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7 Best Chemical Exfoliants Products for Mature Skin That Make the Complexion Glow

Learn how to incorporate one into your skin care routine and the options for different skin types and concerns

Move aside harsh, abrasive facial scrubs, aka physical exfoliants. Chemical exfoliant formulas are the new gold standard in skin care as they are loaded with exfoliating acids, which we know can sound scary, but we promise they aren’t! And the chemical versions can actually be gentler — a big plus for those of us with sensitive or mature skin. That’s why we turned to top dermatologists for the best chemical exfoliants to add to your skin care lineup along with their tips for adding one to your routine. Read on to discover the chemical exfoliant that will work best for you.

How to use chemical exfoliants

“Chemical exfoliants can be found in everything from cleansers to toners to serums to masks,” says Tina Alster, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Washington D.C. and co-founder of The A Method. “Typically, they should be used after cleansing and before moisturizing.” That being said, you’ll always want to follow the directions for the particular product you’re using, especially when it comes to how long to leave it on your skin for as well as how many times per week to use it.

But some good, general tips to follow: Go low and slow both in terms of concentration and frequency, gradually increasing usage as your skin can tolerate it, advises Dr. Alster. Over-using your chemical exfoliants can lead to irritation, redness, and sensitivity, she cautions.

It also bears mentioning that chemical exfoliants can make your skin more susceptible to the sun. It’s why Diane Madfes, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, recommends making these types of products a part of your bedtime routine, and underscores the importance of being extra diligent about applying sunscreen the next morning.

For more on using chemical exfoliants, watch the below video from YouTuber Hyram.

The best chemical exfoliants

With so many kinds of chemical exfoliants and so many different types of products out there that contain them, figuring out which one is best for you can be understandably overwhelming. Here, a helpful cheat-sheet to seven of the best chemical exfoliants, according to the dermatologists we spoke with.

Best chemical exfoliant cleanser

BeautyPie AcidEnzyme Face and Body Cleanser, one of the best chemical exfoliants

BeautyPie AcidEnzyme Face and Body Cleanser

This is a top recommendation from Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, who lauds it for containing a two-percent concentration of salicylic acid, as well as gently exfoliating papaya enzymes. She also likes that it contains hydrating glycerin and soothing oat kernel extract. And, as the name suggests, it works great for both and face and body. Dr. King says it’s also a good choice to help smooth out KP bumps.

Best chemical exfoliant toner

Face Reality Sal-C Toner
Face Reality

Face Reality Sal-C Toner

Swiping on a toner post-cleansing is one of the easiest ways to exfoliate. Dr. King likes this one: “It contains not only salicylic acid but also glycerin to hydrate the skin, niacinamide to help with tone and texture, and antioxidant-rich vitamin C.”

Best chemical exfoliant for oily skin

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, one of the best chemical exfoliants
The Ordinary

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA2% Exfoliating Peeling Solution

According to Dr. Madfes, this is a win for those with oily and combination skin, thanks to a combination of multiple different exfoliating acids such as glycolic, lactic, and salicylic. However, she does caution that a little does go a long way.

Best chemical exfoliant for sensitive skin

Priori LCA 2XFoliant Peel + Scrub

Priori LCA 2XFoliant Peel + Scrub

“This is great for all skin types,” says Dr. Madfes of another one of her favorites. It actually combines both chemical and physical exfoliating ingredients, more specifically gentle lactic acid along with non-irritating microspheres, she says.

Best chemical exfoliant for dry skin

Charlotte Tilbury SUPER RADIANCE RESURFACING FACIAL, one of the best chemical exfoliants
Charlotte Tilbury

Charlotte Tilbury Super Radiance Resurfacing Facial

Dr. King says this mask-like exfoliator is nice to use once a week. Per the exfoliating part of things, it contains alpha-, beta-, and poly-hydroxy acids. It pairs those with glycerin and sodium hyaluronate (aka hyaluronic acid), humectants that help to hydrate the skin, as well as avocado oil and sunflower seed oil that help boot your skin barrier, adds Dr. King.

Best chemical exfoliant for mature skin

Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel
Dr Dennis Gross

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel

“These are good for older skin that’s still very oily,” says Dr. Madfes, who adds that they contain the “perfect combination” of glycolic, salicylic, citric, and lactic acids. Also nice: The single-use peel pads are very convenient and great for traveling.

Best leave-on chemical exfoliant

Skinceuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight, one of the best chemical exfoliants

Skinceuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight

Not all exfoliants need to be washed off. Case in point: This leave-on, nighttime treatment that Dr. Madfes recommends. She says it delivers, “amazing” results, thanks to the combination of glycolic and salicylic acids, along with hydrating botanical oils.

See more skin care products to shop:

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12 Best Niacinamide Products for Women 40 and Over to Achieve Youthful, Glowing Skin

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