7 chemical exfoliants that will boost your glow (without burning your face off).

Answer me this: Have you ever tried to get into the whole alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) game and ended up doing an absolute number on your skin?

Well, SAME. So welcome, welcome. Please take a seat.

As I’ve mentioned more times than necessary, I try LOTS of different products. And as someone with sensitive skin, they don’t always agree with my face. Especially when it comes to the ol’ AHAs. They seem to… er… hate my face. Or my skin hates them. Either way, they’re not fond of each other.

Because while active skincare ingredients like AHAs can do a lot of good things for your skin - like improve acne and congestion, reduce pigmentation and brighten the skin - these ingredients don’t always agree with everyone’s skin. 

And that’s fine! Different ingredients work best on different skin types. 

Watch: Here are seven ways to improve your skin while sleeping. Post continues below.

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But if your skin errs on the sensitive side, it’s good to know about some of the milder, more gentle formulas out there - especially come winter.

So, you know what I thought would be handy? If I pulled together a round-up of some gentle chemical exfoliators. The stuff I’ve tried and loved, so you too can keep the skin on your face. Hooray!

Important thing to read: In terms of results, I'd recommend giving it at least a month to see if your skincare is working. I know, I know - we all want those sweet results instantly. But! Patience is key when it comes to (most) chemical exfoliants. And just skincare in general, really. So, be consistent!

Oh! Another important thing: If you're dealing with irritation or sensitivity, you should always see a dermatologist for professional advice. Because they know stuff! Lots and lots of stuff!

Alrighty, hold on tight.

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%, $13.10.

Image: Adore Beauty


If you’re a beginner, this little gem from The Ordinary is for you.

This lactic acid formula (fyi: lactic acid is a super gentle form of AHA) is partnered with one of the nicest guys in the skincare game, hyaluronic acid. Meaning? It will gently slough off dead skin cells while delivering a hit of hydration to the skin. Helpful!

Plus, it’s also incredibly affordable. We love to see it.

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, $42.

Image: Paula's Choice

This is another gentle leave-on exfoliant that reached cult status. It's the brand's number one bestseller and has seriously won every beauty award, like ever. 

What can we say - our girl Paula knows how to make a good exfoliator!

Instead of AHAs, this guy is actually formulated with BHAs - two per cent salicylic acid. It gently exfoliates dead skin cells, making your cute face look radiant and even-toned in one swipe. 



Dermalogica Daily Milkfoliant, $99.

Image: Dermalogica

Dermalogica’s new Milkfoliant is a stellar option if you’re looking for a mild exfoliant that won’t strip your skin. 

The creamy, buttery formula contains ingredients like oat, coconut, AHAs and BHAs, as well as hyaluronic acid, and is suitable for even the most sensitive skin types.

It officially launches on June 10, so keep an eye out!

Sunday Riley Good Genes, $183.

Image: Mecca


She's a cult product for a good reason! 

Sunday Riley’s Good Genes is another lactic acid treatment that works to refine and clarify the skin, minus the irritation. It's a leave-on exfoliant that people rave about for its ability to reduce the appearance of dark spots and pigmentation.

It’s a spendy option, but one that's been a staple in my routine for years.

E.l.f. Cosmetics Gentle Peeling Exfoliant, $22.

Image: Elf Cosmetics

This creamy cleanser contains nourishing ingredients such as tangerine, papaya, and licorice extracts to gently exfoliate, brighten, and smooth the skin. Sounds pretty heavenly, huh?

Psst… it also won the Allure Best of Beauty Award – so you know it's good!

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask, $67.

Image: Mecca


Chances are you've seen this Instagrammable little tub from Glow Recipe doing the rounds on social media - it's one of those really popular 'shelfie'-worthy products. But get this - it's *actually* worth the hype. We love it when that happens!

Formulated with watermelon (yum!), AHAs and hyaluronic acid, it's an incredibly gentle mask that exfoliates the skin, while delivering intense hydration for brighter, smoother skin come morning.

Dr. Dennis Gross Ultra Gentle Daily Peel, $132.

Image: Mecca

This is a scaled-back version of the cult Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel - and it's just as good. It contains gentle acids to help shed dead cells from the top layer of your skin, followed by soothing pre-soaked pads that help calm the skin afterwards. Less irritation, same great skin smoothing/brightening results.

The best part? They're super easy to use - just swipe and go! (Like, obviously apply moisturiser or something on after...).

At Mamamia, we independently choose and write about products our writers genuinely recommend. We have affiliate partnerships so if you use these links to buy something, Mamamia may earn a small commission.

Have you tried any of the above products? What are your thoughts? Share with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: @deciemchatroom; @paulaschoice; Supplied; Mamamia.

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