facial hair
  • Walnut shells, lavender oil, and almond oil are present in the product and may cause reactions in a small segment of users

Bottom line:

If you have a severe nut and seed allergy, try one of the other products. Otherwise, this product makes an excellent exfoliator for those with beards as the finely ground walnut shells and cornmeal can penetrate facial hair to exfoliate the skin beneath.

7. ELEMIS Gentle Rose Exfoliator Smoothing Skin Polish

ELEMIS Gentle Rose Exfoliator Smoothing Skin Polish

Best features:

  • Very gentle exfoliator using jojoba beads
  • Verified safe for teen use
  • Soothes skin
  • Provides antioxidant benefits

Best exfoliator for:

This is the only exfoliator that has been specifically tested and determined safe for teen use by skinsafeproducts.com. This product is suitable for those with sensitive skin.

Overview:

While this product has been deemed safe for teen use by skinsafeproducts.com,[23] teens need to be extra cautious when adding an exfoliator to their skincare routine. Teenage skin is different than adult skin and is generally more sensitive to topical products. They should always consult a medical professional before exfoliating. Teenagers with sensitive skin or other underlying skin conditions should not exfoliate.

The cucumber extracts that have been included in this formula are rich in vitamin C and A, which can help to soothe and heal the skin while boosting healthy collagen production. Cucumber extract can also help to regulate sebum production, which aids in the control of acne outbreaks. It also provides several antioxidant compounds. Cucumber is high in minerals, potassium, and sulfur, which help to hydrate your skin.[24]

Rosa Damascena (rose) flower oil provides more antioxidants and boosts collagen growth that improves the health of your skin and provides a soothing scent.[25] This oil is perfect for dry, mature, and aged skin, and its benefits have been shown to work when applied topically.[26]

The good:

  • Gentle enough to be used on most teenager’s skin
  • Can help promote healthy collagen formation
  • The rose oil and cucumber scents help to provide a soothing aroma
  • Jojoba beads dissolve preventing over-exfoliation and providing added benefit to the environment

Things to think about:

  • Rose oil can cause reactions in some skin types
  • May be too gentle for those who do not have sensitive skin

Bottom line:

ELEMIS has created one of the only exfoliating products that is gentle enough to be used by teenagers. Although teens should still exercise caution, as not all teen skin types are resilient enough to endure the rigors of the exfoliation process.

This product is gentle and soothing, making it great for those with sensitive skin. However, some skin might react to rose oil. You should try a spot test before applying the product to your entire face.


Enjoying this article? Get similar skincare content direct to your inbox! Subscribe to our exclusive newsletter and we will help you master your routine. Receive regular tips and tricks, how-to's, special offers and more...

Enter your email below:

How to use a natural exfoliator properly

How to use a natural exfoliator properly
The proper way to exfoliate your face will depend on the type of skin you have and how it reacts to the two different exfoliation methods. Below, we will cover how to use each method of exfoliation (mechanical versus chemical) based on your skin type.

How often you can exfoliate depends on your skin type

You are going to want to start slow and work your way up. If exfoliation is new for your skin, begin with a once per week application and slowly ramp it up over the following weeks. Exfoliation will help remove dead cells, but it can also be hard on the living cells. You don’t want to do unnecessary damage to your skin by exfoliating more than necessary.

If you have oily skin, you may need to work up to five times per week slowly. For normal or combination skin, two to three times per week should suffice, and for sensitive skin keep it to once or twice per week. Adjust as necessary if your skin reacts severely. Some redness is normal, excessive redness and irritation should be avoided as this is a sign of damage and inflammation.

Mechanical exfoliating basics

Using your fingers, take a quarter-sized dollop, gently massage the product onto your face in an upwards circular motion, avoiding the eye area. Do this for the length of time recommended on the label—usually[30] seconds to 1 minute. If you feel any roughness or irritation, discontinue scrubbing immediately. Then, gently wash the product away with warm water, gently pat dry, and apply your moisturizer.

