• 10 Best Exfoliators for Dry Skin UK 2022 | The Ordinary, Paula's Choice and More 1
  • 10 Best Exfoliators for Dry Skin UK 2022 | The Ordinary, Paula's Choice and More 2
  • 10 Best Exfoliators for Dry Skin UK 2022 | The Ordinary, Paula's Choice and More 3
  • 10 Best Exfoliators for Dry Skin UK 2022 | The Ordinary, Paula's Choice and More 4
  • 10 Best Exfoliators for Dry Skin UK 2022 | The Ordinary, Paula's Choice and More 5

10 Best Exfoliators for Dry Skin UK 2022 | The Ordinary, Paula's Choice and More

Using an exfoliator is one of the best things you can do for dry skin. Whether physical or chemical, the main aim of these products is to remove dead skin cells, leaving behind a brighter, softer complexion. There are ever more ways to exfoliate nowadays, from scrubs to acid-based toners and even cleansers and moisturisers, but which are best for dry skin? 

In this article, we'll help you distinguish your AHAs from your BHAs and explain how to consider dry skin as you choose your product. We've also searched through the most popular exfoliators on the market and ranked our favourites in order of function and value for money. Read on to discover our top buys from brands like Pixi, The Ordinary and Paula's Choice to get you glowing! 

This Article's Contributors

mybest Editing Team
  • Last updated: 05-08-2022
Table of Contents

How to Choose an Exfoliator for Dry Skin in the UK – Buying Guide

All exfoliators function differently and can help to improve your dry skin in different ways depending on your skin type. When picking a product to exfoliate your skin, there are some key ingredients to opt for and ones you should avoid. It’s also good to consider your skin’s needs.

Choose the Type of Exfoliator Based On Your Routine and Desired Results

The main dry-skin exfoliant types are granular scrubs and acid-based toners, but nowadays, there are exfoliating cleansers and moisturisers too. Pick the product you think will fit best within your skincare routine, or consider trying something new!

Exfoliating Cleansers Reduce the Impact on Your Skin

Exfoliating Cleansers Reduce the Impact on Your Skin

A face wash with exfoliating properties lets you remove dry skin layers whilst you go about your usual cleansing duties, so they're very easy to slot into your routine. 


The downside is that you’ll potentially be exfoliating your skin daily, which isn’t ideal for drier skin types. Certainly if you do choose an exfoliating cleanser, something with very tiny gentle grains will work best.

Exfoliating Toners Are a Quick and Easy Product to Add to Your Routine

Exfoliating Toners Are a Quick and Easy Product to Add to Your Routine

Toners, which you run gently over your skin after cleansing using a cotton pad or facecloth, are often associated with oily skin, but the exfoliating versions – containing acids to work away dull surface layers – are very effective for dry skin, and penetrate deeply without causing tightness. 


For a chilled-out beauty regime that allows you to apply your exfoliator to specific problem areas if you need to, choose an acid-based toner. 

Moisturisers to Hydrate and Exfoliate in One

Moisturisers to Hydrate and Exfoliate in One
Believe it or not, you can now exfoliate your dry skin while you moisturise! A number of brands now offer night creams or lotions that work to detach dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. These products usually contain acids, which erase dullness and leave you with a fresh glow

If you prefer to keep your dry skin super-moist and creamy for as long as possible, pick a two-in-one exfoliator so you can hydrate your face with a relaxing massage before bed – minus unnecessary drying.

Physical Exfoliants Scrub Stubborn Flakes, But Proceed with Caution!

Physical Exfoliants Scrub Stubborn Flakes, But Proceed with Caution!

While it can be seriously tempting to scrub your skin raw in an attempt to reveal a glowing new you, the reality is that treating your dry skin roughly will often exacerbate things.


This is certainly a satisfying experience, and if done carefully it can be one of the best ways to exfoliate with instantly noticeable results. In addition, scrubs often contain natural oils which provide deep nourishment for dry skin as they work.


If you do want to include a facial scrub in your routine, make sure to limit your use to twice a week at most to avoid damaging skin cells.

Choose the Right Acids to Shift Dead Cells, Smooth Fine Lines and Perfect Pores

Many exfoliating products contain acids which gently dissolve the layer of dead cells that can lead to a dull, depressing complexion. Known as chemical exfoliants, they typically contain either AHAs, BHAs, or PHAs which can affect your skin in slightly different ways. Here's the lowdown on each. 

AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) Help Dry and Mature Skin Become Plump, Smooth and Moisturised

AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) Help Dry and Mature Skin Become Plump, Smooth and Moisturised
The key types of acid to look for are AHAs, most notably glycolic acid and lactic acid. These two acids gently clear away the top layer of skin that can cause bumps, imperfections and a flaky appearance, allowing new skin cells to generate. This means they also boast anti-aging properties, and can reduce fine lines and wrinkles over time. 

