Editor’s Picks: 16 of the Best Exfoliating Pads for Clear, Glowing Skin

Swipe your way to better skin.
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Best exfoliating pads

Exfoliating pads have had a makeover. Not long ago, you could only find them in the acne aisle at the drugstore—and they were inevitably laden with harsh ingredients like alcohol, fragrance, sulfates and even acetone (yikes!).

But now, there are exfoliating pads for every skin type, made with kinder, gentler and cleaner formulas that won't cause irritation or dryness.

Plus, we can choose from a much broader range of actives. Some pads have AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) such as glycolic, lactic or mandelic acids. Others use BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) like salicylic acid or betaine salicylate. And there are also pads that feature both!

Just like other acid exfoliants, they can brighten and smooth your skin, fade dark spots, clear and prevent breakouts, diminish the appearance of fine lines, and improve your skin's hydration.

But unlike acid toners, liquids or gels, which have to be applied with a cotton pad or your fingertips, exfoliating pads are conveniently pre-soaked with the solution. So all you need to do is swipe.

Keep reading for what to look for, and the best AHA and BHA exfoliating pads that I've found to date.


What to Look for in an Exfoliating Pad


For the best results with minimal side effects, you'll need to choose the right acid(s) at an appropriate strength for your skin, and limit or avoid potentially irritating ingredients:

  • AHAs, BHAs or both: As I outlined in my AHA vs BHA tutorial, AHAs are great for exfoliating the skin surface, while BHAs will both exfoliate the surface as well as deep-clean your pores. (That's why I prefer BHAs!) Keep in mind that AHAs, especially glycolic acid, tend to be more irritating, and will make your skin more sun-sensitive. 
  • Low in fragrance: Since it is the number one skin irritant, I always recommend limiting or avoiding fragranced products if possible, especially if you are sensitive.
  • Low in alcohol: Although alcohol can act as a solvent and penetration enhancer to help active ingredients work better, it can be drying at high concentrations. 
  • Free of acetone: Believe it or not, acetone is another solvent sometimes found in exfoliating pads. (Do you want to put nail polish remover on your face? Me neither!)
  • Low in witch hazel: While it does have some anti-inflammatory properties, some people (including me!) experience irritation from witch hazel and need to avoid it in high quantities.
  • Free of sulfates: Normally, you find these harsh, stripping detergents in foaming cleansers, but I have spotted them in certain exfoliating pads—but they're just not necessary.
  • Free of silicones: These film-formers leave an occlusive coating on your skin that may reduce irritation, but can also exacerbate acne and prevent your actives from penetrating. 

The Best AHA Exfoliating Pads


Go-To Exfoliating Swipeys

Go-To Exfoliating Swipeys

Go-To Exfoliating Swipeys

  • Details: Go-To Exfoliating Swipeys are one of the mildest options, a set of lactic acid-based exfoliating pads with a short and simple ingredients list. The brand recommends using them up to three times per week; all you need to do is leave the solution on your skin for one minute before rinsing off. 
  • Active ingredient: Lactic acid.
  • Other ingredients: Aloe, propanediol.
  • Best for: All skin, especially sensitive.

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads

  • Details: First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads are one of the gentlest treatments, and safe for even sensitive skin to use daily. This alcohol-free solution targets dead skin cells with lactic and glycolic acids, and is high in soothing and hydrating humectants.
  • Active ingredients: Lactic acid, glycolic acid.
  • Other ingredients: Aloe, glycerin, cucumber fruit water.
  • Best for: All skin, especially sensitive.

Kinship Insta Swipe Lemon Honey AHA Pads

Kinship Insta Swipe Lemon Honey AHA Pads

Kinship Insta Swipe Lemon Honey AHA Pads

  • Details: Kinship Insta Swipe Lemon Honey AHA Pads are a clean beauty option starring glycolic and malic acids. They're paired with moisture-rich humectants, anti-inflammatory manuka honey and the brand's signature probiotic complex to support a healthy skin barrier.
  • Active ingredients: Glycolic acid, malic acid.
  • Other ingredients: Glycerin, aloe, willow bark extract, probiotics, honey extract.
  • Best for: All skin.