Chemical exfoliating basics

Begin by washing your face with your daily cleanser. Our ZELEN Life Cleanser provides a deep clean using gentle natural ingredients, making it an excellent choice for any skin type.

If your product comes on a cloth or pad, apply this all over your face, avoiding the eye area. Let the product absorb into your skin for several minutes before proceeding with the rest of your daily skincare routine. Check the label for the specific amount of time recommended for the product you are using.

If your product does not come on a pre-moistened cloth or pad, use a cloth to gently apply it all over your face and, again be careful around the eyes.

A third variety comes in a peel form. These are applied all over the face leaving some space around the eyes. Then, after leaving the peel or mask on for the time recommended, gently remove the product using a cloth wet with warm water.

You always need to check your specific product’s label and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

For sensitive skin:

Harsh mechanical and chemical exfoliators can irritate your skin. You can use a warm, wet washcloth to very gently scrub your skin. If you are using a product with exfoliating particles, opt for softer varieties like jojoba beads or blackcurrant particles. For those using chemical exfoliators, opt for milder varieties (more on that below) and look for products with lower concentrations.

For oily skin:

Your skin is more resilient and can endure harsher treatments. You can use brushes or exfoliating sponges. You still want to be careful with the pressure you apply as scrubbing too hard can still lead to micro-tears that damage the skin’s natural barrier. After starting slow and testing both methods, you may even be able to use a manual process in the morning, followed by a chemical exfoliator at night.

For combination skin and those with no skin conditions:

You will have to experiment to find which method works best. You want to keep them on the milder side as harsh treatments will lead to damage and inflammation for the sensitive areas of your skin. For those more oily areas, you can try a spot treatment with mechanical or chemical exfoliants.

For those with acne, rosacea, or hypersensitive skin:

You may want to skip exfoliating your skin until you’ve had a chance to talk to your physician or dermatologist.

Why?

For those with cystic, chronic, or inflammatory acne, as well as those who have rosacea or hypersensitive skin, your skin is already inflamed. Exfoliation will bring additional irritation and inflammation, which could cause further damage, or at least lead to a worsening of your symptoms. Talk to your doctor for advice about including exfoliation in your skincare routine.

The chemical exfoliant BHA (more on BHA below) can be used to help treat some acne types, but this should only be done under the advice and supervision of a medical professional.

Types of natural exfoliators you can try

Types of natural exfoliators you can try

There are natural exfoliation products that fall into both the chemical and manual variety.

It may be surprising to some that there are chemical exfoliators that are natural. We are so used to hearing that word used to give a negative impression.

However, everything around you is made of chemicals; water is a chemical. There are helpful chemicals that sustain you, such as water, or ones that help exfoliate your skin like vitamin C (ascorbic acid). There are also harmful chemicals. What determines whether a chemical is helpful or harmful is how and where it is used.

It may also seem odd that exfoliating acids or chemical exfoliators can be gentler on the skin compared to mechanical varieties. Ultimately it comes down to what your skin is sensitive too. If your skin reacts to even the mildest scrubbing, then a natural chemical exfoliant may work better and vice versa.

Because you might have to explore and experiment, you want to be familiar with both varieties and some natural options from each category.

The two broad types of exfoliators:

Mechanical exfoliators work by literally forcing the dead skin cells off of your face. For some skin types, the physical action of scrubbing away dead skin cells can cause irritation and microtears, which damage your skin’s natural barrier—more on which type of exfoliator to use based on skin type below.

A chemical exfoliant on the other hand, does not require physical scrubbing and instead dissolves the “glue” that binds dead skin cells to your skin so that you can easily wash them away.

All of that being said, there are softer and harsher varieties in both mechanical and chemical exfoliators. While gentle may always sound better, some skin requires stronger action to get the desired results. Conversely, you might find that your skin is sensitive to any chemical exfoliant and that a mild physical exfoliant works better for you.

