Using an exfoliating skincare product is a quick and easy way to achieve healthy, glowing skin. You can use physical exfoliators or chemical exfoliators to slough away dead skin cells, dirt, and oil that can clog pores and cause breakouts. Exfoliators also can help to improve skin texture and tone for brighter luminous skin.
When it comes to finding the best exfoliator for your skin, there are many choices on the market. If you’re looking for a quality exfoliator that will leave your skin feeling soft, smooth, and more youthful-looking, you should consider a Korean exfoliator.
Forget the harsh face scrubs of the past – Korean exfoliators are much gentler on the skin yet still effective at getting rid of dead skin cells and debris.
Korean exfoliators are known for being gentle yet effective, and they’re suitable for most skin types. This post will share the seven best Korean exfoliators that will help you achieve bright, smooth, clear, and radiant skin.
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The Best Korean Exfoliators
These exfoliators from Korean skincare brands will leave your skin feeling soft, smooth, and fresh. Just be sure not to overdo it. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Start slow and increase usage as tolerated.
1. COSRX BHA 4% Blackhead Power Liquid
COSRX BHA 4% Blackhead Power Liquid targets blackheads and clogged pores with a BHA and niacinamide to exfoliate the skin and control oil. This Korean chemical exfoliator is formulated for mid-level acid users and is excellent for oily skin. It contains only 10 ingredients to minimize irritation.
The liquid exfoliant contains white willow bark water and 4% betaine salicylate to unclog pores and improve skin tone and texture, plus 2% niacinamide which offers multiple skin benefits. Excellent for textured skin, rough skin, uneven skin tone, blackheads, and whiteheads.
COSRX BHA 4% Blackhead Power Liquid Key Ingredients
- Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Water: Willow bark contains natural BHA to help exfoliate the skin, unclog pores, and reduce inflammation.
- Betaine Salicylate: A combination of betaine and salicylic acid, betaine salicylate helps to exfoliate the skin and unclog pores while moisturizing the skin. About half as strong as salicylic acid, the 4% concentration in this blackhead liquid is roughly the same as a 2% salicylic acid concentration.
- Niacinamide: A form of vitamin B3, niacinamide has various benefits for the skin, including brightening dull skin and reducing the look of hyperpigmentation and dark spots, evening out skin tone, and smoothing fine lines and wrinkles. Niacinamide is a favorite of those with oily and acne prone skin since it helps balance oil production in the skin.
- Arginine: An amino acid, arginine has multiple benefits for the skin, including helping to repair the skin barrier, improving hydration, and reducing inflammation.
- Panthenol: Also called pro-vitamin B-5, panthenol helps to hydrate the skin and improve the appearance of dry, flaky skin.
- Sodium Hyaluronate: This popular skin care ingredient helps hydrate the skin by drawing moisture from the environment and locking it into the skin. The salt form of hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate has a lower molecular weight than hyaluronic acid, so it can penetrate the skin more deeply and deliver moisture more effectively.
2. Skinfood Black Sugar Mask Wash Off Black Sugar Scrub
If you are looking for a Korean physical exfoliator, this Korean face scrub from Skinfood will gently slough away dead skin cells, leaving your skin feeling softer and smoother.
Skinfood Black Sugar Mask Wash Off Black Sugar Scrub is a cult favorite wash-off face mask containing black sugar granules to physically exfoliate the skin and sweep away dull, dead skin cells. The mask also contains macadamia seed oil and shea butter to moisturize and nourish the skin.
The sugar granules are fine and not harsh on the skin, making this an excellent option for those who prefer a gentle physical exfoliant instead of a chemical exfoliant. The sugar dissolves as you massage it into the skin, and it won’t leave your face feeling dry or stripped.
Skinfood Black Sugar Mask Wash Off Black Sugar Scrub Key Ingredients
- Sucrose: Black sugar granules help physically exfoliate the skin, removing dead skin cells and leaving the skin feeling softer and smoother.
