Best Vegan Exfoliators 2022

By Liis Hainla. Updated: May 2022.
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Vegan Exfoliators

Vegan exfoliators are an integral part of vegan skincare.

With a simple trick of removing dead skin cells, exfoliators reveal much smoother and brighter skin while promoting blood flow and skin cell renewal.

There are many vegan exfoliators we like. From vegan chemical exfoliators to some solid vegan physical scrubs – you can renew your skin with many animal-friendly exfoliants.

If you are looking for a good vegan exfoliator for your skin, we have made a list of our favorite products for 2022. Ready, set, reset your skin with these cruelty-free vegan exfoliators.

Are Exfoliators Vegan?

Are Exfoliators Vegan

Exfoliators are not always vegan. The active ingredients in exfoliators usually are vegan but the product may contain other animal-derived ingredients or be tested on animals.

The most common nonvegan ingredients in exfoliators are honey, milk enzymes, and pearl extracts. Taken from oysters, pearl powder is often used as a luxury exfoliating agent.

Exfoliators can also include other animal extracts such as silk or collagen or animal-derived emollients like lanolin or glycerin (glycerin can also be vegan).

In 2022, you can a wide variety of vegan exfoliators though. Both physical and chemical exfoliators can easily be made vegan – an option more and more brands use.

Physical Exfoliators

Physical aka mechanical exfoliators use hard particles that are usually plant-based. The most common granules in scrubs include sugar, salt, coffee, walnut, and rice bran.

Even plastic microbeads – which are luckily are banned by many countries – are essentially still vegan. Newer biodegradable particles are also plant-based (e.g. jojoba wax beads).

Since physical exfoliators balance hard particles with a creamy basis, you need to still be careful that your physical scrub is animal-free. Certified vegan labels help to assure that.

Chemical Exfoliators

Chemical exfoliating agents are also a vegan-friendly bunch. Using acids or enzymes, the active ingredients in chemical exfoliants are typically plant-based or man-made from plants.

Be it alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), or poly-hydroxy acids (PHA), acid exfoliators mainly utilize the power of plant extracts and plant sugars.

For example, these popular chemical exfoliators are all vegan:

  • Glycolic acid – AHA derived from sugarcane
  • Citric acid – AHA made from citrus fruits
  • Tartaric acid – AHA made from fermented grapes
  • Lactic acid – AHA made from fermented corn, beet, and sugarcane
  • Mandelic acid – AHA derived from bitter almonds
  • Malic acid – AHA derived from apples and pears
  • Phytic acid – AHA derived from grains, legumes, and rice
  • Salicylic acid – BHA derived from the bark of willow trees
  • Betaine salicylate – BHA from sugarcane, birch, and royal azalea tree
  • Gluconolactone – PHA derived from gluconic acid (glucose)
  • Bromelain – vegan enzyme derived from pineapple
  • Papain – vegan enzyme extracted from papaya

Other popular exfoliating vegan enzymes include pumpkin, apricot, and lemon extracts.

Is Lactic Acid Really Vegan?

Despite its name, lactic acid in exfoliators is usually vegan. While lactic acid can be extracted from milk, it also occurs during the natural fermentation process of plants.

Lactic acid used in skincare is mostly chemically synthesized for better stability. Other brands use naturally fermented lactic acid from beet, sugarcane, or corn sugars.

What you need to be more careful with are galactose and lactobionic acid. These two polyhydroxy acids (while not commonly used) can be derived from animal milk.

Overall, it is best to choose an exfoliator with a vegan marking or certified vegan label. That way, you can be sure you are supporting a completely animal-free exfoliator.

What To Look For In Vegan Exfoliators?

What To Look For in Vegan Exfoliators

When it comes to vegan exfoliators, we generally prefer chemical exfoliators to physical ones. Chemical exfoliators are safer yet they penetrate the skin better.

Physical exfoliators slough away dead skin cells whereas chemical exfoliators are non-abrasive – they break the bonds that hold dead skin cells together.

From vegan chemical exfoliants, dry skin and mature skin should go for vegan AHA exfoliators. Glycolic acid and lactic acid renew the skin beautifully while also hydrating it.

For oily, combination, and acne-prone skin, vegan BHA exfoliators are best. Salicylic acid is great at removing blemishes, blackheads, minimizing pores, and balancing sebum.

Acne-prone skin can also try mandelic acid. It’s a larger molecule vegan AHA that penetrates the skin better and helps reduce acne and acne scars.

Sensitive skin should be very careful with exfoliation since skin sensitivities often stem from a compromised skin barrier. A safer choice for sensitive skin is gentle vegan PHA acids.

