At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

How Do I Choose the Best Exfoliator for Dry Skin?

T. Alaine
T. Alaine

Using an exfoliator for dry skin promotes the dual benefits of removing dead skin cells to expose fresh, bright skin and creating an opportunity to topically moisturize the skin. The best exfoliator for dry skin will utilize small, gentle exfoliating particles that will be least likely to irritate sensitive dry skin. Assessing the ingredients that comprise the substance supporting the exfoliating particles is also important; the best exfoliator for dry skin will contain ingredients that are generally believed to nourish dry skin. Some processed ingredients can be beneficial, but most artificial colors or fragrances should be avoided.

Exfoliators for dry skin should typically be gentle and non-irritating because dry skin tends to be sensitive. The particles should be relatively small and have smooth, not jagged edges in order to avoid tearing the skin and causing further damage. This is especially true for facial exfoliators because the skin in this area is particularly thin and delicate. Most commercial exfoliating cleansers use smooth synthetic exfoliating beads that should be acceptable for dry skin. Sugar and salt scrubs, if they contain moisturizing essential oils, should also be gentle enough for dry skin — however, very large salt crystals or scrubs containing coarse ingredients such as ground nutshells might be too abrasive.

An exfoliating scrub.
An exfoliating scrub.

Natural oils and butters are good ingredients to look for when you are choosing an exfoliator for dry skin. Shea or cocoa butter are common moisturizing ingredients that can help hydrate during exfoliation. Just about any will be beneficial; restoring oils topically to compensate for the skin’s lack of naturally produced oils will also add moisture and help heal dryness. If you are making an exfoliator at home, basic ingredients such as olive oil or coconut oil can be mixed with sugar or salt to create a moisturizing product.

Exfoliating and moisturizing may help treat dry skin.
Exfoliating and moisturizing may help treat dry skin.

While artificial ingredients can irritate or even worsen dry skin, there are some commercial ingredients you can look for in an exfoliator for dry skin that will help moisturize. Alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic, citric, or lactic acids, actually exfoliate the skin without the use of scrubbing particles. Lactic acid is also a humectant, along with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerol, and sorbitol. Humectants pull moisture out of the air and draw it into your skin. You should be careful to avoid products that are heavily scented with artificial fragrances as well as products that are designed to absorb excess oil or treat acne, as these might exacerbate dry skin.

Discussion Comments


I have a recipe for a homemade way to exfoliate dry skin on your face and neck. It calls for basic kitchen ingredients and looks so pretty in a glass jar on the counter. The homemade scrub also makes a great gift. What’s more, it is inexpensive to make.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of ground oatmeal, ½ of dry lavender flowers (no stalks), ½ cup of powdered milk, and 2 teaspoons of cornmeal. When mixed with water, you get about 16 ounces of product.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and then put them in a sealable container, like a glass jar. The homemade scrub has a shelf life of about six months. Using the scrub is easy. Add about 1 tablespoon to enough filtered water to make a thick paste. Massage over your face and neck in circular motions before rinsing and patting dry.

I haven’t had any skin irritation or anything. I use whatever lotion I like afterwards. My skin always feels fresh and clean.


I have a problem with dry skin on my face. I try to be very conscientious when it comes to the products I use on my skin. These days, there are brands popping up all over that claim to be free of all the chemicals, preservatives, and other ‘bad’ things for our skin.

When it comes to exfoliating, my stand-by product has been a non-medicated apricot scrub. The formula I found is designed to be gentle enough for use on sensitive skin. I love the results. I don’t have any breakouts, and my skin seems smooth. As long as I follow up with a good, gentle moisturizer, I don’t seem to have any problems.


I can’t get enough of using sugar scrubs. And even though I should avoid heavy fragrances, I can’t help indulging in some of the deliciously scented sugar scrubs out there. Sugar scrubs really are a good exfoliator for dry skin.

The only problem I have had with sugar scrubs is they can make the floor of the tub quite slippery. I always use a rubber mat in the tub to be safe. There isn’t one particular brand I use, but it has been my experience that you get what you pay for.

When it comes to skin care, I am willing to spend a little more to get a higher quality product. Cheap exfoliating products can just end up making your dry skin irritated and even worse than when you started.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • An exfoliating scrub.
      By: kubais
      An exfoliating scrub.
    • Exfoliating and moisturizing may help treat dry skin.
      By: Konstantin Kulikov
      Exfoliating and moisturizing may help treat dry skin.
    • Olive oil, mixed with salt or sugar, is an inexpensive exfoliator that smooths skin.
      By: margo555
      Olive oil, mixed with salt or sugar, is an inexpensive exfoliator that smooths skin.
    • Exfoliators for dry skin should typically be gentle and non-irritating.
      By: Konstantin Yuganov
      Exfoliators for dry skin should typically be gentle and non-irritating.