Are you looking for the perfect exfoliator for your dry skin? Below, we’ve created a guide to the best exfoliants for dry skin.

Our Recommendations

1. Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

Paula's Choice Exfoliant for Exfoliating, Lightly Hydrating, and Reducing the Signs of Aging

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

This 8% AHA product exfoliates the skin while also lightly hydrating to keep the skin smooth, calm, and moisturized.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating, Lightly Hydrating, and Reducing the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply a dime-sized amount of the lotion over the entire face. Those with drier skin may choose to use an additional moisturizer on top. During the day, follow up with an SPF.
See on Paula's Choice

The star ingredient in this exfoliating lotion is glycolic acid. Glycolic acid – an alpha hydroxy acid – is an exfoliant that reduces the signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps smooth the skin for a more even tone and texture.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Hydrating

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin

In addition to the glycolic acid, this lotion contains a variety of ingredients that help soothe and moisturize the skin, including glycerin, vitamin E, matricaria flower extract, and sunflower seed oil.

Water (Aqua), Glycolic Acid (exfoliant), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin-replenishing emollient), Glycerin (skin-replenishing/hydration), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Beheneth-5 (emulsifier), Behenyl Alcohol (fatty alcohol/emollient thickener), Dimethicone (silicone slip agent), Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate (emollient thickener), Polyglyceryl-3 Stearate (emollient emulsifier), Undecane (emollient), Phospholipids (skin-replenishing fatty acids), Allantoin (skin soothing), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E/antioxidant),Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract (soothing plant extract), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil (non-fragrant skin-replenishing emollient), Bisabolol (soothing plant component), Arctium Lappa Root Extract (burdock root; antioxidant and soothing plant), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (licorice-derived soothing agent), Panthenol (hydrating B vitamin), Sodium Acrylates Copolymer (film-forming agent), Tridecane (emollient), Hydrogenated Polyisobutene (emollient), Sclerotium Gum (emulsion stabilizer), Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate (emulsifier), Disodium EDTA (chelating agent), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative), Phenoxyethanol (preservative)

2. Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

The Ordinary Exfoliant for Exfoliating and Smoothing Tone and Texture

The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

This product offers gentle exfoliation to smooth skin tone and texture, and includes hydrating and soothing ingredients to fight irritation.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating and Smoothing Tone and Texture
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, massage the product into the skin. Follow up with a moisturizer. Use up to one time per day.
See on The Ordinary

This exfoliating product contains a 10% concentration of mandelic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid that has a larger molecular size than other commonly used AHAs (like glycolic acid). This means it is gentler on the skin, but still helps to exfoliate and smooth tone and texture while minimizing signs of aging.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May not be strong enough for those experienced with stronger acids

In addition to the mandelic acid, this product contains glycerin, sodium hyaluronate (the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid), and tasmannia lanceolata fruit extract, which hydrate and soothe the skin.

Propanediol, Aqua (Water), Mandelic Acid, Glycerin, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Pentylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Effects of Topical Mandelic Acid Treatment on Facial Skin Viscoelasticity"

    Accessed Aug. 26, 2021.

3. Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

The Ordinary Exfoliant for Exfoliating

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

This chemical exfoliator is one of the most-loved The Ordinary products, with an effective 7% concentration of glycolic acid (an alpha-hydroxy acid, or AHA).

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, dispense the product onto a cotton round, and gently sweep across the face, neck, and chest.
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Regular exfoliation is necessary in order to maintain clear, smooth skin. This product contains an effective 7% concentration of glycolic acid, which has been shown to reduce the signs of aging (including wrinkles and sun spots) and minimize texture.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight and non-greasy
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

This chemical exfoliator also contains Tasmanian pepperberry, which helps reduce irritation, as well as aloe vera and ginseng, which soothe the skin.

Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Rosa damascena flower water, Centaurea cyanus flower water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Propanediol, Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Aminomethyl Propanol, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Glycine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glutamic Acid, Arginine, PCA, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Hexyl Nicotinate, Dextrin, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Gellan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

4. Lactic Acid 5% + HA

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA

The Ordinary Exfoliant for Gentle Exfoliation

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA

This chemical exfoliator gently exfoliates while soothing and hydrating the skin to reduce irritation.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Gentle Exfoliation
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, gently massage a few drops of the serum into the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

All skin types need regular exfoliation in order to maintain smooth and clear skin. However, some may need a gentler exfoliation to minimize irritation. This option contains lactic acid, a mild alpha-hydroxy acid that gently exfoliates the skin to minimize hyperpigmentation, improve texture, and promote a clear complexion.