Dr Loretta Micro Peel Peptide Pads

Dr Loretta Micro Peel Peptide Pads

Dr Loretta Micro Peel Peptide Pads

  • Details: Dr Loretta Micro Peel Peptide Pads are the creation of Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a board-certified dermatologist with more than 40 years of experience. Her fragrance-free and alcohol-free pads balance glycolic acid with hydrating humectants and calming botanicals. They're also infused with algae extract, a source of moisturizing peptides—so you can use these on a daily basis, if tolerated.
  • Active ingredient: 10% glycolic acid.
  • Other ingredients: Glycerin, probiotics, butylene glycol, kola seed extract, yerba mate leaf extract, algae extract.
  • Best for: All skin.

Malin+Goetz Resurfacing Glycolic Pads

Malin Goetz Resurfacing Glycolic Pads

Malin+Goetz Resurfacing Glycolic Pads

  • Details: Malin+Goetz Resurfacing Glycolic Pads get the job done with just three ingredients—including glycolic acid—so you won't find any alcohol or fragrance in this minimalistic formula. The brand recommends using them up to three times per week, and for the first few weeks, you should rinse your skin after 20 minutes to neutralize the solution.
  • Active ingredient: 10% glycolic acid.
  • Other ingredients: Water, ammonium hydroxide.
  • Best for: All skin.

DCL G20 Radiance Peel

DCL G20 Radiance Peel

DCL G20 Radiance Peel

  • Details: DCL G20 Radiance Peel is an intensive, professional-strength treatment boasting the highest concentration of glycolic acid. As such, it should only be used twice per week for anti-aging and anti-acne benefits. Just like Malin+Goetz, the pads are soaked in a simple, three-ingredient solution that is free of alcohol and fragrance.
  • Active ingredient: 20% glycolic acid.
  • Other ingredients: Water, ammonium hydroxide.
  • Best for: Experienced acid users (the brand recommends starting with 10% glycolic acid first).


The Best BHA Exfoliating Pads


Tarte Knockout Texture & Pore Refining Pads

Tarte Knockout Texture Pore Refining Pads

Tarte Knockout Texture & Pore Refining Pads

  • Details: Tarte Knockout Texture & Pore Refining Pads are an ultra-mild exfoliating and pore-tightening treatment, thanks to gentle and hydrating betaine salicylate. It's combined with an array of humectants, amino acids and botanicals, which leave skin soft, smooth and calm when applied daily.
  • Active ingredient: Betaine salicylate.
  • Other ingredients: Dipropylene glycol, glycerin, butylene glycol, betaine, arginine, Centella Asiatica extract, allantoin, provitamin B5 (panthenol), hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: All skin.

COSRX Original Clear Pad

COSRX Original Clear Pad

COSRX Original Clear Pad

  • Details: COSRX Original Clear Pad exfoliates with betaine salicylate, a milder and more hydrating alternative to salicylic acid that most skin can tolerate daily. It's in a base of more than 85% willow bark water (and no alcohol), which helps to control oil and soothe irritated skin.
  • Active ingredient: 1% betaine salicylate (equivalent to 0.5% salicylic acid).
  • Other ingredients: Willow bark water, butylene glycol, glycerin, arginine, provitamin B5 (panthenol), allantoin.
  • Best for: All skin.

First Aid Beauty FAB Pharma White Clay Acne Treatment Pads

First Aid Beauty FAB Pharma White Clay Acne Treatment Pads

First Aid Beauty FAB Pharma White Clay Acne Treatment Pads

  • Details: First Aid Beauty FAB Pharma White Clay Acne Treatment Pads keep your skin soft, smooth and blemish-free without over-drying. Despite containing a high dose of salicylic acid, this alcohol-free formula is still gentle enough for sensitive skin (like everything else from the brand), and can be used daily.
  • Active ingredient: 2% salicylic acid.
  • Other ingredients: Glycerin, kaolin clay, willow bark extract.
  • Best for: Normal to oily and acne-prone skin.

Medik8 Blemish Control Pads

Medik8 Blemish Control Pads

Medik8 Blemish Control Pads

  • Details: Medik8 Blemish Control Pads promise to be tough on breakouts but gentle on your skin. These pads are saturated in an alcohol-free solution that contains the maximum dose of salicylic acid, plus moisture-boosting glycerin and soothing allantoin. Depending on your skin, you can use them up to twice daily.
  • Active ingredient: 2% salicylic acid.
  • Other ingredients: Glycerin, allantoin.
  • Best for: Normal to oily and acne-prone skin.

