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Best Korean Exfoliators for Dry, Oily, and Sensitive Skin

10 Best Korean Exfoliators

“Exfoliating damages the skin and does not provide any measurable benefits”

If you still believe this lie, then you don’t have to wonder why your skin still breaks out or why your dark spots have permanently made a residence on your face. Exfoliation is a necessary process the skin has to go through in order to effectively repair itself and cleanse the pores.

Thus, it’s time to shed away the myth and believe in what’s real. This article is your guide to the best Korean exfoliator for your skin type to reveal a more youthful complexion.

Best for Oily Skin
SECRET KEY Lemon Peeling Gel
Our Pick
NEOGEN Bio-Peel Gauze
Best for Dry Skin
Skinfood Black Sugar Exfoliator
Table of Contents

10 Best Korean Exfoliators

NEOGEN DERMALOGY Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Lemon

Our Pick

For those of you who are new to Korean exfoliators, the Neogen Dermatology Bio-Peel Peeling Lemon is a good place to start.

This Korean exfoliator uses lactic acid and fruit extracts to slough off dead skin cells. If you have problems with hyperpigmentation, this exfoliator also has Vitamin C that helps reduce the appearance of dark spots and acne scars.

These exfoliating pads each come with three layers. They’re a combination of a physical and a chemical exfoliator, which is great for people who are on the go. It also comes in a travel-friendly container so you can take it on trips.


  • Acts as both physical and chemical exfoliator
  • Gentle on the skin
  • Helps fade acne scars


  • Expensive
  • Has a sticky texture

SECRET KEY Lemon Sparkling Peeling Gel

Best for Oily Skin

This gel contains 90 ppm of lemon fruit water as well as 47 ppm of carbonated water and papaya extracts.

The carbonated water delivers oxygen to the skin while the lemon fruit extract controls excess oil. You won’t have sebum  problems with this peeling gel.

It also uses the extracts of the Korean pasque flower and Zanthoxylum Piperitum Fruit Extract to condition the skin.

Overall, this is a highly recommended Korean exfoliator. It leaves the skin feeling more elastic and hydrated and the vitamin C content makes skin brighter. You’ll definitely achieve that dewy K-beauty look faster.


  • Affordable
  • Controls oiliness through lemon fruit extracts
  • Contains fruit extracts that brightens skin


  • Smells like detergent

Skinfood Black Sugar Mask Wash Off Exfoliator

Best for Dry Skin

Do people with dry skin even need this extra step? Definitely. Dry skin would peel off much easily, so they need to be removed regularly.

This Korean mask from Skinfood uses the exfoliating powers of black sugar granules and the hydrating properties of shea butter to lessen irritation.

Skinfood Black Sugar is more of a physical exfoliator because of the nature of black sugar. This is a good option among various Korean exfoliators, but only if you don’t have sensitive skin.

If you are prone to acne, I would suggest looking for other Korean exfoliators since this is extremely abrasive.


  • Free from parabens, mineral oil, and alcohol
  • Affordable
  • Has Shea butter that soothes the skin after exfoliation


  • Skinfood Black Sugar is not for acne-prone or sensitive skin types

COSRX One Step Original Clear Pad

Best for Combination Skin

Too oily on some parts, too dry on others. Combination skin type is hard to find skincare products for because you’ll have to appease both skin conditions. COSRX thought of the best solution to this—combine AHA and BHA to suit every skin need.

There are lots of benefits to doing this. The AHA moisturizes dry areas while BHA gets rid of extra oiliness of the face.

These exfoliating pads are soaked in willow bark water, which exfoliates the skin while locking in moisture. Speaking of moisture, this product also has a lot of humectants, including sodium hyaluronate, the salt form of hyaluronic acid.

For pimple control, it also has tea tree oil which prevents breakouts while allantoin soothes irritated skin.


  • Has hydrating properties that help soothe the skin
  • Contains tea tree oil that prevents breakouts


  • The pads may be too rough for some
  • Has an unpleasant medicinal scent

COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

Best for Acne Prone Skin

It’s hard to exfoliate when you have acne prone skin. You’ll have to look for skincare products that are both gentle and tough on pimples and scars.

It’s a good thing that COSRX, a K-Beauty staple brand, has come up with the perfect solution. It’s called the COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid.

This Korean exfoliator does not only help peel off dead skin cells. It also prevents excess sebum from transforming into blackheads thanks to its 4 percent BHA component.

If you’re someone who’s prone to acne, this product is an important addition to your beauty regimen. It has willow bark extract that is rich in salicin. This is then converted to the pimple-fighting salicylic acid in the presence of enzymes.

