best body scrub for acne

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After a summer of sweat and sunscreen, coupled with the onset of chillier weather and dry skin, it’s not surprising that you might be looking for the best body scrub to exfoliate months of buildup. For many, body scrubs are an afterthought when it comes to hygiene, but they’re actually pretty important for your skin’s health. A good body scrub exfoliates the skin to remove dead skin cells, says dermatologist Nada Elbuluk, M.D., FAAD, associate professor at the University of Southern California. If you don’t slough off that dead skin, you could end up with breakouts, clogged pores, and irritation. Exfoliation is also especially important for folks with keratosis pilaris, where keratin builds up in the hair follicles and creates bumps most commonly seen on the backs of arms, thighs, and calves.

Now there are tons of body scrubs out there, so we spoke to Dr. Elbuluk and looked to our dermatologist guidelines from our annual Healthy Beauty Awards to find a stellar selection of scrubs that are both safe and efficacious. 

What to look for in a body scrub

Body scrubs are pretty personal—what works for one person might not work for another. For folks with body acne, finding an exfoliant with salicylic acid is key, says Dr. Elbuluk. For people with keratosis pilaris, AHAs like glycolic and lactic acids are good chemical exfoliants that help to break down bumps. Physical exfoliants (those that feel sandy and scrubby versus smooth and creamy) are best for people with oily and combination skin that won’t dry out too easily. 

For sensitive-skin types, gentle chemical exfoliants that include PHAs (polyhydroxy acids) are ideal. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) is also an excellent soothing ingredient for all skin types, but especially for sensitive skin. Colloidal oatmeal, chamomile extract, and shea butter make excellent additions to physical scrubs meant for sensitive skin, as they calm the skin and replenish it with plenty of moisture.

Another important note: Every exfoliant should include some kind of emollient (a moisturizing agent, for example shea butter) and a humectant (an ingredient that seals the moisture in, such as coconut oil). As a bonus, the best body scrub for you should not only make your skin silky smooth, but create a luxurious shower environment too. Because who couldn’t use a few extra minutes of self-care?

When to avoid body scrubs

If you’re just starting out with exfoliants, using them once or twice per week is the sweet spot for sloughing away dead skin without making skin angry. Dr. Elbuluk notes that exfoliants as a whole should be avoided if your skin is irritated or inflamed, or if there’s an open cut. 

With these guidelines and suggestions in mind, we scrubbed (ha!) the internet for the best body scrubs for every skin type that put in the work—without creating irritation or dryness. Here’s our selection of physical and chemical exfoliators, plus the ingredients that set them apart from the masses. 

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

    Glossier1Glossier Body Hero Exfoliating BarGlossier’s surprisingly large exfoliating bar uses superfine bamboo powder and cellulose as physical exfoliants to slough off dead skin cells without rubbing your skin raw. It’s also formulated with aloe leaf juice to soothe and sunflower-seed oil to lock in moisture.$14 $11 AT GLOSSIER
    Hatch2Hatch Smooth ScrubThis scrub formulated for expecting and new moms has a pillowy, whipped texture enriched with coconut, avocado, and sunflower-seed oils to soothe hormonal skin. It uses bamboo powder and blueberry seeds to buff dead skin cells, and kaolin clay to purify.$36 AT HATCH
    Soft Services3Soft Services Buffing BarBuzzy body-care brand Soft Services’ Buffing Bar uses a “microcrystal” exfoliant of magnesium oxide and alumina to smooth rough patches, keratosis pilaris, and areas prone to ingrown hairs. It moisturizes with glycerin, shea butter, and aloe vera. This bar is a moderate to intense fragrance-free exfoliant, so weekly use is satisfactory for most skin types.$28 AT SOFT SERVICES

WATCHUpper Body Strength – Rows and Flys – Class 3

    Sephora4Lord Jones Bump + Smooth CBD Body SerumThis body serum from cult-favorite CBD brand Lord Jones uses AHAs to gently exfoliate and soften bumpy skin. It’s so good that it won a 2021 SELF Healthy Beauty Award for how effectively it reduced the appearance of testers’ keratosis pilaris. This product is formulated with moisturizing squalane and ceramides, which derms say help to protect and repair the skin. It also contains salicylic and lactic acids, two powerful chemical exfoliants.$60 AT SEPHORA
    Amazon5CeraVe SA Body Wash for Rough & Bumpy SkinThe brand hailed by dermatologists and regular people alike, CeraVe makes a good exfoliating body wash thats easy on your wallet too. The main ingredient is clearing and purifying salicylic acid, and niacinamide plays the role of soothing skin post-exfoliation. Like all of CeraVe’s products, this body wash is also packed with ceramides, which protect your skin.$13 $12 AT AMAZON
    cocokind6Cocokind Scrubbing ClayCocokind’s body scrub won a 2021 SELF Healthy Beauty Award for its ability to slough off dead skin cells and soak up oil without damaging the skin barrier. It incorporates upcycled coffee grounds, chicory root, and kaolin clay for a satisfying scrub that smells invigorating and works great on rough spots like heels, knees, and elbows.$19 AT COCOKIND

Most Popular

    Nordstrom7Osea Salts of the Earth Body ScrubOsea’s sea salt scrub starts intense, but as it’s worked into the skin, it dissolves for a gentler exfoliation. Since it’s a physical scrub, it’s ideal for extra-dry bits. Key nourishing ingredients include shea butter, avocado oil, and wild gigartina (a red marine algae) to soften and repair the skin after exfoliation. $42 AT NORDSTROM
    Ulta8First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser Body ScrubMade with keratosis pilaris in mind, this scrub from First Aid Beauty uses both physical (pumice) and chemical (10% glycolic and lactic acids) exfoliants to whittle down pesky bumps on the arms and legs. It’s also formulated with bisabolol, a soothing agent that’s derived from chamomile.$28 AT ULTA
    Hanahana Beauty9Hanahana Beauty Black + Brown Exfoliating CleanserWhile Hanahana Beauty’s exfoliating cleanser is marketed as a facial exfoliant, nobody will stop you from using it everywhere else. It uses black soap and fine brown sugar to cleanse and buff, plus anti-inflammatory rose water and nourishing jojoba.$22 AT HANAHANA BEAUTY

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    Paula’s Choice10Paula’s Choice Weightless Body Treatment 2% BHAThis leave-on body treatment from cult-favorite brand Paula’s Choice uses 2% salicylic acid to slough off dead skin and reduce inflammation. It’s a gentle chemical exfoliant with the texture of a lotion, making it more suitable for sensitive-skin types. It’s also formulated with dimethicone to moisturize and chamomile flower extract to soothe.$28 AT PAULA’S CHOICE
    Nordstrom11Malin + Goetz Peppermint Body ScrubAn invigorating peppermint body scrub like this one is excellent for mornings when your skin needs a bit of a pick-me-up. Pumice acts as a physical exfoliant in tandem with salicylic acid to soften and smooth your skin. It’s a soapy, cleansing scrub, so it can take the place of your body wash a few times per week.$35 AT NORDSTROM
    Purely Elizabeth12

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