All of the products we reviewed above have a physical component but vary in the abrasive strength of the particles used to exfoliate. Remember that exfoliation, in general, is a harsh but necessary treatment for skin that has an accumulation of dead cells.

If you are new to exfoliating, start slow at once per week and then increase the frequency with which you exfoliate but never exceed three times per week unless you have oily skin, or you are directed to do so by your healthcare provider.

If you have oily skin, you may need to exfoliate up to five times per week, but you should still start slow. Regular exfoliating can also help unclog pores, which can be a common issue for those of us with oily skin.

Now let’s break those two broad categories down to see what types of natural exfoliators you can find in each and for which kind of skin they work best.

1. Natural manual exfoliators examples

Dry or sensitive skin (exfoliate once or twice per week):

A washcloth, facial sponge, glove, or brush used to scrub your face gently can exfoliate your skin. Do not scrub too hard as this can lead to small tears in your skin, which destroys the natural barrier leading to dry, flaky skin.

Use a face cream or serum that has soft beads made from oils like jojoba.

Oily skin (exfoliate up to five times per week):

Use a thinner product like a liquid or solution with more robust exfoliating particles such as walnut shells or seed particles.

Combination Skin (exfoliate two to three times per week):

You don’t want to go too light here or too heavy, a serum with gentler beads such as the jojoba wax beads, or blackcurrant particles will provide the necessary sloughing action without being too harsh on the drier areas of your skin.

If you have no underlying skin conditions, sometimes referred to as “normal” skin, even though most people do not fall into this category, you can usually use any of these methods to find what is most helpful for you.

IMPORTANT:

You never want to scrub too hard, no matter the type of skin you have or the product you are using. Hard scrubbing will cause microtears that damage the skin’s natural barrier.

Chemical exfoliants are usually one of two types of acids known as alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA). AHAs are generally milder, while BHA is a bit stronger. There are varying strengths of AHA’s while there is one commonly used BHA: salicylic acid.

2. Natural chemical exfoliators examples

Dry or Sensitive Skin (exfoliate once or twice per week):

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) found in lemons and other citrus fruits is a mild chemical exfoliant, but it also helps to lock moisture into your skin, destroys damaging free radicals, and promotes collagen growth.[27] This mild acid can do wonders for your skin due to its chemical properties.

Lactic acid can be found in sour milk products like yogurt, kefir, sour cream, and of course, milk that has gone sour. It is another mild chemical exfoliant that can work well on dry, sensitive skin without being too harsh. Lactic acid also helps to moisturize your skin while it exfoliates.

Keep the concentration to 10% or less, products can be found that go as high as 70%, but this is a concentration best left to use by a dermatologist.[28][29]

Oily skin (exfoliate up to five times per week):

Salicylic acid, which is found in willow bark, sweet birch, and wintergreen, is oil-soluble, allowing it to clear out oil-clogged pores taking any other contaminants with it. This product works exceptionally well for those who are prone to acne and can effectively treat blackheads, whiteheads, and zits.

Combination Skin (exfoliate two to three times per week):

You should start with a milder chemical exfoliant like lactic acid, and if you find that isn’t strong enough, try a more potent AHA like glycolic acid, which can be found in sugar cane, beets, milk, and citrus fruits. Move up to the BHA salicylic acid if these aren’t cutting it.

If you have no underlying conditions, it is still best to start with something mild and move up the scale if you are not getting the desired results.

IMPORTANT:

AHA’s and BHA’s can help reduce the damage from UVA and UVB radiation received in sunlight. However, they can also temporarily make the skin more susceptible to further damage immediately after application.[30]

You want to use these products at night before bed so that your skin can recover before you head out into the sun and as always use sunscreen and reapply it throughout the day.

Again, what works for each individual is highly personal, and milder products may cause your skin to react while something harsher may not, even though you have sensitive skin. Experiment to find what works for you and start slow to prevent damage.