However, if you have dry skin, you may want to stay away from this Korean skincare product because it can dry your skin out pretty badly, leading to breakouts. This is designed specifically for those with oily and acne-prone skin.


  • Prevents sebum buildup
  • Contains willow bark that is rich in salicin
  • Free from parabens, mineral oil, and synthetic dye


  • Not for dry skintypes

Wishtrend Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Water

Best Brightening Exfoliator

K- beauty demands a glowing and dewy complexion. This is why it’s also important for exfoliators to help brighten up the skin.

Wishtrend is a good brand choice for Korean exfoliators since it uses mandelic acid to gently exfoliate without irritating the skin. Because it is mild, this works well even for those with sensitive skin.

To help get rid of the clogged bacteria on pores, it has licorice extract, Centella Asiatica, and sodium hyaluronate. The overall effect is a clear, bright, and hydrated look.

However, while this product is overall gentle, it is not to be applied on broken skin because trust me, you will regret it. Try skipping that newly popped pimple because it will sting.


  • Good for sensitive skin types
  • Brightens the skin while gently exfoliating


  • Should not be applied to broken skin

NAKEUP FACE 10% AHA Scaling Cream

Best for Dark Spots

If you are struggling with those pesky dark spots, don’t worry. Many share that problem, and this scaling cream is here to the rescue.

Packed with glycolic acid, this product gently helps healthy skin resurface while clearing out imperfections.

It also contains lemon verbena leaf extract, argan kernel, and jojoba seed oil. Jojoba oil is known for its hydrating effects on the skin and contains a good amount of Vitamin E, which is a great skin brightener.

What we love most about this Korean skincare product is it comes in the form of a night cream, so you don’t have to wash it off after massaging. This gets rid of an extra step in your night routine, which is always a good thing for those of us lazy gals.


  • Uses glycolic acid to exfoliate skin and get rid of dark spots

  • Does not need to be washed off immediately


  • Not recommended for sensitive skin types
  • Does not spread easily

Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask

Best for Detoxification

Detoxifying while exfoliating. That is the purpose of this Innisfree clay mask. Packed with Jeju volcanic scoria, this Korean product has the ability to absorb extra oil as well as other pollutants that have clung to the pores.

This is best for those who are always out and about. We can hardly shield ourselves from pollution when we’re outside, but we can do something about it when we get home.

Another thing I love about this Korean clay mask is it feels so cool on the skin. After a hard day’s work, you’d welcome the soothing and calming coolness of this product.


  • Contains Jeju volcanic cluster sphere that detoxifies the skin
  • Cools the skin upon application
  • Effectively absorbs excess oil and treats pores


  • Not for dry skin types

Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum

Best for Hyperpigmentation

Glycolic acid or AHA is the best ingredient to look for when dealing with hyperpigmentation. And this peeling serum is not short of this component, with its 8 percent AHA composition.

Aside from lightening hyperpigmentation, it also contains moisturizing and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as aloe vera and panthenol. It has ingredients that help brighten the skin as well. This exfoliating serum uses plant extracts from papaya and yarrow to treat dull complexions.

We like the fact that it does not contain long-chain alcohols, which can irritate some people’s skin, it contains parabens. Korean exfoliators with paraben compounds can trigger allergic reactions.


  • Contains AHA that helps fade dark spots
  • Leak-proof container
  • Does not contain long-chain alcohols


  • Contains parabens

SRB Stabilized Rice Bran Enzyme Powder Face Wash

Best for Minimizing Pores

If you want to step up your pore game, do it with this rice bran face wash. With 50 different enzymes and nutrients, your pores would not be left wanting.

It tightens the skin and promotes cell growth with ingredients like lycopene, folic acid, and Co-Q10. It also stimulates blood flow to keep that natural healthy glow.

This exfoliating face wash has a pH of 5.5 to dissolve dead skin cells while maintaining its hypoallergenic nature. Though good for almost all skin types, this may not work as well for acne-prone skin.


  • Contains 10 times more rice extract than traditional rice water
  • Tightens the skin while promoting cell growth
  • Hypoallergenic


  • Has an unpleasant smell
  • Not for acne-prone skin

The Importance of Exfoliating

The Importance

Even if you find the most expensive foundation that promises to give you an airbrushed look, you wouldn’t be able to achieve that if you don’t exfoliate.

Exfoliation is the process of shedding away dead skin cells. It encourages the skin to replace old cells, keeps pores from becoming clogged, and effectively evens out skin tone.

No matter what your skin type may be, it’s important to include this step in your skin care routine because it offers a lot of benefits.