Pros

  • Alcohol-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin (although milder than many other AHAs)

In addition to lactic acid, this product contains sodium hyaluronate (the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid), which increases moisture levels in the skin. It also contains Tasmanian pepperberry, which soothes the skin.

Aqua (Water), Lactic Acid, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Propanediol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Isoceteth-20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin"

    Accessed Aug. 9, 2021.

5. B5 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum

La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum

La Roche-Posay Exfoliant for Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles

La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum

This serum combines glycolic acid with other exfoliating and soothing ingredients that minimize fine lines and wrinkles, brighten hyperpigmentation, and improve overall skin tone and texture.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: At night, after cleansing, apply the serum all over the face, neck, and chest.
See on Amazon

This serum contains a 10% concentration of exfoliating glycolic acid (an alpha hydroxy acid), which promotes the production of collagen and speeds up skin cell renewal. This is excellent for fighting fine lines and wrinkles and evening skin tone and texture. It also contains kojic acid, lipo-hydroxy acid, and tranexamic acid to further exfoliate and brighten the skin.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Dermatologist tested

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

In addition to the acids mentioned above, this serum contains vitamin B5, which helps soothe the skin.

10% Pure Glycolic Acid, Aqua / Water, Alcohol Denat., Glycolic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Potassium Hydroxide, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Tranexamic Acid, Kojic Acid, C12-13 Alkyl Lactate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Panthenol, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Disodium Edta.

6. 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Paula's Choice Exfoliant for Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

This gel exfoliant contains glycolic acid (an alpha-hydroxy acid, or AHA), a chemical exfoliator that sheds dead skin cells to reveal smooth, younger looking skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply a dime-sized amount of the gel all over the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

AHAs like glycolic acid are commonly used to reduce the signs of aging, including wrinkles. This gel exfoliant contains an effective 8% concentration of glycolic acid, along with other soothing ingredients.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin

In addition to the glycolic acid, this exfoliator contains soothing and hydrating ingredients, including chamomile, aloe, and green tea.

Water (Aqua), Glycolic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Chamomilla Recutita Matricaria Flower Extract (chamomile/skin-soothing), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (hydration), Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract (green tea/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin replenishing), Panthenol (hydration), Sodium PCA (skin replenishing), Propylene Glycol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Hydroxyethylcellulose (texture-enhancing), Polyquaternium-10 (texture-enhancing), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Sodium Benzoate (preservative)

Is it good to exfoliate if you have dry skin?

Yes, people with dry skin can greatly benefit from using an exfoliant in their skincare routine. Alpha hydroxy acids (like glycolic acid, mandelic acid, and lactic acid) are particularly beneficial for dry skin, because they work on the surface of the skin, removing dead skin cells and promoting a smoother complexion.

What is the best exfoliant for dry sensitive skin?

People with sensitive skin can still benefit from using a gentle exfoliating product in their routine. If you have dry sensitive skin, a great product to check out is The Ordinary’s Mandelic Acid 10% + HA. Mandelic acid is gentler than the other commonly used AHAs (like glycolic acid), because it has a larger molecular size. In addition to it providing a mild exfoliation, this serum contains soothing and hydrating ingredients that are excellent for dry, sensitive skin.

How often should someone with dry skin exfoliate?

If you have dry skin, you should exfoliate one to two times per week. Exfoliating more than that can be problematic, because over-exfoliating can cause irritation and damage the skin barrier. It’s always a good idea to start slowly with once a week application, and build from there if necessary. Keep in mind that this depends on your skin’s tolerance for exfoliation, as well as the strength of the specific product you are using. Some products have super low concentrations of chemical exfoliators and can be used more frequently, while others are super strong and shouldn’t be used more than once per week. Always refer to the instructions of the exfoliant you choose.

The Bottom Line

Exfoliants offer a wide variety of benefits, and an effective exfoliant is a great addition to a dry skin skincare routine. If you have dry skin, consider trying out one of our recommended products to maintain an even, smooth complexion.