The benefits of exfoliating

If you are searching for an exfoliator, you likely already know that you need to exfoliate your skin, but you may not be aware of all the amazing benefits that exfoliation brings. We thought it would be good to cover those here so that you can be a well-informed consumer!

Exfoliation provides several benefits to your skin:

Improved cell turnover helps the fibroblasts, cells deep in your skin, produce collagen and elastin more effectively, increasing the elasticity and firmness of your skin.[31]

Collagen is a group of several different proteins that provide strength and structure to our skin. Elastin is the protein that is responsible for the elastic nature of our skin. This protein can stretch and then return to its original shape, allowing your skin to remain more youthful.[31]

Exfoliating can also immediately even out rough textures by removing dead cells, which can appear as flakey or ashy patches on your skin. Removing dead skin will also improve brightness as their buildup leads to dull, lifeless looking skin.

Dead skin cells can also lead to clogged pores, a road to a host of other skin issues.

Finally, removing that dead layer of skin allows your other skincare products to penetrate the skin more effectively, boosting their effectiveness.[32]

How we chose these products

To ensure we selected the best natural exfoliators on the market, we carried out thorough research and testing on the many options available to you.

Many factors go into making a high-quality exfoliator. These top-7 choices all met with our strict criteria for a natural, gentle, yet powerful exfoliator that will not harm your skin.

They are free of parabens, sulfates, and petrochemicals. Each product we’ve listed and reviewed here also uses a manual exfoliator that contains rounded particles, which helps prevent damage to your skin’s barrier.

While these top-7 exfoliators are gentle, they are also powerful and can provide the level of exfoliation that is appropriate for your skin. No matter your skin type or condition, there is a product that can suit your needs on this list.

Whether you have hypersensitive skin, tough oily skin, or a beard, we made sure to include a product that could meet your needs—we even found one of the best exfoliators for expectant mothers and one for teens.

With a list this thorough, you can be sure that you can find an exfoliator that provides your skin with a deep exfoliation that helps to increase cell turnover and removes the debris that clogs your pores and can lead to breakouts and inflammation.

We assessed the quality of the product by looking at the natural ingredients used in its formula and the benefits these ingredients provide. Each product not only needed to be gentle on your skin while providing a high-quality exfoliation, but it had to have high concentrations of vitamins, antioxidants, and hydrating compounds to help soothe the skin and prevent future damage.

Each of them has an adequate amount of clinically tested ingredients, which give noticeable results leading to healthier, more resilient skin.

We also took care to only include reputable brands, so that you know you are purchasing a premium product at a reasonable price.

Finally, we used the reviews of others who use these products. Every product has its positives and its negatives. By combining all of that information in one easy to access place, you get a firsthand account of how these products actually work on your face, what users liked and disliked, and what to look out for when you buy. That way you can make an informed purchase.

Now you can spend less time and money on the hunt for an exfoliator and more time enjoying healthier, glowing skin!

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

We have covered many of the frequently asked questions about exfoliating your skin above. We looked at how to exfoliate your skin, how different exfoliators work, and how often you should exfoliate. However, there are a few other commonly asked questions which we will cover below.

Remaining questions:

Can I exfoliate too often?

Yes, remember that while exfoliating can help to remove dead cells from the surface of your skin, it can also irritate the remaining living cells. Thus, your skin needs time to recover, how much time will depend on your skin. If you experience prolonged or extreme redness in the skin, irritation, or inflammation. You may be exfoliating too often or using too harsh of a product.

Stop exfoliating immediately if you experience any of these symptoms and talk to your skin care professional for advice.

How long will it take to see the results?

You should see some benefits from exfoliating after a single treatment. However, most of the benefits can take six to eight weeks to become visible. It will take some time, and repeated applications for the deeper healing benefits to become apparent. Don’t become impatient and try to rush this process by exfoliating too often; your skin needs time to heal between applications.