- Glycerin: A skin-replenishing and restoring ingredient, glycerin helps keep the skin feeling soft and supple.
- Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil: A rich, emollient oil that helps moisturize and protect the skin, macadamia oil contains a high concentration of the fatty acid oleic acid, making it especially beneficial for mature and dry skin.
- Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter: A rich source of fatty acids and vitamins, shea butter helps to nourish and protect the skin. Shea butter also contains antioxidants like vitamins A and E to help protect the skin from free radical damage.
- Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil: Meadowfoam seed oil is a lightweight and nongreasy oil that helps to moisturize and protect the skin with fatty acids and antioxidants like vitamin E.
Although it’s called a mask, which makes you think you leave this on your skin for a few minutes, a better description would be a black sugar scrub as you massage it into your skin and rinse. Please note that there is added fragrance in this exfoliating sugar scrub.
3. Neogen Dermalogy Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine Pads
Neogen Dermalogy Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine Pads are dual-textured patented hypoallergenic cotton gauze pads that exfoliate dead skin cells, excess oil, dirt, and other impurities to improve skin tone and texture.
Each pad contains active ingredients soaked in a wine serum containing potent antioxidants like resveratrol, AHAs, and hyaluronic acid. These cotton gauze peel pads will leave your skin looking smoother, brighter, tighter, and healthier.
Although a little pricier than other Korean exfoliators on this list, Amazon offers an affordable 8-count box instead of a 30-count jar if you want to try the pads before purchasing the full-size jar.
Dermalogy by NeogenLab Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Pads Key Ingredients
- Glycerin: A natural humectant that helps keep skin hydrated, glycerin is a popular skincare ingredient for its non-irritating and moisturizing benefits.
- Wine Extract: Red wine contains vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to nourish the skin. It also has antioxidant properties to help protect against free radicals, thanks to components like tannins, anthocyanins, and catechins.
- Sodium Hyaluronate: A form of hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate helps the skin retain moisture by drawing water from the air and binding it to cells.
- Resveratrol: A plant-based polyphenol molecule found in the skin of red grapes, resveratrol has antioxidant properties to help protect the skin from damage caused by UV exposure and helps repair skin damage.
- Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract: Rich in antioxidants, grape seed extract helps protect the skin from environmental stress.
- Glycolic Acid: An alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), glycolic acid exfoliates the skin by breaking down dead skin cells and revealing new, healthy skin cells.
- Lactic Acid: Another type of AHA, lactic acid is derived from milk and also helps to exfoliate the skin but has a larger molecule size than glycolic acid, so it is gentler on the skin. Lactic acid also has moisturizing properties, which is helpful for dehydrated or dry skin.
The design of the peel pads is ingenious because there is a slot that you can slip your fingers in to hold onto the pad so that you can swipe the pad across your face. Flip from the mesh gauze side to the embossed side to exfoliate and remove any residual impurities.
Please note that there is added fragrance in these exfoliating pads.
4. COSRX One Step Original Clear Pad
Ideal for acne-prone skin, COSRX One Step Original Clear Pads are formulated to remove excess sebum and dead skin cells with a natural exfoliating beta hydroxy acid (BHA) ingredient, willow bark water, which replaces water in the formula.
COSRX One Step Original Clear Pad Key Ingredients
- Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Water: A natural source of BHA that helps to soothe and provide astringent benefits for the skin.
- Glycerin: A natural humectant that helps to keep the skin hydrated by drawing water from the air into the skin.
- Betaine Salicylate: The combination of the exfoliating BHA salicylic acid and the moisturizing amino acid betaine. This gentle exfoliant helps remove dead skin cells, unclog pores and reduce inflammation.
- Arginine: An amino acid and natural moisturizing factor (NMF) that helps hydrate, heal and repair the skin.
- Panthenol: A type of vitamin B5 that acts as a humectant and emollient, helping to keep the skin hydrated.
- Allantoin: A skin-soothing agent from the comfrey plant that helps calm and protect the skin.