Though they perform similarly, glycolic acid has a smaller molecular structure so can penetrate deeper, and may even help with acne as it has antimicrobial properties. However, this can lead to irritation in sensitive skin types or those prone to redness, which is why a patch test is generally advised. 


Both types of acid have moisture-boosting properties and will leave skin feeling smooth and looking plump without aggravating skin cells like a scrub might.

BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) Are Better for Clogged Pores or Blackheads

BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) Are Better for Clogged Pores or Blackheads
Commonly known as salicylic acid, BHAs are primarily used in skincare formulations to combat acne, though they can help to reduce inflammation and redness, too. As they are oil-soluble and work to clear out pores and prevent blackheads, BHAs tend to be most compatible with oily skin types.

However, BHAs are not to be overlooked completely for your dry skin, especially as there are many people with dry skin who still have congestion or blemishes to contend with! If you look out for an alcohol-free BHA-containing product, you’ll avoid the risk of drying out your skin that can be come from using these acids. 

PHAs (Poly Hydroxy Acids) Suit Problematic Dry Skin Conditions

PHAs (Poly Hydroxy Acids) Suit Problematic Dry Skin Conditions
If you suffer from particularly dry conditions, you may want to experiment with the newest discovery in acid-based exfoliation; PHAs, which can appear on the ingredients list as gluconolactone, galactose, or lactobionic acid. 

PHAs don’t penetrate as deeply as other types of acid, simply working on your skin’s top layer. This means they’re compatible with dry skin as well as more problematic conditions like rosacea and eczema. They can also improve the efficiency of other products in your routine such as your moisturiser, which is great news for thirsty skin!

Always Check for Moisturising, Hydrating Ingredients

Always Check for Moisturising, Hydrating Ingredients
Keep an eye out for other ingredients which can deeply nourish your skin by improving its water content. Glycerin, hyaluronic acid, plant oils and butters such as shea butter and olive oil, and extracts such as aloe vera are all fantastically hydrating ingredients to look out for. 

Fruit extracts are also perfect to replenish your thirsty cells as they contain vitamin A – which accelerates the the reproduction of cells, meaning a fast turnover of brand new skin – and vitamin C, which boosts collagen product to add firmness and smooth fine lines.


Though almost all skincare products do contain hydrating ingredients, oils, and humectants, for dry skin it's worth remembering that the higher up on the ingredients list, the greater the percentage it contains!

Don’t Make it Worse: Steer Clear of Drying Ingredients

Just as certain ingredients are a dream for dusty, thirsty skin, there are other names you should watch out for when shopping for exfoliators. Here are the two main culprits that will take your skin from dry to disaster if overused. 

Skip Simple Alcohols to Avoid Dryness and Irritation for Sensitive Skin

Skip Simple Alcohols to Avoid Dryness and Irritation for Sensitive Skin

Alcohol is one of the most common skincare ingredients there is, but unfortunately (as you may well have experienced after several glasses of wine), alcohol can have a drying effect on the skin. Just as consuming it leaves us with a dull complexion, rubbing alcohol-rich products onto the skin can leave your face as thirsty and sad as a bad hangover.


Simple alcohols like ethanol and propanol are added to products for their antibacterial properties, while benzyl alcohol is a useful cosmetic preservative. However, these are the types to avoid if you have dry skin, particularly if it's easily irritated


That being said, not all types of alcohol are necessarily the enemy. Fatty alcohols cetyl and cetearyl alcohol can actually be beneficial for dry skin as they have hydrating properties.

Watch Out for SLS: It Can Strip the Skin

Watch Out for SLS: It Can Strip the Skin
Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) is also best avoided, as though it is included to help make products light and foamy, it can strip skin of its natural oils, making dry skin even drier.

Once again, if you have particularly sensitive skin, check the ingredients list to avoid exacerbating your dry skin troubles unnecessarily. When using products containing alcohol or SLS, opt for ones with a lower content and make sure you hydrate your skin extra-carefully after each use.

Compare the Best Exfoliators for Dry Skin

Image
1
The Ordinary  Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution 1