Can I exfoliate incorrectly?

Yes, as we talked about, using a method that is too harsh for your skin can cause irritation and damage. However, using a product that is not strong enough may mean you see little to no results after six to eight weeks. If this is the case, try a product that has more potent mechanical or chemical ingredients.

Men often have thicker skin, meaning they can scrub slightly harder or use products that have sturdier beads to assist in exfoliation.

Should I exfoliate in the morning or night?

Nighttime is usually best, as it allows your skin to recover overnight, reducing the chance that you will receive increased UV radiation damage. Exfoliating also opens pores for a short while after the treatment.

For those that wear makeup, this can lead to clogged pores when makeup finds its way into them. Exfoliating at night will also help to remove makeup and help your skin absorb the other products you apply at night.

Exfoliating in the morning can give your skin a brighter appearance throughout the day. However, you must be very diligent about protecting your skin from the light, especially if using a product that contains any AHAs.

Can I use more than one exfoliating product?

You can, but this increases the chances of damage and irritation. Only do so if necessary. Always start with one and use it for several weeks before adding in another product. You can mix mechanical and chemical exfoliators. If you do, try using the mechanical in the morning and the chemical at night.

Can I exfoliate other parts of my skin?

Yes, absolutely! Remember, the skin on different parts of your body are not the same, so, you may need different products. Places like arms and legs can usually stand up to harsher treatments but experiment to find what works.

The lips are an often-missed body part. If you have flakey, dry lips, use a gentle exfoliation method meant for lips or try some Vaseline on a soft toothbrush and work it gently over the lips.

Can I exfoliate before a spray tan?

Yes, doing so will help achieve a more even tone without patches that are darker or lighter. Uneven spots appear because the dead skin cells will absorb the spray tan differently than live skin. Exfoliating will help to even things out.

Do this a few hours before as the pores will open up, and you want to give them time to close. You could also use a cool shower or ice facial to help close the pores.

Can exfoliators expire?

Exfoliators last longer than many other skincare products and usually remain viable for two years. Leaving the container open can let contaminants in. Always close the jar once you have what you need for the treatment.

Conclusion

Exfoliating is an essential addition to most people’s skincare routines. However, it can be hard on the skin. If you have conditions like acne, rosacea, or hypersensitive skin, you need to consult your healthcare provider. If you are unsure about whether exfoliating is right for your skin, consult a professional.

You will also want to start slow with a once per week, mild treatment until you see how your skin reacts and then go from there. Never scrub your skin hard or with excessively rough products as this will cause microtears and damage your skin’s defenses.

When done correctly, giving your skin time to recover between exfoliating session, you will see a brighter, more even, and youthful complexion. Exfoliating promotes cell turnover and helps your skin produce elastin and collagen, which give your skin structure and elasticity. You should see some benefits immediately, while the deeper healing can take a few weeks to show.

Choose your product based on your skin type, and don’t forget to share what worked with us, as well as your friends and family.

Comment below or on social media and tell us which exfoliator you are excited to try out first!

Did you find this article useful? Enter your email to receive subscriber-only skincare advice to help you perfect your routine and achieve radiant skin. Get tips and tricks, how to's and exclusive offers direct to your inbox...

Enter your email below:


