The 9 Best Exfoliators For Your Acne-Prone Skin

One of the most beneficial steps in your skincare routine? Exfoliating (more on that below). But exactly how you should be exfoliating can get confusing, especially if you have breakout-prone skin. To find the best sloughing product for acne, it's important to understand the difference between the two types of exfoliation: physical and chemical.

Physical exfoliation brushes off a layer of the skin using small grains, a brush, or a scrub. Chemical exfoliation employs chemicals (usually a type of acid) to remove dead skin cells.

You might assume chemical exfoliators are way harsh, but they're actually gentler than physical ones—and an especially good choice for acne-prone skin. “Exfoliation over acne lesions should be done only with chemical exfoliants,” says Tony Nakhla, MD, founder of Eighth Day skincare.

He explains that, while many people believe a manual exfoliator brush is helpful for acne, “it can lead to more inflammation and worsen acne scarring.”

By removing dead skin cells with a chemical formula, you’re encouraging cellular turnover and giving yourself a more youthful glow—all while scrubbing away dirt and oil that can clog your pores. “Acne-prone skin is usually oilier and can handle chemical exfoliation once or twice daily with ingredients like alpha and polyhydroxy acids,” says Dr. Nakhla.

Ready to start getting tons of compliments on your complexion? These are the best exfoliators for acne, and depending on your exact skin issues, there’s certainly one that’s right for you.