5 Best Budget Exfoliators For Sensitive Skin

So far in my ‘5 Best…’ series we’ve covered cleansers and moisturisers, so next up is one of the most exciting posts in the series: 5 best budget exfoliators. I can hear you laughing at the back, and yes I’m aware that exfoliators don’t *sound* that exciting but hear me out! If you don’t currently use one, or use it sporadically, then I can guarantee that when used regularly it can transform the skin. A good exfoliator makes you look healthier, less tired, helps with blemishes and, as a result, make up sits better on the skin. I have a lot to say about this topic so grab a cuppa and a biscuit!

5 Best Budget Exfoliators for Sensitive Skin/Rosacea

When the word ‘exfoliator’ is used, most people think of a thick cream with harsh gritty bits that make your skin feel like it’s been sandblasted. When I was younger, and didn’t know that I had rosacea and dermatitis, I would scrub at my face with a famous fruity scrub until it was sore in a desperate attempt to look less like a lizard. It was not pretty and not fun. But after that experience, I foolishly avoided any and all exfoliators completely. I wrongly tarred all exfoliators with the same scratchy brush. I even wrote blog posts saying people with rosacea should stay away from exfoliators – I’m acknowledging that here before someone points it out in the comments! – which I now disagree with.

Exfoliators for sensitive skin/rosacea

The truth is that not all exfoliators are made equal. I still think that if you have sensitive skin you should probably avoid those very harsh scrubs like the plague. However, finding the right exfoliator for you can be life-changing (for those who scoff at the idea that a skincare product can be life-changing, come back to me when you’ve had an incurable skin condition for 10+ years… *insert hair flick emoji*) In this post I’ve chosen some very different products, covering manual and chemical exfoliators in different forms. In case you aren’t aware, the former are the traditional creams/gels containing suspended particles that will physically help to lift the dead skin, dirt, oil etc. from your face. The latter do the same by using mild acids to dissolve the dead skin. DO NOT PANIC. If you’re anything like me the words ‘acid’ and ‘dissolving’ bring to mind that scene from Raiders Of The Lost Ark. But these are skin-friendly acids that can actually be much kinder to sensitive skin as you’re not rubbing and dragging on the skin.

I’ve waffled a lot so let’s just get going with my picks of the 5 best budget exfoliators for sensitive skin.

I’m going to start with a product that has featured in quite a few Skincare Shake Up posts: the Avène Cleanance Expert Emulsion*. This isn’t designed to be an all-over exfoliator as it’s primary function is to combat blackheads and blemishes. It contains X-Pressin which is Avène’s alternative to Glycolic acid. I apply this at night to my nose and chin to help get rid of the dead skin and congestion. It’s flipping wonderful PLUS it lasts for ages as you hardly use any. This is usually £15 but is £11.25 in the Escentual sale right now… go go go!

Exfoliators for sensitive skin/rosacea

Another exfoliator that’s appeared on the blog before is the La Roche-Posay Ultrafine Scrub For Sensitive Skin*. As you may have guessed from the name, this is a manual exfoliator. It’s a thick gel that has very, very fine particles to exfoliate the skin. The internet seems to be at odds whether this product contains microbeads (not good for the environment) or pumice particles, so it may differ country to country. Mine definitely contains the latter. I am very light-handed when using this product to avoid irritation. Luckily the areas my skin is driest are the areas unaffected by my rosacea so I can focus on these areas without my skin being too stressed. Make sure your skin and hands are wet before massaging the products onto your face in small circles. This product is usually £10, but is in the Escentual sale for £6.66. Madness.

Exfoliators for sensitive skin/rosacea

The remaining three products are all new to me but have had a thorough testing recently and I am very impressed with all of them.

Sticking with the traditional scrub format, I’ve been really enjoying using the Formula Daily Exfoliating Face Scrub*. Formula is M&S’s own skincare range, I’ve reviewed some of their other products here if you’d like a nosey. This is a more gentle scrub, with a cream base. I use this when my skin is feeling a little bit sensitive but I still need to exfoliate and it’s perfect: gentle enough to be kind to my skin but my face still feels smooth and soft after using it. This scrub is £4.00 for 150ml. That isn’t the sale price, it’s the price ALL THE TIME.

Exfoliators for sensitive skin/rosacea

Superdrug have some seriously good skincare in their own brand ranges. I’m always surprised that people haven’t heard of them, so I will keep singing their praises until you’re all using them! The first product from them that I’ve been impressed with recently is the Superdrug Optimum PhytoCellTech Skin Illuminating Glycolic Overnight Peel*. A bit of a mouthful and also I know that ‘Glycolic overnight peel’ sounds slightly terrifying. I have been using this twice a week but I think it would be gentle enough to use every night if you wanted to build up to that. It applies just like a serum and there is no stinging or discomfort at all. I clean my face in the evening, apply this, wait about 10 minutes, then apply the rest of my night time products. You wash it all off in the morning but you can’t tell it’s on the face in the morning, it’s not sticky or flakey. My skin feels and looks so smooth the next morning with absolutely no irritation. If you’re looking to get into Glycolic Acid but don’t want to shell out a lot of money for something that could irritate your skin, this may be a good one to start with. This is £12.99.

Exfoliators for sensitive skin/rosacea

And last but not least is the B.Revealed Glycolic Cleansing Peel*. This is more like a face mask: you apply it to dry skin, leave it on for 3 minutes (I started with using it for 1 minute as a test and then built up to 3, just in case!) and then remove with a flannel or muslin cloth. There was no tingling while this was on, although there was a little heat when I washed it off but nothing major and it went down within a few minutes. I wouldn’t use this more than twice a week. I was surprised at how lovely my skin felt and looked after using it, so soft and glowy. I love this for a super quick trick to perking up the skin: if your skin was looking a bit tired and dull and you didn’t have long to get ready this would be ideal. This is £7.99 for 125ml.

Exfoliators for sensitive skin/rosacea

An important note for anyone introducing acids in their skincare: you should be using a daily SPF anyway (*stern look*) but if you don’t, it’s especially important after using acids as your skin can be more susceptible to sun damage.

Find all of the other posts in the series below:

Do any of these catch your eye? Do you currently use any exfoliators you would recommend? Let me know in the comments below.


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5 best affordable exfoliators for sensitive skin, rosacea



  1. Michelle Stamp
    4th January 2017 / 9:18 pm

    I think will try a couple of those thank you 🙂 I like the look of the Avene one and would like to try the Superdrug one but don’t know I will be brave enough with my sensitive skin! I also love the Pai skincare range – so gentle but work well and the Kukui and Jojoba Bead Skin Brightening Exfoliator is an extremely gentle product which never causes any irritation – I use it once a week. I love your blog and YouTube channel by the way Best wishes, Michelle

  2. Marie
    4th January 2017 / 10:47 pm

    I use the yonka gommage 305. They also do one for oily skin gommage 303. I think it’s amazing and gentle for my skin. All the best 🙂

  3. 11th January 2017 / 12:44 pm

    I used to use the La Roche Posay liquid exfoliant which was great and I went through about three bottles of it before switching to Alpha H’s Liquid Gold. Yes its pricey but I use it as an overnight treatment putting nothing else on my skin after cleansing and in the morning my skin is transformed! I always follow up with LRP’s facial sunblock! My skin is dry, dehydrated and prone to acne so its kind of sensitive. Not sure if Alpha H is too extreme for proper sensitive skins but the cheaper LRP acid is still a firm favourite with me!


  4. Karon
    17th April 2017 / 3:34 pm

    I use Liz Earle cleanse and polish and toner and moisturiser. Are these products ok, I’m not having any problems with them?

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