References

  1. Miranda A. Farage et al., “Characteristics of the Aging Skin,” Advances in Wound Care 2, no. 1 (February 2013): 5, https://doi.org/10.1089/wound.2011.0356.
  2. “How To Exfoliate Face: A Dermatologist’s Guide,” accessed May 12, 2020, https://www.womenshealthmag.com/beauty/a19775624/how-to-exfoliate-face/?utm_campaign=womheal-2020-tradetracker&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_source=tradetracker&utm_term=137180.
  3. Syed Haris Omar, “Oleuropein in Olive and Its Pharmacological Effects,” Scientia Pharmaceutica 78, no. 2 (2010): 133–54, https://doi.org/10.3797/scipharm.0912-18.
  4. EBC. Lima et al., “Cocos Nucifera (L.) (Arecaceae): A Phytochemical and Pharmacological Review,” Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research 48, no. 11 (November 2015): 953–64, https://doi.org/10.1590/1414-431×20154773.
  5. Naiara S. Barbosa and Amer N. Kalaaji, “CAM Use in Dermatology. Is There a Potential Role for Honey, Green Tea, and Vitamin C?,” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 20, no. 1 (February 1, 2014): 11–15, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2013.11.003.
  6. Debbie M. Palmer and Jennifer Silverman Kitchin, “Oxidative Damage, Skin Aging, Antioxidants and a Novel Antioxidant Rating System,” Journal of Drugs in Dermatology: JDD 9, no. 1 (January 2010): 11–15.
  7. Jacqueline Kilikita, “Are Chemicals In Skincare Products Really That Bad? We Asked The Experts,” accessed May 12, 2020, https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/chemicals-in-skincare-products-parabens-sulphates.
  8. G K Sandha and V K Swami, “JOJOBA OIL AS AN ORGANIC, SHELF STABLE STANDARD OIL-PHASE BASE FOR COSMETIC INDUSTRY,” 2009, 7.
  9. Simon G. Danby et al., “Effect of Olive and Sunflower Seed Oil on the Adult Skin Barrier: Implications for Neonatal Skin Care,” Pediatric Dermatology 30, no. 1 (2013): 42–50, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1525-1470.2012.01865.x.
  10. Reza Kafi et al., “Improvement of Naturally Aged Skin With Vitamin A (Retinol),” Archives of Dermatology 143, no. 5 (May 1, 2007): 606–12, https://doi.org/10.1001/archderm.143.5.606.
  11. Leena Chularojanamontri et al., “Moisturizers for Acne,” The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 7, no. 5 (May 2014): 36–44.
  12. Leena Chularojanamontri et al., “Moisturizers for Acne,” The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 7, no. 5 (May 2014): 36–44.
  13. Meagen M. McCusker and Jane M. Grant-Kels, “Healing Fats of the Skin: The Structural and Immunologic Roles of the Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids,” Clinics in Dermatology 28, no. 4 (August 2010): 440–51, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clindermatol.2010.03.020.
  14. EBC. Lima et al., “Cocos Nucifera (L.) (Arecaceae): A Phytochemical and Pharmacological Review,” Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research 48, no. 11 (November 2015): 953–64, https://doi.org/10.1590/1414-431×20154773.
  15. Leena Chularojanamontri et al., “Moisturizers for Acne,” The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 7, no. 5 (May 2014): 36–44.
  16. Naiara S. Barbosa and Amer N. Kalaaji, “CAM Use in Dermatology. Is There a Potential Role for Honey, Green Tea, and Vitamin C?,” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 20, no. 1 (February 1, 2014): 11–15, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2013.11.003.
  17. “Effects of Ginger (Zingiber Officinale) on Skin Conditions:,” Journal of the Turkish Academy of Dermatology 7, no. 2 (2013), https://doi.org/10.6003/jtad.1372r2.
  18. Seong-Jin Kim et al., “Effects of Flavonoids of Ginkgo Biloba on Proliferation of Human Skin Fibroblast,” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 10, no. 4 (1997): 200–205, https://doi.org/10.1159/000211505.
  19. John P. Heggers et al., “The Effectiveness of Processed Grapefruit-Seed Extract as An Antibacterial Agent: II. Mechanism of Action and In Vitro Toxicity,” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 8, no. 3 (June 1, 2002): 333–40, https://doi.org/10.1089/10755530260128023.