- Melaleuca Alternifolia Leaf Oil: Better known as tea tree oil, this essential oil is a natural antimicrobial agent that helps to kill bacteria and soothe the skin. A favorite of those with acne, this study showed that 5% tea-tree oil gel was as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide. Although slower to produce results, the tea tree oil gel caused fewer side effects.
- Sodium Hyaluronate: An all-star hydrator, sodium hyaluronate is a form of hyaluronic acid.
These pads are ideal for those who want a quick and easy exfoliation and are perfect for on the go. The pads can also be used as a makeup corrector since they do not contain any cleansing agents. Excellent for acne and oily skin.
To use, wipe the embossed side of the exfoliating pad across your face after cleansing, avoiding the delicate eye area. Swipe your face again with the softer side of the exfoliating pad to pick up any remaining residue.
Please note that these Korean peel pads contain Citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) peel oil and Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) leaf oil.
5. Dr.G Brightening Peeling Gel
Dr.G Brightening Peeling Gel is a peeling gel that is removed by rolling the gel into pieces off your face, thanks to the cellulose in the formula. It is designed to brighten the skin with active ingredients like licorice root extract and a vitamin C derivative.
This Korean exfoliator gently exfoliates the skin and removes impurities for a clearer, brighter, and smoother complexion.
Dr.G Brightening Peeling Gel Ingredients
- Cellulose: Helps thicken the formula, reduce oiliness and gently remove dead skin cells. It rolls off the skin in tiny pieces for an exfoliating effect.
- Trehalose: A sugar derivative that helps to hydrate and nourish the skin.
- Betula Alba (Birch) Bark Extract: This antioxidant-rich extract from the Birch tree helps to protect the skin from environmental stress while offering soothing and astringent properties. It can also strengthen the skin barrier for improved hydration.
- Honey Extract: A natural humectant, honey helps keep the skin moisturized by drawing water from the environment and locking it into the skin. It also contains antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
- Glycyrrhiza Uralensis (Licorice) Root Extract: Licorice root extract from the Chinese licorice plant is a brightening ingredient that can help to lighten the skin and reduce the appearance of dark spots. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Salix Nigra Bark (Willow) Extract: Often considered an alternative to salicylic acid, willow bark extract has antioxidant and skin-soothing benefits.
- Ascorbyl Glucoside: A water-soluble form of vitamin C, ascorbyl glucoside helps brighten the skin and reduce the appearance of dark spots and smooth fine lines and wrinkles. It is more stable than pure vitamin C and less irritating, making it a better choice for those with sensitive skin types.
- Allantoin: A skin-soothing ingredient that helps to protect the skin and supports healing and skin repair.
- Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil: A antimicrobial oil, tea tree oil helps keep the skin clear from blemishes. It also has soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Arginine: Arginine is an amino acid that is hydrating and promotes wound healing.
Dr. G Brightening Peeling Gel has a light, gel-like texture that is easy to spread on the skin. As you massage it into your skin, you will see small pieces of gel start to peel off. Rinse with warm water and pat dry for brighter, smoother skin.
6. Secret Key Lemon Sparkling Peeling Gel
Secret Key Lemon Sparkling Peeling Gel removes dirt, oil, and other impurities with vitamin C, lemon water and extract, and other plant extracts to reveal a brighter, more radiant complexion.
This Korean chemical exfoliant clears pores and exfoliates the skin while moisturizing it with collagen and hyaluronic acid and soothing it with ingredients like Centella, witch hazel, and chamomile.
It’s a gommage-type exfoliator that rolls away dead skin cells, dirt, and excess sebum. The product comes off in tiny bits. Although it appears like this is exfoliated skin, it’s mostly the product that forms the tiny solid pieces.
Secret Key Lemon Sparkling Peeling Gel Key Ingredients
- Carbonated Lemon Water: Refreshes and moisturizes the skin.