Exfoliation helps the skin achieve a smooth complexion and brightens it. It can also help stimulate collagen synthesis that helps retain skin elasticity.

If you have dry skin, it’s still important to exfoliate to get rid of the dying and dead skin cells on the surface to allow the skin to heal evenly. 

Exfoliation is also essential for those with oily and acne-prone skin because exfoliators penetrate deep inside the pores to unclog them. 

When and How to Use Exfoliators

There are two main types of exfoliators: physical and chemical. The manner and frequency of usage depends upon what type of exfoliator you are using and how strong the formulation is.

When you’re still starting out, look for more gentle formulation and start with a once-a-week application. The usual number is 2 to 3 times per week, but some exfoliators claim they can be used daily without causing any irritation to the skin.

However, we would still advise limiting application 2 to 3 times weekly to avoid over-exfoliating.

Kinds of Exfoliators


Physical Exfoliators

Physical exfoliators are exactly what the name suggests. They shred off a lot of dead skin cells through physical action. They can be beads or rough pads.

There are different kinds of physical exfoliators, including masks, peeling or exfoliating pads, scrubs, and peeling creams.

Scrubs contain small granules or beads you can wash off after massaging the product over the skin. Masks use clarifying ingredients such as clay and charcoal to adhere to dirt and other impurities.

Peeling creams, on the other hand, may not look like physical exfoliators at first, but when you massage them on your skin, they create tiny lumps that act the same way as beads that slough off dead skin cells.

Finally, peeling pads have rough surfaces and are soaked in essences. You just have to wipe them all over the face. In a way, they can act both as physical and chemical exfoliators. What I love about them is they are easy to use and carry around.

Chemical Exfoliators

Chemical exfoliators are not as harsh as physical ones. They dissolve dead skin cells instead of physically removing them. They are sold as essences, creams, or masks and the most common kinds are AHAs and BHAs.

AHA, also known as glycolic acid, is good for those who have sensitive skin or are new to exfoliating. It is a mild chemical exfoliator that dissolves in water. This means it keeps the face hydrated while helping shred off dead skin cells.

BHA, on the other hand, is fat-soluble. This makes it great for those with oily and acne prone skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that help with breakouts. Because it dissolves oil, it can clear out sebum that leads to formation of pimples.

Chemical exfoliators are also usually mixed with special ingredients and oils.

Things to Remember When Exfoliating

The skin goes through a lot when you’re exfoliating. Thus, it is important to moisturize afterwards in order to speed up the healing process. Leaving your skin stripped off for long will result to breakouts and redness. A lot can go wrong for skin without proper moisture.

It is also important to keep away from the sun after exfoliation. This makes it better to exfoliate at night since you won’t encounter many environmental aggressors after exfoliation.

How to Look for the Best Korean Exfoliator for You

How to Look for

The first thing to note before deciding on which Korean exfoliators you should add to your beauty routine is your skin sensitivity. Exfoliators can be irritating when used improperly and if they don’t match the skin type.

Sensitive skin will love gentle exfoliants such as those containing lactic acid. You can also look for fruit enzymes like pineapple and papaya, which are also suitable for sensitive skin.

Stay away from harsh physical exfoliants if you’re just starting out and have sensitive skin.

For oily skin, go for exfoliants with oil-soluble ingredients. Dry skin needs water-soluble components to keep the moisture intact.

For physical exfoliators, opt for jojoba beads, poppy seeds, or pumice since these do not irritate the skin so much. 

Remember to always exfoliate gently no matter the skin type. Overdoing it does more harm than good.



You can’t take proper care of your skin without a skincare routine! This is why exfoliating is a necessary step.

In skin care, Korea has led the world to a whole new standard. This is why I dedicated a whole article about the best Korean exfoliators to help you make an informed decision.

We personally like the COSRX One Step Pimple Pads because they are easy to use and require no-rinse afterwards.

But for heavy-duty detoxification that we all need at the end of the day, go for the Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask. It will make a world of difference in your regimen and skin health in the long run.


July 13, 2021 – Updated internal links, updated external links, removed author box

Paola Diaz
Paola Diaz

Hi, I'm Paola! A skin care enthusiast and nature lover. Creating content that promotes proper skin treatment and keeping a healthy glow is my way of sharing with the world how healthy skin can go a long way. I’m a firm believer of natural beauty that radiates inside all of us. All we need is the right kind of nourishment that inspires our wellness from inside out. So it’s really not about physical beauty alone – it’s the beautiful life we can create for ourselves when we connect with our own nature and see there is beauty that shines from every one of us.