The Best Mild Chemical Exfoliants For Skin-care Acid Newbies

Also for those with sensitive skin

Chemical exfoliants are buzzy right now. Glossier just came out with one, Sunday Riley’s Good Genes is having a moment, and, though Biologique Recherche’s infamous P50 lotion has been around for decades, it’s seeing a resurgence. People are craving cell turnover, and they’re craving it now.

What nobody tells you, though, is that not all chemical exfoliants are created equal, and some can be pretty intense, especially for newbies. We've already outlined the different skin-care acids and what they do here, but we wanted to also provide some product recommendations for those with more sensitive skin or those who, at the mere mention of glycolic acid, start to break out. 

Some things to keep in mind when shopping: Natural exfoliants like pumpkin and papaya enzymes tend to be the most gentle and effective, says Dr. Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip of South Shore Medical Center. As far as acids go, she recommends lactic for those just starting out. “It exfoliates and softens lines and wrinkles in a much less irritating way than other acids,” she says. It’s always important to slowly incorporate any skin-care product into your regimen, but especially an exfoliant. For those with sensitive skin, Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip recommends exfoliating no more than once a week. “Read labels and remember that over-exfoliating the skin can do more harm than good,” she advises. “I always say, less is more.”

Click ahead to see some of her—and our—favorite picks. 

Kiehl's, Nightly Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate, $60, available at Kiehl's