Often, vegan skincare products use a combination of AHAs and BHAs that work for all skin types. We also recommend vegan enzyme exfoliants for brightening and evening skin tone.

Best Vegan Exfoliators 2022

Here are our favorite vegan exfoliators for 2022. We have also added our top picks for a vegan exfoliating cleanser, toner, face mask, and serum.

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel Vegan Exfoliator

Universal Daily Peel is our favorite vegan exfoliator. It makes the skin visibly brighter, more radiant, and more even. Pores shrink and dark spots fade.

The vegan acid peel works in two steps. Five acids remove dead skin cells while chamomile, green tea, retinol, and hyaluronic acid hydrate and balance the skin.

This exfoliator works well for normal, dry, combination, and oily skin. It also reduces fine lines and wrinkles for mature skin by evening the skin texture.

If you have sensitive skin, start with the Ultra Gentle Daily Peel. Acne-prone can also try the Extra Strength Daily Peel which also helps reduce acne and blemishes.

Key exfoliators: glycolic, lactic, malic, citric, salicylic acid
Other ingredients: chamomile, green tea, hyaluronic acid, retinol
Shop on: Amazon, Sephora

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Vegan Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice has made the best vegan liquid exfoliator. This cult-favorite exfoliant is especially good at getting rid of blackheads and reducing the size of pores.

We love how smooth and clear the skin feels after use, just make sure to follow with a moisturizer. The exfoliant is known to also reduce acne and blemishes.

While made from salicylic acid, the exfoliant is gentle enough for all skin types. But for dry skin, we recommend 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant – a more hydrating vegan glycolic acid exfoliant.

Key ingredients: salicylic acid
Other ingredients: green tea, methylpropanediol
Shop on: Amazon, Sephora

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Exfoliating Peeling Solution

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Vegan Exfoliating Peeling Solution

The Ordinary offers the best affordable vegan exfoliator. A combination of AHAs and BHAs, this vegan exfoliating peel makes the skin so much brighter and smoother.

The vegan treatment also includes hydrating hyaluronic acid as well as soothing Tasmanian pepperberry and vitamin-rich black carrot that gives the formula its bright color.

We recommend this exfoliator for normal, dry, oily, and combination skin. Sensitive skin should be still cautious and patch-test before using it.

Exfoliators: glycolic, lactic, tartaric, citric, salicylic acid
Other ingredients: hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, black carrot, Tasmanian pepperberry
Shop on: Amazon, Sephora

Sukin Brightening Jelly Exfoliator

Sukin Brightening Natural Vegan Exfoliator

If you are looking for a natural vegan exfoliator, the Australian vegan brand Sukin has made a beautiful one using pineapple enzymes and passionfruit seeds.

This vegan exfoliator is free of all harsh additives and chemicals. Instead, the formula has vitamin-rich Kakadu plum as well as nourishing jojoba, shea, and cocoa butter.

All these natural goodies get rid of dead skin cells while brightening the skin and nourishing it with fatty acids from natural oils. A great vegan exfoliator for all skin types.

Exfoliators: bromelain, passionfruit seeds
Other ingredients: Kakadu plum, jojoba, shea, cocoa butter
Shop on: Amazon, Official site

Youth To The People Mandelic Acid + Superfood Unity Exfoliant

Youth To The People Mandelic Acid + Superfood Unity Vegan Exfoliant

This vegan exfoliant is a multitasker. It gently exfoliates the skin, removes blemishes, tightens pores, and supports the skin’s protective barrier with an antioxidant blend.

We love how soft it makes the skin without any dryness or irritation. The super-exfoliant uses 3 types of acids: mandelic acid (AHA), salicylic acid (BHA) with gluconolactone (PHA).

Exfoliators: mandelic acid, salicylic acid, gluconolactone
Other ingredients: kale, licorice root, green tea, glucosamine
Shop on: Amazon, Sephora

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliating Powder

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Vegan Exfoliating Powder

Dermalogica has made an amazing exfoliating powder that also happens to be vegan. This vegan exfoliator lasts really long and makes your skin smooth and refined.

The exfoliator combines papaya and rice enzymes with salicylic acid. It also includes phytic acid which is an extra gentle exfoliator with great antioxidant powers.

We love that this vegan exfoliating powder also has soothing colloidal oatmeal and allantoin – after exfoliating, your skin will feel calm, poreless, and silky smooth.