The Best AHA and BHA Exfoliating Pads


Jan Marini Marini Multi-Acid Resurfacing Pads

Jan Marini Marini Multi-Acid Resurfacing Pads

Jan Marini Marini Multi-Acid Resurfacing Pads

  • Details: Jan Marini Marini Multi-Acid Resurfacing Pads are marinated in four different acids—glycolic, lactic, mandelic and salicylic—to target both texture and tone. They've also got multiple humectants and skin-soothers (and no alcohol or fragrance) to counteract any dryness or irritation. Swipe them on every two days to start, increasing to daily use if possible.
  • Active ingredients: Glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, salicylic acid.
  • Other ingredients: Methylpropanediol, fractionated coconut oil, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, aloe, chamomile extract, green tea extract, allantoin.
  • Best for: All skin.

Clear Skin Days by Sephora Collection Brightening Peel Pads

Clear Skin Days by Sephora Collection Brightening Peel Pads

Clear Skin Days by Sephora Collection Brightening Peel Pads

  • Details: Clear Skin Days by Sephora Collection Brightening Peel Pads give you low doses of both glycolic and salicylic acid in order to boost radiance, clear breakouts and control oil production. They're alcohol-free and fragrance-free, made from only a few ingredients, and safe to use on a nightly basis.
  • Active ingredients: 2% glycolic acid, 1% salicylic acid.
  • Other ingredients: Propylene glycol, niacinamide.
  • Best for: Normal to oily and acne-prone skin.

Pacifica Glow Baby Brightening Peel Pads

Pacifica Glow Baby Brightening Peel Pads

Pacifica Glow Baby Brightening Peel Pads

  • Details: Pacifica Glow Baby Brightening Peel Pads resurface dull, dead skin with lactic and glycolic acids, while salicylic acid deep-cleans pores. They also contain niacinamide for even more glow, and are packed with dewy humectants. You're meant to use them up to three nights per week (although they're so gentle, I think some people could get away with more frequent applications).
  • Active ingredients: 10% acid complex (lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid).
  • Other ingredients: Aloe, propanediol, niacinamide, apple fruit extract, glycerin.
  • Best for: All skin.

Luzern L’Essentials Au Vin Exfoliating Treatment

Luzern L'Essentials Au Vin Exfoliating Treatment

Luzern L'Essentials Au Vin Exfoliating Treatment

  • Details: Luzern L'Essentials Au Vin Exfoliating Treatment delivers gentle lactic acid and plant-derived salicylic acid, making these pads suitable for all but the most sensitive skin to use daily. They're alcohol-free, and infused with a chardonnay grape extract that tones pores, plus a non-irritating vitamin C derivative for added brightening. 
  • Active ingredients: 10% lactic acid, 1% salicylic acid (from willow bark extract).
  • Other ingredients: Arginine, aloe, gluconolactone, glycerin, grape fruit extract, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, provitamin B5, hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: All skin.

Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Amino Acid Exfoliating Peel Pads

Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Amino Acid Exfoliating Peel Pads

Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Amino Acid Exfoliating Peel Pads

  • Details: Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Amino Acid Exfoliating Peel Pads are immersed in a blend of phytic and salicylic acids, plus sodium lactate (a hydrating lactic acid derivative). So despite the high acid concentration, these pads should be non-irritating for most skin, and they're also alcohol-free. Intended for daily use once you build up a tolerance, they're designed to optimize your skin for the maximum absorption of topical treatments, such as peptides.
  • Active ingredients: 20% acid complex (phytic acid, salicylic acid, sodium lactate).
  • Other ingredients: Butylene glycol, rose water, witch hazel water, amino acids, chamomile extract, green tea extract, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin A (retinyl palmitate).
  • Best for: All skin except sensitive.

Kerstin Florian Correcting At-Home Professional Peel

Kerstin Florian Correcting At-Home Professional Peel

Kerstin Florian Correcting At-Home Professional Peel

  • Details: Kerstin Florian Correcting At-Home Professional Peel is a powerful, alcohol-free exfoliant featuring a blend of four different acids (glycolic, lactic, salicylic and phytic). It's also spiked with a Matrixyl 3000 peptide complex, which helps to soften wrinkles. You're supposed to use it up to three times per week for results comparable to a professional facial.
  • Active ingredients: 20% acid complex (glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, phytic acid).
  • Other ingredients: Butylene glycol, glycerin, cucumber extract, fruit enzymes, peptides.
  • Best for: All skin.

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