These Are the Only 16 Exfoliators That Actually Help Get Rid of My Blackheads

I’ll be honest: I feel like the concept of exfoliating as a skincare step has taken some beating in recent years. Once upon a time, exfoliating (the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin) was considered an essential part of every at-home skin routine. Once or twice a week, we were encouraged by experts to use either a scrub or an acid treatment to help unclog pores, remove dead skin cells and reveal brighter, clearer skin.

But then scrubs got cancelled. Experts and brands told us that we were destroying our skin barriers and causing our complexions major upset as a result, so the industry moved us onto non-abrasive, acid exfoliators. But now, it seems as though they too can cause issues, and so the concept of using an at-home exfoliant has slowly faded out. Instead, we’re encouraged to champion hydration and nourishment wherever we can and protect our skin barriers at all costs.


(Image credit: @SHANNONLAWLOR)

But the truth is that as with most things in life, the real sweet spot for our skin sits somewhere in the middle. Yes, we need to be protecting our skin barriers, but exfoliation is also key in keeping skin glowy and free from congestion. As someone with oily, congested skin, I had to figure this out the hard way.

You see, I’ve grappled with blackheads my whole life. I genuinely can’t remember a time when my nose wasn’t covered in those pesky, pin-prick dots. Over the past couple of years, with beauty messaging telling me that I should prioritise the health of my skin barrier, I had become somewhat scared of exfoliation. As a result, my blackheads got a whole lot worse.

I have since realised that exfoliation does have its place. It’s about taking things easy, choosing the right products and listening to your skin so that you know when to stop. Since picking up exfoliating treatments once or twice a week and concentrating on areas that need them most, I have noticed a significant improvement in both blackheads and skin radiance. If you’re also struggling to navigate the complex world of exfoliating, keep scrolling to shop the 16 best facial exfoliators for every skin need.

Dry Skin

1. Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment

2. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial

3. Pixi Glow Tonic

4. Ren Clean Skincare Glycol Lactic Radiance Mask

Oily Skin

5. Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

6. Clinique Exfoliating Scrub

7. Dr. Barbara Sturm Enzyme Cleanser

8. Goldfaden MD Doctor's Scrub

Combination Skin

9. Fresh Sugar Strawberry Exfoliating Face Wash

10. Murad Vita-C Triple Exfoliating Facial

11. Alpha-H Liquid Gold

12. Youth to the People Mandelic Acid + Superfood Unity Exfoliant

Sensitive Skin

13. Trinny London Tiptoe In

14. Byoma Clarifying Serum

15. Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel

16. Erborian Milk & Peel Balm

Next up, I turned 30 and made these changes to my skincare routine.

Freelance Beauty Editor

Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous. Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics. While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best. When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.