13 Best Chemical Exfoliants For A Natural Glow, As Per An Expert (2024)

Gently strip away layers of impurities to reveal a brighter, cleaner, fresher skin.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Farhaad Riyaz, MD, FAAD, FACMS
Written by Kirtana Divakar, MA (Journalism & Mass Communication)
Edited by Shiboli Chakraborti, MA (English Literature), Certified Skin Care Coach
Fact-checked by Swathi E, MA (English Literature), Certified Skin Care Coach  • 
All products recommended on StyleCraze are independently selected by our editorial team. If you make a purchase through any of these links, we may receive a commission. Learn more about our product selection process here.

If you are someone with inflamed pores and frequent acne breakouts, you probably know the reason for them could be excess oil, dirt, bacteria, sweat, and dead skin cells. Though your skin keeps renewing itself, some dead skin cells don’t go away easily. Therefore, using the best chemical exfoliants is important to eliminate these stubborn impurities and buildup from dull skin. They are available in different forms like toners, peeling gel, serums, creams, and peeling pads. These exfoliators are not harsh on your skin and use enzymes and acids to buff away the dead skin cells. The active ingredients include alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that penetrate deep into the layers of your skin and reveal a natural and healthy glow.

As the skin care industry has flourished tremendously over the years, multiple brands have come up with chemical exfoliators. So, choosing one out of the myriad options can be tricky. But, fret not. We have your back. In this article, we have listed the best chemical exfoliants on the market. Scroll down and take your pick for clear, smooth, and supple skin in no time!

Top Picks
CHECK PRICE
Best Cruelty-Free: Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Price on Amazon
Best For Pigmentation: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
Price on Amazon
Best For Acne Scars: Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser
Price on Amazon
Best Dermatologist-Tested: First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub
Price on Amazon
Best Vegan: COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
Price on Amazon
Best For Brightening: Perfect Image Lactic 50% Gel Peel
Price on Amazon
Best For Deep Cleansing: Pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic
Price on Amazon
Best Easy-To-Use: Bliss That’s Incredi-peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads
Price on Amazon
Best For All Skin Types: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel
Price on Amazon
Best Non-Irritating Formula: Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment
Price on Amazon

13 Best Chemical Exfoliants For Naturally Glowing Skin – 2024

1. Best Cruelty-Free: Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

4.4
Paula's Choice—SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant Image: Paula's Choice

Slough away dull and dead skin cells with this cult favorite BHA chemical exfoliant that is gentle but effective for every skin type. The gentle leave-on, clinically-proven formula contains 2% BHA, green tea extract, and pH balancer that gives you moisturized, bright, and youthful skin. The cruelty and paraben-free exfoliator follows a natural and gentle exfoliation process and removes dirt, oils, and debris from pores to ensure healthy skin. It targets redness, signs of aging, enlarged pores, and blackheads, and promotes even toned skin. It also helps visibly reduce the appearance of sun damage. Further, it is proven to deliver visible results and lessen rough texture while improving skin health within a few uses as long as you are consistent.

Skin Type: Oily, Combination, Dry, Normal | Product Dimensions: 1.57 x 1.57 x 5.51 inches | Weight: 3.99 Ounces

Pros

  • Gentle leave-on formula
  • Results-driven approach
  • Clears breakouts
  • Calms redness of skin
  • Paraben and fragrance-free
  • Cruelty-free and not tested on animals
  • Moisturizes skin
  • Smooths fine lines

Cons

  • Some may find the scent unpleasant.

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

It has gained over 7,118 positive reviews on Amazon, making it an all-time best-seller.

2. Best For Pigmentation: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

4.4
The Ordinary Peeling Solution 30ml AHA 30% + BHA 2% Image: The Ordinary

Get beautiful and radiant skin in just 10 minutes with this drugstore chemical exfoliant and experience the goodness of non-abrasive exfoliation. The exfoliator harvests the power of AHAs and BHAs, aloe vera leaf juice, salicylic acid, lactic acid, vitamin B5, and Tasmanian pepperberry to exfoliate dead skin cells and give you a brighter and radiant look and feel. It assists with pore refinement and helps fight blemishes to improve the texture of your skin. The peeling solution reduces the appearances of fine lines and other signs of aging. It also reduces inflammation and promotes healing. So, if you dream of flawless skin, you need this chemical exfoliator in your skincare regimen. However, if you have sensitive skin, patch testing is recommended.