Exfoliators: papain, rice enzymes, salicylic acid, phytic acid
Other ingredients: white tea, licorice, colloidal oatmeal, allantoin
Shop on: Amazon, Sephora

Best Vegan Exfoliating Cleanser

Tata Harper Regenerating Exfoliating Cleanser

Tata Harper Regenerating Vegan Exfoliating Cleanser

This vegan exfoliating cleanser from Tata Harper is perfect. The natural formula gently exfoliates your skin with apricot microspheres and white willow bark extract. It also nourishes the skin with olive oil. A super refreshing natural cleanser that makes the skin soft and clean.

Shop on: Amazon, Sephora

Best Vegan Exfoliating Toner

Pixi Beauty Glow Tonic

Pixi Beauty Glow Tonic Vegan Exfoliating Toner

Pixi Glow Tonic is a bestseller for a reason. This vegan exfoliating toner really makes your skin soft and radiant thanks to glycolic acid. The toner also includes ginseng to revive the skin and aloe vera to soothe it. The alcohol-free formula is good for all skin types.

Shop on: Amazon, Ulta

Best Vegan Exfoliating Serum

Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment

Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment Vegan Exfoliating Serum

Good Genes is our favorite vegan exfoliating serum. It features lactic acid – one of the best acids to make the skin smoother, firmer, and visibly plump fine lines. This vegan serum also includes licorice to brighten the skin and reduce dark spots. Overall, a great rejuvenator.

Shop on: Amazon, Sephora

Best Vegan Exfoliating Face Mask

Golde Papaya Bright Superfood Face Mask

Golde Papaya Bright Superfood Vegan Exfoliating Face Mask

Black-owned vegan skincare brand Golda has made a gorgeous vegan exfoliating face mask. The powder-to-gel mask stars a tropical cocktail of papaya enzymes, lucuma, and sea buckthorn. It exfoliates the skin and gives a beautiful glow with vitamin C and antioxidants.

Shop on: Heyday, Official Site

Best Vegan Face Scrubs

Vegan Face Scrubs

A vegan face scrub is a type of exfoliator that has a creamy basis with tiny exfoliating particles. The particles can be either mechanical or chemical.

Best Vegan Body Scrubs

Vegan Body Scrubs

Vegan body scrubs are good at invigorating your skin by removing dead skin cells as well as reducing bumps and cellulite. Here are our favorite vegan body exfoliators:

If you are looking for more vegan body scrubs, know that all products from Brooklyn Botany, Osea, and Herbivore are vegan.

FAQ About Vegan Exfoliators

Are exfoliators vegan?

Exfoliators are not necessarily vegan. Exfoliators can be tested on animals or include animal-derived ingredients such as honey, pearl extract, milk protein, collagen, or animal-based glycerin.

Is lactic acid vegan?

In skincare, lactic acid is typically vegan and derived from fermented plants. But you still should confirm it with the skincare producer to be double-sure.

Where to buy vegan exfoliators?

You can find a wide variety of vegan exfoliators on Sephora and Amazon. Vegan brands like Pacifica Beauty and The Ordinary also sell many good drugstore vegan exfoliators.

What is the best vegan exfoliator?

The best vegan exfoliator is Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel. Based on a mix of AHAs and BHAs, it brightens the skin and smooths the skin texture very well.

Is Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant vegan?

Yes. The 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is vegan.

Is Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Pore Exfoliating Treatment vegan?

No. ExfoliKate exfoliator is not vegan and includes honey.

Is Tatcha The Rice Polish vegan?

The Rice Polish: Original is not vegan and contains silk. The Rice Polish: Deep and The Rice Polish: Gentle are vegan-friendly and silk-free.

Is Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™ AHA + BHA Mask vegan?

Yes. T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial is 100% vegan.

Summary

Hope you liked our selection of vegan exfoliators to brighten and invigorate your skin.

Our favorite vegan exfoliators come from Dr. Dennis Gross, Paula’s Choice, The Ordinary, and Youth To The People. We also love the vegan exfoliating face mask from Golde.

While we prefer vegan chemical exfoliators, we also like some gentle vegan physical scrubs. Vegan body scrubs are also good for pampering both your body and soul.

Whichever vegan exfoliant you go for, make sure to read the instructions and not overdo it. It is also important not to leave exfoliating treatments on longer than said on the packaging.

See also: Best Vegan Skincare, Vegan Cleansers, Vegan Moisturizers, Vegan Serums, Vegan Sunscreen, Vegan Face Oils, Vegan Body Lotions

My name is Liis. I have been a vegan for a long time and I advocate for the vegan lifestyle. Through Vegan Avenue, I aim to provide quality information about vegan products and bring attention to amazing vegan companies.