  20. Bruno Burlando and Laura Cornara, “Honey in Dermatology and Skin Care: A Review,” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 12, no. 4 (2013): 306–13, https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12058.
  21. Naiara S. Barbosa and Amer N. Kalaaji, “CAM Use in Dermatology. Is There a Potential Role for Honey, Green Tea, and Vitamin C?,” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 20, no. 1 (February 1, 2014): 11–15, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2013.11.003.
  22. “ELEMIS Gentle Rose Exfoliator, Smoothing Skin Polish, 50 Ml Ingredients and Reviews,” SkinSAFE, accessed May 12, 2020, https://www.skinsafeproducts.com/elemis-gentle-rose-exfoliator-smoothing-skin-polish-50-ml.
  23. Naveed Akhtar et al., “Exploring Cucumber Extract for Skin Rejuvenation,” n.d., 11, https://academicjournals.org/article/article1380726732_Akhtar%2520et%2520al.pdf.
  24. Bom Park et al., “Dietary Rosa Damascena Protects against UVB-Induced Skin Aging by Improving Collagen Synthesis via MMPs Reduction through Alterations of c-Jun and c-Fos and TGF-Β1 Stimulation Mediated Smad2/3 and Smad7,” Journal of Functional Foods 36 (September 1, 2017): 480–89, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2017.07.028.
  25. S. Schmitt, F. Sporer, J. Reichling, et al., “Comparative Study on the in Vitro Human Skin Permeation of Monoterpenes and Phenylpropanoids Applied in Rose Oil and in Form of Neat Single Compounds,” no. 2 (February 2010): 102–5, https://doi.org/10.1691/ph.2010.9716.
  26. Naiara S. Barbosa and Amer N. Kalaaji, “CAM Use in Dermatology. Is There a Potential Role for Honey, Green Tea, and Vitamin C?,” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 20, no. 1 (February 1, 2014): 11–15, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2013.11.003.
  27. “The Roles of PH and Concentration in Lactic Acid‐induced Stimulation of Epidermal Turnover – THUESON – 1998 – Dermatologic Surgery – Wiley Online Library,” accessed May 8, 2020, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1524-4725.1998.tb04221.x.
  28. “Comparative Effectiveness of α ‐ Hydroxy Acids on Skin Properties – SMITH – 1996 – International Journal of Cosmetic Science – Wiley Online Library,” accessed May 8, 2020, https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-2494.1996.tb00137.x.
  29. ZZZ Tsen-Fang Tsai et al., “Effects of Glycolic Acid on Light-Induced Skin Pigmentation in Asian and Caucasian Subjects,” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 43, no. 2, Part 1 (August 1, 2000): 238–43, https://doi.org/10.1067/mjd.2000.104894.
  30. Madhuri Banchhor and Swarnalata Saraf, “PHCOG REV.: Review Article Potentiality of Papain as an Antiaging Agent in Cosmetic Formulation,” Pharmacognosy Reviews 2, no. 4 (2008): 5.
  31. “Differences Between Collagen and Elastin | Difference Between,” accessed April 23, 2020, http://www.differencebetween.net/science/health/differences-between-collagen-and-elastin/.
  32. Madhuri Banchhor and Swarnalata Saraf, “PHCOG REV.: Review Article Potentiality of Papain as an Antiaging Agent in Cosmetic Formulation,” Pharmacognosy Reviews 2, no. 4 (2008): 5.

About The Author

Dr. Shane Jackson MBBS
Dr. Shane Jackson MBBS

Dr. Jackson is a UK based NHS clinician with over 10 years experience in both hospital medicine and surgery. After an initial career in maxillofacial surgery his focus now lies in elderly care and rehabilitation medicine. A board member for Wadham College of Science, Dr. Jackson is passionate about widening access to both education and healthcare around the world and as a result, outside of his clinical work he spends much of his time either teaching or providing medical consultancy to healthcare startups. Commercially, his interests lie in helping research and promote novel, evidence-based medicines originating from natural sources and processes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FREE shipping above $40 in US, Canada, UK, & Europe. Above $75, internationally. 30-day WORRY-FREE returns.