the complete guide to skinceuticals exfoliating products

What’s the best SkinCeuticals exfoliant?

I mean, if you’re gonna spend $80 for an exfoliant, you NEED to know it’ll do the job – WITHOUT irritating your skin.

Easier said than done when you have to choose between 10 cleansers, toners, and serums all promising to get those pesky dead cells off your face, get rid of wrinkles and kick acne in the butt (although, for this price, I feel like they should make me coffee too šŸ˜‰ ).

Where do you even begin? Like, do acids work better in a cleanser or a serum? Is a scrub better than an acid? Are you guaranteed better results if you pay a higher price? Argh, I feel a headache coming on….

Fret not. I’ve put together this quick guide to ALL Skinceuticals exfoliants to help you choose the right one for your skin type, needs and budget:

Exfoliating Cleansers & Scrubs

Skinceuticals Clarifying Exfoliating Cleanser ($34.00)

What it is: An exfoliating cleanser with a 7% mix of Salicylic, Glycolic, and Lactic acids + pumice beads.

What it does: A chemical and physical exfoliator rolled into one, it removes dead cells and helps keep pores free from gunk.

Who should use it: Save your money. Chemical exfoliators work better when left on the skin for hours. Physical exfoliator can be harsh, if massaged on the skin too long/too strongly. This is a case of getting the worst of both worlds.

When to use it: If you really want to give it a try, use it no more than once a day. If you have dry skin, use it only 3 times a week.

Side effects: Physical exfoliation can be too harsh for some skin types.

Available at: Blue Mercury, Dermstore and Skinceuticals

Related: Do Exfoliating Cleansers Really Work?

Skinceuticals Simply Clean Gel ($34.00)

What it is: A gel cleanser for oily skin that makes exfoliating promises it can’t keep.

What it does: Skinceuticals says it contains a fruit acid blend (citric acid and orange?) to exfoliate skin. But there are barely a few drops of them here. Plus, they can be irritating for some skin types.

Who should use it: It’s a good cleanser for oily skin. Just don’t expect too much exfoliation from it.

When to use it: Morning and night.

Side effects: There’s a small chance it may irritate sensitive skin.

Available at: Dermstore and Skinceuticals

Related: The Best Cleansers For Oily Skin


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Skinceuticals LHA Cleansing Gel ($40.00)

What it is: An exfoliating cleanser with Glycolic acid and Salicylic acid.

What it does: It cleanses and exfoliates skin at the same time. It’s the best exfoliating cleanser Skinceuticals offers, but you’d still get better exfoliation from a leave-on product.

Who should use it: Sensitive skin or anyone who is too lazy to use a separate exfoliator.

When to use it: Skinceuticals recommends twice daily, but once is more than enough. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to cut back to 3 or 4 times a week.

Side effects: It doesn’t exfoliate as well as leave-on cleansers.

Available at: Dermstore and Skinceuticals

Related: How To Choose The Best Cleanser For Your Skin Type

Skinceuticals Micro-Exfoliating Scrub ($30.00)

What it is: A physical scrub with silica beads.

What it does: Silica particles manually remove dead cells from your skin, leave it softer, smoother and brighter.

Who should use it: I personally don’t recommend physical exfoliation. But if you’re a die-hard fan of scrubs, you’ll like this.

When to use it: Skinceuticals recommends once a day, I’d say three times a week. Physical exfoliation isn’t a daily job!

Side effects: Like all physical exfoliants, it can irritate skin if you overdo it.

Available at: Blue Mercury, Dermstore and Skinceuticals

Related: Why I Ditched Scrubs And Switched To Chemical Exfoliants

Leave-On Exfoliants

Skinceuticals LHA Toner ($40.00)

What it is: A glycolic acid toner with a little Salicylic acid thrown in.

What it does: Glycolic acid exfoliates skin and smooths away imperfections on the surface, while salicylic acid unclogs pores and gets rid of acne.

Who should use it: Best for aging skin prone to breakouts.

When to use it: Skinceuticals says twice a day, but that’s too much exfoliation for most skin types. Start using it three nights a week and build up frequency gradually (if needed).

Side effects: Can dry out skin if used too often.

Available at: Blue Mercury, Dermstore and Skinceuticals

Related: The Best Skincare Routine For Acne + Aging Skin

Skinceuticals Blemish + Age Defense ($91.00)

What it is: A serum that treats both acne and the signs of aging.

What it does: Glycolic acid slowly reduces the appearance of fine lines and dark spots, while salicylic acid unclogs pores and treats breakouts.

Who should use it: Oily and aging skin.

When to use it: You could use it once a day. But if your skin is sensitive, use it every other night instead.

Side effects: Can dry out skin if used too much/too often.

Available at: Dermstore and Skinceuticals

Related: Glycolic VS Salicylic Acid: Which One Is Right For You?

Skinceuticals Retexturizing Activator ($80.00)

What it is: An oil-free serum that exfoliates, hydrates and strengthen skin’s barrier.

What it does: it uses 25% Hydroxyethyl Urea/Aminosulfonic acid compound to stimulate enzymes that break down the “glue” that holds skin cells together so they can slough off on their own. In other words, it exfoliates skin without drying it out. Plus, it hydrates skin.

Who should use it: Sensitive skin that doesn’t react well to exfoliating acids.

When to use it: SkinCeuticals recommends twice a day, but for most people once a day will be more than enough.

Side effects: It’s pretty safe and gentle, but I guess there’s always the remote chance your skin may not react well to something in it (sensitive skin is “funny” like that).

Available at: Dermstore and Skinceuticals

Related: Skinceuticals Retexturizing Activator Full Review

Skinceuticals C + AHA ($136.00)

What it is: A daytime antioxidant serum with exfoliating properties.

What it does: Chemical exfoliants AHAs remove dead cells and improve the texture of the skin, while 15% vitamin C fights wrinkles, boosts collagen and brightens the complexion.

Who should use it: It’s suitable for all skin types (bar maybe sensitive skin).

When to use it: Every morning. If you’re just starting out, make it every other morning.

Side effects: Using AHAs and vitamin C together may be too much for sensitive skin.

Available at: Blue Mercury, Dermstore and Skinceuticals

Related: Why You Should Add Vitamin C To Your Skincare Routine

Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense ($98.00)

What it is: A skin-lightning serum with very mild exfoliating properties.

What it does: It combines 3% Tranexemic acid, 1% Kojic acid, and 5% niacinamide to fade away dark spots and brighten the skin tone. Hydroxyethyl urea performs a mild exfoliating action, but there’s too little of it to make a difference. This serum’ll help you fade away dark spots, but you still need to use a separate exfoliant with it.

Who should use it: Anyone who wants to fade away dark spots and discolourations.

When to use it: Morning and/or night, after cleansing.

Side effects: May cause irritation when used too much too often.

Available at: Dermstore, Feel Unique, and Look Fantastic

Related: Battle Of The Skin-Lighteners: Which Is The Best Alternative To Hydroquinone?

Skinceuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight ($80.00)

What it is: A Glycolic acid exfoliant in cream form.

What it does: It exfoliates skin, smooths out wrinkles, and brightens the complexion.

Who should use it: Dry and sun-damaged skin.

When to use it: Skinceuticals says to use it every night, but that’s way too much for most people. Use it every night, after cleansing.

Side effects: Dryness, redness, flaking, and irritation when used too much/too often.

Available at: Dermstore, Feel Unique, and Look Fantastic

Related: The Complete Guide To Glycolic Acid: What It Is, What It Does, And How To Use It

I hope this guide has helped you pick the right Skinceuticals exfoliant for your skin type and needs.