Skin Type: Acne Prone | Product Dimensions: 1.97 x 1.97 x 3.94 inches | Weight: 1.06 Ounces

Pros

  • Clears pores
  • Fights blemishes
  • Improves skin texture
  • Reduces appearance of fine lines
  • Promotes healing of skin

Cons

  • May take some time to get used to
  • May increase your skin’s sensitivity to sun
protip_icon Caution

Since the product contains a high AHA-BHA concentration, you can experience purging as a beginner. However, this should not last longer than four to six weeks. To deal with the purge, use serums and moisturizers with skin-soothing ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid.

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

Almost 22,475 happy users have mentioned the value and quality of this product.

3. Best For Acne Scars: Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser

4.6
Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Face Wash Image: Botanic Tree

Not everyone can have the luxury of taking a bath in milk and honey like Cleopatra did for beautiful skin. But do not worry. This chemical exfoliator for oily skin and acne-prone skin infused with 10% glycolic acid, bamboo, shea butter, willow bark, tea tree, and seaweed, can almost do the same trick. It deeply cleanses your skin by pulling out excess oil, dirt, and other impurities from the pores. It also gives a radiant and bright skin tone. The facial wash reduces acne scars and sun spots, fights signs of aging, and rejuvenates your dull and tired skin in addition to exfoliating.

Skin Type: Acne Prone,Oily,Sensitive

Pros

  • Ideal for oily skin
  • Sulfate- and paraben-free
  • Fights dark spots and hyperpigmentation
  • Treats acne scars
  • Not tested on animals
  • Prevents fine lines and wrinkles
  • Nourishes your skin

Cons

  • May not be suitable for sensitive skin

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

More than 2,626 rave reviews on Amazon prove why we are so in awe of this product.

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Best Cruelty-Free
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
Best For Pigmentation
Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser
Best For Acne Scars
Skin Type Oily, Combination, Dry, Normal Acne Prone Acne Prone,Oily,Sensitive
Dimensions 1.57 x 1.57 x 5.51 inches 1.97 x 1.97 x 3.94 inches-
Weight 3.99 Ounces 1.06 Ounces-
Rating
Reviews7,11822,4752,626
Price$35$8.0$24.9

4. Best Dermatologist-Tested: First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub

4.4
First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub Exfoliant for Keratosis Pilaris Image: First Aid Beauty

Give your skin a fresh glow with this fast-acting First Aid Beauty KP body scrub. Tested by dermatologists, this body scrub with chemical exfoliators offers the benefits of microdermabrasion treatment. The drugstore chemical exfoliant features 10% of glycolic and lactic acids, oatmeal, willow bark extract, feverfew extract, vitamin E and Camellia sinensis that exfoliate dead skin cells to promote a healthier skin. It removes pore congestion to give you exceptionally smooth skin. The cruelty-free and soy-free scrub fights free radicals, soothes your skin, and nourishes it.

Skin Type: Sensitive

Pros

  • Dermatologist-tested
  • Cruelty-free and vegan
  • Gluten and soy-free
  • Paraben- and sulfate-free
  • Instant relief from skin bumps

Cons

  • Contains xanthan

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

More than 23,334 customers have given the product positive reviews on Amazon.

5. Best Vegan: COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

4.3

Get that clearer and brighter skin that you have always been dreaming of. This BHA chemical exfoliant is made with natural ingredients like 4% BHA and 64% white willow bark water. This cruelty-free and vegan product deeply cleanses the pores to gently remove dead skin cells without causing any irritation. It fights excess sebum and removes blackheads. All you need to do is apply it with a cotton pad every day for hydrated and healthy skin with a natural glow. It is best to use during the night but for daytime use, you should apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to prevent any damage to the skin due to UV exposure.

Skin Type: Oily, Acne prone, Combination, Dry, Normal

Pros

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Paraben- and sulfate-free
  • Cruelty-free and vegan
  • Dermatologist-recommended
  • Prevents blackheads
  • Nourishes and rejuvenates skin

Cons

  • Contains xanthan
protip_icon Pro Tip

Cleanse your face with Cosrx low pH gel cleanser, and wait for it to dry completely. Use a cotton pad to apply the power liquid all over your face, excluding the eye area. Wait for it to dry, and follow with a hydrating moisturizer.

