Rating Ingredient
Good

betaine salicylate

An ingredient derived from sugar beets that is sometimes used as an alternative to...

Categories: Exfoliant
Best

BHA (beta hydroxy acid)

BHA, or beta hydroxy acid, is more commonly known as salicylic acid.

Good

bromelain

Bromelain is an extract from the pineapple that contains, among other components, various...

Categories: Plant Extracts, Exfoliant
Best

AHA

AHA, also known as alpha hydroxy acid, exfoliates skin and improves signs of ageing, dry skin and an uneven skin tone.

Categories: Exfoliant
Best

alpha hydroxy acid

Categories: Exfoliant
Best

ammonium glycolate

Synthetic form of glycolic acid used as a pH adjuster and exfoliant. It is sometimes paired with...

Categories: Exfoliant
Good

amygdalic acid

Categories: Exfoliant, Antioxidants
Good

Ananas sativus fruit extract

Categories: Plant Extracts, Exfoliant
Best

azelaic acid

A type of acid known as a dicarboxylic acid derived from grains that offers numerous benefits when applied to skin.

Best

beta hydroxy acid

Good

enzymes

Vast group of protein , produced by all living things, that act as catalysts in chemical...

Categories: Exfoliant, Skin-Restoring
Best

gluconolactone

Categories: Exfoliant
Best

lactic acid

Alpha hydroxy acid extracted from milk, although most forms used in cosmetics are synthetic. It...

Categories: Exfoliant
Best

lactobionic acid

Categories: Exfoliant
Best

glycolic acid

A type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that, like other ingredients in the category, can act as a water-binding agent and, when properly formulated, as an exfoliant...

Categories: Exfoliant
Average

pawpaw extract

Categories: Plant Extracts, Exfoliant
Best

PHA

Categories: Exfoliant
Good

pineapple extract

Contains the enzyme bromelain, which can break down the connecting layers between dead skin to...

Categories: Plant Extracts, Exfoliant
Best

malic acid

An AHA ingredient derived from unripe fruit that also occurs naturally in the human body…

Categories: Exfoliant
Good

mandelic acid

A type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), also known as amygdalic acid. There’s some research showing mandelic acid is an effective exfoliant, although it’s not as effective as glycolic acid due to its larger size...

Categories: Exfoliant
Poor

papain

Enzyme extracted from papaya. Applied topically, papain can aggravate skin...

Categories: Plant Extracts, Exfoliant
Average

papaya extract

Extract that is the source of papain, which theoretically can have exfoliating properties on skin,...

Categories: Plant Extracts, Exfoliant
Best

polyhydroxy acid

Ingredients such as gluconolactone and lactobionic acid are types of polyhydroxy acid (PHA). They...

Categories: Exfoliant
Best

salicylic acid

Also called beta hydroxy acid (BHA), this exfoliant, skin-soothing ingredient tackles many of the causes of acne and improves the appearance of clogged pores.

Best

tartaric acid

A naturally-occurring crystalline organic acid found in many plants, including grapes and tamarinds. It is one...

Categories: Exfoliant
Good

urea

Component of urine, although synthetic versions are used in cosmetics. In small amounts urea has...

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!