13 Best Exfoliating Toners & Scrubs
My best, tried and true, anti-aging acid exfoliating toners and physical scrubs for daytime and nighttime use, and for all skin types.
As an exfoliation warrior, I have experimented with a wide range of exfoliating products from mild to extreme. I rotate both physical scrubs and acid exfoliators into my routine on a regular basis. I don’t prefer one over the other but like them both for different reasons. Both types slough off dead skin allowing the active ingredients in the products that you use after (serum, retinol, vitamin c, etc.) to penetrate deeper into the skin.
I use scrubs as part of my cleansing step especially in the mornings if I wake up with flakey skin from retinol use. I use acid toners after cleansing, some rinse off, others do not. On occasion, I will double up because my skin can take it depending on the combination that I choose but if your skin is sensitive, you’ll have to find a combination that works for you.
Physical Exfoliating Scrubs
OSKIA Micro Exfoliating Balm – An exquisite exfoliating balm is this one from the bio-nutritional skincare brand, OSKIA. It is chocked full of luscious oils and very fine exfoliating particles. It smells amazing and leaves my skin feeling clean and hydrated.
Dr. Lancer The Method Polish – A seriously gritty exfoliator that isn’t for everyone but when used gently, you may love the clean, sand-blasted result as much as I.
Exfolikate by Kate Sommerville – It’s green and smells medicinal. I’m not put off by the smell but it’s something to consider. It combines lactic acid with exfoliating beads and would designate this one a mild to medium exfoliator that polishes the skin.
Darphin Age-Defying Dermabrasion – Similar to OSKIA, these mild exfoliating beads (Silica, Pearl, Lava) are very fine and leave my skin clean and radiant.
Alba Botanica AcneDote Face & Body Scrub – A recent discovery is this physical scrub containing 2% salicylic acid making it a good choice for daily use if you’re fighting acne or as an all-round scrub. It’s affordable and the large tube lasts for months.
ACURE Brilliantly Brightening Facial Scrub – This sea kelp and clay exfoliator is an Allure Beauty Award winner. It is similar to Kate Somerville’s ExfoliKate but it’s a fraction of the price. Great scrub for stimulating the skin first thing in the morning.
In the old days (70’s, 80′, 90’s), toners were part of a 3-step cleansing routine and used after cleansing to remove any cleanser or make-up residue, and “restore your PH balance” whatever that meant. This is an out-dated mindset and skincare routines have advanced significantly as new ingredients and technologies have come to market.
Today, the “toner” step in a routine is considered a treatment step to treat whichever skin problem that you want to address whether it be fine lines, wrinkles, acne, pigmentation, dullness, etc. Therefore, there are hundreds if not thousands of toner formulations for us to consider including in our modern-day skincare routines.
Most exfoliating toners on the market today are acid-based and have at least one or a combination of the following active ingredients:
Glycolic Acid (AHA – Alpha Hydroxy Acid) removes the outermost layer of dead skin cells, revealing brighter, fresher skin. Use to combat dull skin, pigmentation, and signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles. It regenerates collagen, thickens the epidermis and dermis, and evens skin tone.
Salicylic Acid (BHA – Beta Hydroxy Acid) busts acne and works best on blackheads and whiteheads by loosening the glue that holds cells together, penetrating and unclogging pores for deep cleaning.
Lactic Acid (AHA – Alpha Hydroxy Acid) produced naturally in the body, lactic acid is the mildest of the three exfoliating acids listed here. Helpful in preventing acne and improving skin texture.
P50 1970 by BIOLOGIQUE RECHERCHE – This French toner has been on the market for over 40 years. There are many formulations of P50. I use the 1970 version which contains phenol and smells like Chloraseptic. It will also leave your tongue numb if you get it in your mouth. Lotion 1970 is the strongest formulation but the range includes others that are milder and suitable for sensitive skin such as P50W. Some include ingredients such as onion, horseradish, and wasabi. 1970 contains Niacinamide (Vitamin B3 for acne, pigmentation, and brightness), Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, and Sulfur (antibacterial properties). Your skin may be red right after use but it will calm down.
Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads – These peel pads pack a punch, 20% combined Glycolic, Salicylic, and Lactic acid. Sweep both sides of the pad over your face, neck, and décolletage and your skin is prepped for serums, etc.
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel Pads – Pricey pads that deliver a potent combination of Glycolic, Salicylic, and Lactic Acids. They come in treatment packs which is great for traveling. Peter Thomas Roth is less expensive but if you’re up for a splurge, you’ll become a fan of these pads.
Liquid Gold by Alpha H – This toner was the first exfoliating toner that I ever used and my entry into the world of chemical exfoliation. It is a 5% Glycolic toner but I find it stronger and more potent than Pixi Glow Tonic.
Budget-Friendly Acid Toners
Pixi Glow Tonic 5% Glycolic – A mild toner that I like to keep on hand when I’m giving my skin a break from harsher treatments. It’s a good entry-level acid exfoliator and one I recommend for sensitive skin.
NIP + FAB Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Facial Pads – Another affordable and mild acid exfoliator is NIP + FAB with 2.8% glycolic acid and witch hazel.