6. Best For Brightening: Perfect Image Lactic 50% Gel Peel

4.2
Lactic 50% Gel Peel Image: Perfect Image

This drugstore chemical exfoliant benefits your skin as it has a host of ingredients that are good for you and your skin conditions. The kojic acid-infused formula contains antioxidants, green tea extract, lactic acid, vitamins E and C, and licorice that helps with deep exfoliation to clear your skin off any dead skin cells and revitalize your skin. The chemical peel assists in fading the freckles, wrinkles, fine lines, age spots and other signs of aging. It boosts production of collagen and improves elasticity of skin. The facial peel helps even out your skin tone by controlling the production of melanin and effectively locks-in moisture in your skin. But since it’s a stronger peel, it is recommended that you use level 1 Lactic peel before using this product.

Skin Type: Dry

Pros

  • Promotes production of collagen
  • Evens out your skin tone
  • Offers deep moisturization
  • Fades wrinkles and fine lines
  • Minimizes freckles and age spots

Cons

  • It may increase skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

The product has more than 1,857 reviews and is a top choice all around the world.

7. Best For Deep Cleansing: Pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic

4.6
Pixi Glow Tonic with Aloe Vera & Ginseng - Best Skin Care Products Image: Pixi Beauty

The secret to perfect skin is now in your hands. Improve your skin tone and complexion with one of the best drugstore chemical exfoliators. This exfoliating toner targets several skin problems on normal skin. Formulated with 5% glycolic acid and aloe vera, the cruelty and alcohol-free product gently exfoliates and washes off all impurities from the pores. Add this invigorating toner to enhance your skincare routine to prevent acne, increase the rate of skin cell turnover, and moisturize your skin. It can be used in the morning and evening on your face and neck. It balances your skin tone and preps it for makeup application, giving you a radiant and bright complexion.

Skin Type: All

Pros

  • Alcohol and cruelty-free
  • Soothes and hydrates skin
  • Clears pores of impurities
  • Makes skin even toned
  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Accelerates skin renewal process

Cons

  • Some may find it slightly expensive.

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

This product has made it to our top favorite list with more than 384 rave reviews on Amazon.

8. Best Easy-To-Use: Bliss That’s Incredi-peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads

4.4

Whether it is that you call ‘strawberry skin’ or ‘chicken skin’, consider it gone. This chemical exfoliation for the face is infused with 10% glycolic acid and soothing botanicals like witch hazel, licorice, and calendula flower extract. It works alongside your skin’s natural repair cycle and slowly releases glycolic acid while you are asleep to correct your skin imperfections and give a natural glow to your skin. You need to rinse it off after its application. It fades fine lines and discolorations, and helps reduce inflammation. Help your skin wake up for the day with this PETA-certified and paraben-free gentle chemical exfoliant. Further, according to the reviews online, it is a great option for people starting to use glycolic acid.

Skin Type: Combination, Normal | Product Dimensions: 3.25 x 2 x 3.25 inches | Weight: 2.88 Ounces

Pros

  • Paraben and SLS-free
  • PETA-certified
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Fades fine lines and discolorations
  • Offers radiant skin

Cons

  • May not be suitable for extremely sensitive skin

9. Best For All Skin Types: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel

4.5
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel Image: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare

If your skin imperfections including acne have persisted beyond your troublesome teenage years, and it still concerns you, this gentle chemical exfoliant is what you may need. Developed by a board-certified dermatologist with more than 25 years of experience in skincare, this fast-acting peel sloughs away dead skin cells, excess oils, and impurities to give you an evenly toned skin. It minimizes the appearance of pores, fine lines, and prevents other signs of premature aging. Experience a more balanced and ageless skin with this universal formula that contains 5 acids— salicylic, lactic, glycolic, citric, and malic acid along with witch hazel water, matricaria flower extract, glycerin, and Camellia sinensis leaf extract. Suitable for all skin types, it is also ideal for those using peels for the first time.

Skin Type: Oily, Combination, Dry, Normal | Product Dimensions: 3.22 x 2.69 x 5.34 inches | Weight: 1.6 Ounces

Pros

  • Can be used daily
  • Gives faster results
  • Effective acne treatment
  • Improves uneven tone and texture
  • Cruelty-free and vegan
  • Clinically-proven results
  • Paraben-free
  • Refreshed and glowy skin
  • Ideal for first time peel users

Cons

  • Contains alcohol and fragrance

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

There are more than 2,279 Amazon reviews attesting to the quality of the product and endorsing its value.