- Lemon Extract: Rich in vitamin C, lemon extract brightens the skin while providing antimicrobial and astringent benefits.
- Witch Hazel Extract: A soothing extract with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties.
- Centella Asiatica Extract: Also known as Gotu Kola, this healing herb, popular in traditional Chinese medicine, is rich in antioxidant phytochemicals. It accelerates wound healing, stimulates hyaluronic acid production, and improves circulation.
- Hydrolyzed Collagen: This active ingredient provides moisture and creates a protective barrier on the skin to prevent moisture loss.
- Sodium Hyaluronate: Sodium hyaluronate is a derivative of hyaluronic acid, which is naturally present in our bodies. It helps the skin retain moisture by binding water to skin cells.
- Brown Algae Extract: Brown algae is a humectant and emollient, which helps the skin retain moisture and stay hydrated.
- Portulaca Oleracea Extract: This plant extract, also known as purslane extract, is rich in vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. It helps soothe irritated, damaged skin.
- Chamomile Extract: This extract has anti-inflammatory and some antioxidant properties. It helps soothe and calm irritated skin.
Massage onto face in a circular motion. Rinse with warm water and pat dry. Please note there is added fragrance in this lemon peeling gel.
7. TONYMOLY Floria Brightening Peeling Gel
If you have dry or sensitive skin but still want to use an exfoliant to clear away dead skin cells, TONYMOLY Floria Brightening Peeling Gel uses natural floral and fruit extracts instead of irritating chemical actives or physically abrasive microbeads or granules.
The peeling gel removes dead skin cells and impurities like dirt and oil that clog the pores. The result is brighter, smoother, more radiant skin.
TonyMoly Floria Brightening Peeling Gel Key Ingredients
- Ascorbic Acid: Ascorbic acid is the pure form of vitamin C. It brightens the skin and evens out skin tone while also helping to protect the skin from environmental damage and smooth fine lines and wrinkles.
- Lactic Acid: Lactic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that gently exfoliates the skin. It lifts away dead skin cells, revealing brighter, smoother skin underneath.
- Allantoin: Allantoin is a skin-soothing agent that helps calm and protect the skin.
- Lotus Flower Ferment Water: This floral water contains antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that hydrate and brighten the skin.
- Pearl Powder: A brightening antioxidant.
- Maesil (Korean Plum) Extract: Korean Plum extract works as a natural astringent to brighten and even out your skin tone. It also contains a high concentration of vitamin C, which boosts collagen production, prevents signs of aging, and improves skin elasticity. The extract is also rich in citric acid, a natural AHA that gently exfoliates and removes dead skin cells.
The peeling gel provides a gentle exfoliation that brightens the skin, making it perfect for dull, discolored skin. You can also use this exfoliating gel on areas of your body prone to rough, dry skin like your elbows, knees, or feet/heels.
Choosing A Korean Exfoliator
The best Korean exfoliator for you will be formulated to address your specific skin concerns and skin type. Be sure to choose one that contains gentle, natural ingredients that will not strip your skin of its natural oils or damage your skin barrier.
When selecting a Korean exfoliator, it is important to consider the following:
Your Skin Type: If you have sensitive skin, look for an exfoliator with natural, gentle ingredients.
Your Skin Concerns: Choose an exfoliator that contains ingredients that will address your specific skin concerns, such as brightening, acne-fighting, or anti-aging.
Type Of Exfoliator: There are several types of exfoliation, including physical, chemical, and enzymatic exfoliation. Choose the type of exfoliation that works for your skin type and concerns.
How Often To Use: Depending on the type of exfoliation, you may be able to use an exfoliator once a week or more. Always follow product directions.
Final Thoughts On The Best Korean Exfoliators
Exfoliating is an essential step in any skincare routine. It helps to remove dead skin cells, brighten the complexion and improve the overall health of your complexion. These Korean exfoliators are some of the best on the market and will help you achieve smooth, radiant skin.
Thanks for reading, and until next time, here’s to your good skin health!