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27 Derm-Approved Body Scrubs for Softer, Smoother Skin

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.

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