10. Best Non-Irritating Formula: Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment

4.5
Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment Image: Sunday Riley

Grab onto those ‘good genes’ bottled in this product for a flawless skin as this drugstore chemical exfoliant rapidly exfoliates dead skin cells and unclogs your pores from impurities, dirt and excess oil, to reveal a clearer and smoother complexion. The multitasking product also fights hyperpigmentation, fades wrinkles and fine lines, and improves the appearance of dark spots and discolorations. The ingredients like lactic acid, licorice, lemongrass, prickly pear extract, aloe vera leaf extract, and arnica montana flower extract have been clinically proven to immediately aid in boosting skin radiance and give you younger-looking skin in 3 minutes.

Skin Type: All, Oily, Combination, Dry, Normal | Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 1.5 x 4.5 inches | Weight: 1 Ounces

Pros

  • Clinically-proven
  • Clarifies skin
  • Non-irritating formula
  • Brightens look of dark spots and discolorations
  • Fades wrinkles and fine lines
  • Cruelty-free

Cons

  • Contains xanthan and alcohol

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

The product has more than 352 reviews claiming its efficacy.

11. Best For Fast Results: Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment

4.4
Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment Image: Kate Somerville

Forget about booking appointments at spa as this drugstore chemical exfoliant gives a spa-quality facial treatment at home. This chemical exfoliant coming from the world-renowned skincare expert offers smoother and softer skin texture in just 2 minutes. The AHA lactic acid and BHA salicylic acid, silica, papaya, pineapple, and pumpkin enzymes, rosewood and cinnamon extracts, aloe vera, honey, and vitamin E present in the product promote glowing complexion. It removes surface dullness, chemically exfoliates and clears the pores, and softens the appearances of fine lines and wrinkles to provide smoother and softer skin. Clinically proven results demonstrate a significant improvement in skin texture and overall appearance. Just sit back and experience the unbelievable transformation of your skin with the help of these amazing fruit enzymes.

Skin Type: Normal, Dry, Combination and Oily., Skincare Concerns: Dullness and Uneven Skintone, Pores, and Fine Lines and Wrinkles See more

Pros

  • Immediate results
  • Improves skin texture
  • Reduces crow’s feet, fine lines, and wrinkles
  • Reduces the appearance of pores
  • Smooths and softens skin

Cons

  • Contains alcohol

12. Best For Even Skin Tone: I DEW CARE Peel Lit Exfoliating Vitamin C Treatment Pads

4.4
I Dew Care Face Peel Pads - Peel Lit Image: I Dew Care

Be confident that you are using the best acid you and your skin will love. This best drugstore chemical exfoliator contains AHAs, PHAs, and pineapple extract that clear the pores to gently exfoliate and give your skin a brightening effect. This K-beauty product is also infused with vitamins C and B3 and bromelain extract that promote smoother and radiant skin. The ultra-soft and dual-sided pads fight blemishes, redness, and reduce the appearances of dark spots. This do-not-rinse formula can be used every day in the morning and evening for brighter complexion.

Skin Type: All, Combination, Dry, Normal

Pros

  • Cruelty-free and vegan
  • Paraben and gluten-free
  • Ultra-soft and dual-sided pads
  • Brightens and evens skin tone
  • Reduces appearance of wrinkles
  • Improves looks of blemishes

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

13. Best In Budget: CANE + AUSTIN Miracle Pad + Facial Treatment

4.4
CANE + AUSTIN Miracle Pad Image: Cane + Austin

Enjoy clear, smooth skin with this at-home facial treatment. The drugstore chemical exfoliant revitalizes your skin by restoring its natural glow and vitality. It promotes healthier skin with its non-irritating formula that includes ingredients like glycolic and salicylic acid, and witch hazel. Suitable for all skin types, it is clinically proven to boost collagen production and improve the elasticity of the skin. Apart from exfoliating dead skin cells, these results-driven pre-medicated pads also reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots to provide hydrated, healthy, and younger-looking skin.

Skin Type: Oily, Combination, Dry, Normal | Product Dimensions: 3 x 3 x 3 inches | Weight: 7.37 Ounces

Pros

  • Clinically-proven
  • Paraben and fragrance-free
  • Minimizes fine lines and wrinkles
  • Evens out skin tone
  • Dermatologist-recommended
  • Improves elasticity
  • Promotes production of collagen
  • Fights hyperpigmentation

Cons

  • It may increase skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
*The prices provided in this article are based on the latest available information. However, they may vary due to changes in pricing by the seller and/or promotional offers.