The Ordinary

2
Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant 1

Paula's Choice

3
Neal’s Yard Remedies  Rose Facial Polish 1

Neal’s Yard Remedies

4
Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant 1

Dermalogica

5
The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow Boosting Microdermabrasion 1

The Body Shop

6
Origins  High-Potency Night-a-Mins Resurfacing Cream  1

Origins

7
Pixi Glow Tonic 1

Pixi

8
La Roche Posay Sensitive Ultra Fine Scrub 1

La Roche Posay

9
REN  Clarimatte Clarifying Toner 1

REN

10
Clarins  One-Step Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser 1

Clarins

Name

Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Rose Facial Polish

Daily Microfoliant

Vitamin C Glow Boosting Microdermabrasion

High-Potency Night-a-Mins Resurfacing Cream

Glow Tonic

Sensitive Ultra Fine Scrub

Clarimatte Clarifying Toner

One-Step Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser

Features

The Best Glycolic Acid Toner from Skincare Experts

Show Dead Skin the Door With a Gently Acidic Lotion

An Organic Scrub That Exfoliates the Natural Way

Excellent for Acne-Prone Dry Skin

A Zingy Polish Packed With Fruit Nutrients

Overnight Exfoliation to Wake Up Hydrated and Radiant

A Gentle Yet Effective Exfoliating Toner

Hypoallergenic and Soap-Free for Sensitive Dry Skin

AHAs and BHAS for Dry and Combination Skin

A Fruit-Infused Cleanser to Gently Renew

Price£15.99£30.00£14.40£55.00£21.61£30.00£18.00£10.00£12.95£21.10
Product TypeTonerDaily exfoliant Weekly scrubDaily treatmentWeekly scrubMoisturiser TonerCleansing scrubTonerFacial cleanser
Exfoliants AHAs (glycolic acid)BHAsPhysical (wild rose seed powder)Chemical and physical (BHAs, rice bran, papain fruit acid)Physical (aluminium silicate)AHAs, salicylic acidAHAs (glycolic acid)Physical AHAs and BHAsSilica microbeads, salicylic acid
Hydrating IngredientGlycerin, aloe vera Methylpropanediol, butylene glycolAloe vera, olive oil, coconut oil, soy oil Colloidal oatmeal Shea butter, almond oilGlycerin, jojoba oil, fruit oils Aloe vera, glycerin Glycerin PineappleShea butter, glycerin
Alcohol-FreeYesYesYesYesFatty alcohols only Fatty alcohols onlyYesYesNoNo
SLS-FreeYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesNo
Volume240 ml118 ml100 g100g100 ml50 ml250 ml50 ml150 ml125 ml
Link

Top 10 Best Exfoliators for Dry Skin in the UK

With all these tips in mind, we have created a ranking of the top ten exfoliators that should help to banish dry skin and reveal a healthy, glowing complexion. We hope you find something to suit you here!

10

Clarins One-Step Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser

£21.10

Product TypeFacial cleanser
Exfoliants Silica microbeads, salicylic acid
Hydrating IngredientShea butter, glycerin
Alcohol-FreeNo
SLS-FreeNo
Volume125 ml
9
Product TypeToner
Exfoliants AHAs and BHAs
Hydrating IngredientPineapple
Alcohol-FreeNo
SLS-FreeYes
Volume150 ml
8

La Roche PosaySensitive Ultra Fine Scrub

£10.00

Product TypeCleansing scrub
Exfoliants Physical
Hydrating IngredientGlycerin
Alcohol-FreeYes
SLS-FreeYes
Volume50 ml
7
Product TypeToner
Exfoliants AHAs (glycolic acid)
Hydrating IngredientAloe vera, glycerin
Alcohol-FreeYes
SLS-FreeYes
Volume250 ml
6

Origins High-Potency Night-a-Mins Resurfacing Cream

£30.00

Product TypeMoisturiser
Exfoliants AHAs, salicylic acid
Hydrating IngredientGlycerin, jojoba oil, fruit oils
Alcohol-FreeFatty alcohols only
SLS-FreeYes
Volume50 ml
5

The Body ShopVitamin C Glow Boosting Microdermabrasion

£21.61

Product TypeWeekly scrub
Exfoliants Physical (aluminium silicate)
Hydrating IngredientShea butter, almond oil
Alcohol-FreeFatty alcohols only
SLS-FreeYes
Volume100 ml
4
Product TypeDaily treatment
Exfoliants Chemical and physical (BHAs, rice bran, papain fruit acid)
Hydrating IngredientColloidal oatmeal
Alcohol-FreeYes
SLS-FreeYes
Volume100g
3

Neal’s Yard Remedies Rose Facial Polish

£14.40

Product TypeWeekly scrub
Exfoliants Physical (wild rose seed powder)
Hydrating IngredientAloe vera, olive oil, coconut oil, soy oil
Alcohol-FreeYes
SLS-FreeYes
Volume100 g
2

Paula's ChoiceSkin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

£30.00

Product TypeDaily exfoliant
Exfoliants BHAs
Hydrating IngredientMethylpropanediol, butylene glycol
Alcohol-FreeYes
SLS-FreeYes
Volume118 ml
1

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

£15.99

Product TypeToner
Exfoliants AHAs (glycolic acid)
Hydrating IngredientGlycerin, aloe vera
Alcohol-FreeYes
SLS-FreeYes
Volume240 ml

More Ways to Care for Dry Skin

More Ways to Care for Dry Skin

The right caring and nourishing ingredients can bring real relief to dry skin, and with winter on the way, it's probably a good time to get your skincare arsenal sorted! Check out our suggestions for the best products to add to your routine

Summary

Overall you can see that taking care to select the perfect exfoliator for your skin will have countless benefits. Whether you opt for a chemical or physical exfoliant to get rid of gloomy dead cells, remember everyone’s skin is different, so it’s always best to experiment carefully with a new product. 

Author: Annie Hopkins

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