You must have got an understanding of chemical exfoliators and their multiple benefits. Now, let’s find out how they work.

How Do Chemical Exfoliants Work?

Chemical exfoliants are basically acids — Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) or Beta Hydroxy Acids, (BHAs) that help get rid of your dead skin cells. When you apply it, the acid penetrates into your skin and dissolves the glue of these dead skin cells. It breaks the bonds, clears any buildups that can cause breakouts, wrinkles or dry patches, and removes the dead cells along with any trapped dirt and excess oils easily, giving you a refreshed and healthy skin.

The word ‘acids’ might have freaked you out but do not worry, they are safe to use. In fact, AHAs have arguably emerged as one of the safest acids to use to loosen the bonds between dead cells while exfoliating. Now, let’s look at the factors you need to keep in mind while picking the best exfoliant.

How To Choose A Chemical Exfoliant?

  • Gentle formula

If you are especially new to using exfoliators, it is best to start with a gentle exfoliant that has a mild formula so that you can check how your skin reacts. Also, many products with gentle formulas can be used more frequently and hence, can give effective results faster.

  • Ingredients

Do read the label of ingredients on the product before you make the final decision. It is best to avoid exfoliators that contain some irritating ingredients like alcohol, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and formaldehydes, especially if you have sensitive skin. It is also safer to pick a hypoallergenic and dermatologically-approved product.

  • Skin needs

When looking for the right product, you should consider your skin needs as it can help you zero down on the product quicker. Apart from exfoliation, if you are looking for something that can help treat fine lines, hyperpigmentation, or uneven skin tone, you can pick one with AHAs. But if sun damage and redness are your major concerns, BHAs would be a better bet.

  • Skin type

If you have dry skin, oily skin, or combination skin, you can choose chemical exfoliators with lactic acid or glycolic acid. And if you have sensitive skin, you may choose some PHAs and exfoliate less frequently, maybe once or twice a week.

The Bottom Line

You can achieve spotless skin with the help of chemical exfoliators. From toners to serums and creams, these exfoliators gently scrub away the dead skin cells that can cause unnecessary disturbances in your skin and enhance skincare product absorption. These exfoliators are not harsh on your skin. They provide your skin with a youthful appearance while helping you eliminate dark spots, patches, and other skin concerns. You can easily hydrate and moisturize your skin while exfoliating the upper layer. The Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is a mild yet effective leave-on formula, The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution reduces the appearance of fine lines, and the Pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic clears impurities from the pores and speeds up skin renewal. These chemical exfoliators also calm redness and inflammation in your skin while clearing away the breakouts. The chemical exfoliators might also be able to protect your skin from further sun damage. However, people with extra sensitive skin types should choose untextured, smooth exfoliators made with the gentlest of ingredients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are chemical exfoliants bad for your skin?

Chemical exfoliants are gentler on the skin than physical exfoliants as they do not involve scrubbing. They unclog pores and remove dead skin cells gently.

How often should I use a chemical exfoliant?

As chemical exfoliants tend to cause irritation and dryness when used every day, you can use them 2 or 3 times a week.

How long does it take for a chemical exfoliant to work?

If you have found the right chemical exfoliant for your skin, you should see results with a reduction in hyperpigmentation and supple skin in 2 to 3 weeks.

Do you wash off chemical exfoliants?

It depends on the type of product you are using. If you are using a peel that works like a mask, you have to rinse it off after a couple of minutes of application. Check the label of your product and follow the directions to use mentioned on it.

Is it bad to use chemical exfoliants every day?

Experts usually suggest using chemical exfoliant twice or thrice a week but if you feel your skin can use some more without developing any allergic reactions, you can increase the number of times you use it. Many people find it okay to use every day too.

Why Trust StyleCraze?

Kirtana Divakar, the wordsmith who wrote this post, has a deep understanding of the skin and what it needs to stay healthy and glowing. Everyday dirt, pollution, sweat, bacteria, and dead skin cells can cause inflammation and breakouts. She recommends using products from this carefully curated list of chemical exfoliators to thoroughly cleanse your skin. The author checked their reviews before finalizing the list. These products were selected based on their formula and ingredients, cleansing capabilities, and absence of harsh elements like parabens.


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