The best exfoliating products of 2021

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In part one of this exfoliant series, we covered the differences between physical and chemical exfoliants, how to include them in your routine, and which one might be right for you. Today, I want to share a few of my personal favourites that I have included as part of my skincare routine.

I will start by mentioning that I don’t use these products all at the same time; instead, I swap them in and out depending on my skincare needs. If you haven’t read my guide to find your go-to exfoliant yet, be sure to stop right now and give it a read! Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of trying out many different types of exfoliant products to ultimately see what works and what doesn’t work for my skin. I’ve narrowed it down to the products I consider my personal faves and have integrated into my daily routine.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toner Solution

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Even though I have oily and acne-prone skin, I especially love using this product during the cold Canadian winters because I want to ensure proper skin hydration while maintaining that healthy glow. This toner is crazy affordable at only $8.70CAD&USD, especially for the size. I also love using this toner on other parts of my body and find it particularly useful in preventing those dreadful razor bumps.

This doesn’t just include glycolic acid (thank goodness, or else that would be a bit harsh), but also includes ingredients such as aloe vera, amino acids, and ginseng. I do believe that 7% is a very high concentration of glycolic acid, and this could be too strong for those who have sensitive skin or who are introducing chemical exfoliant toners for the first time into their routine. In that case, you’re better off with starting with a low percentage AHA or BHA toner. Don’t let the amazingly affordable price fool you! 

I remember when I first purchased this toner four years ago, it was extremely irritating on my skin, so I initially started with bi-weekly use, eventually working my way up to once a week — and even that took a while because I was overly cautious!  Everyone’s skin is different, so start slowly and adjust based on your personal results.

Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment With 2% BHA

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Every skincare aficionado knows this brand and probably knows their Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant toner as well. Personally, I am a fan of the toner, however, I tend to only use it in the summer due to its oil solubility – it does a great job of unclogging pores, removing blackheads, increasing skin radiance and providing suitable oil control.

This product is similar to the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, but it has more soothing/moisturizing properties, including skin-identical and antioxidant ingredients. The link I’ve provided details a helpful comparison of both products. I have tried their OG liquid exfoliant, but at the time of my acne journey the purge was a little too much to handle. Now that I’m using the exfoliator meant for normal to oily/combination skin, I do notice that my skin is much happier.

This product is significantly smaller than PC’s Skin Perfecting 2% BHA toner, which is unfortunate because it has a higher price point.

Holifrog Sacred-C Brightening Powder Wash

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Holifrog identifies their product as a combination between a physical and chemical exfoliant, but I would definitely add this to their physical exfoliant category. I love it because you have the ability to gradually strengthen the scrub based on your wants/needs (more powder, less liquid) or reduce potency with a lighter liquid (less powder, more liquid or cleanser). They’re also using gluconolactone, a form of PHAs, that assists in the exfoliating process.

I not only love this powder wash for its exfoliating properties, but also because it contains L-Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C) in it that helps brighten the skin. As an added bonus, it’s also chocked full of antioxidant ingredients.

Bloomeffects Dutch Dirt Mask

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Yes, this is technically a mask, however, it has prickly pear enzymes and flower acids that aid in skin exfoliation. It also includes volcanic sand (fancy, I know), that dials up the exfoliation during the rinse off process. They do note that the flower acid provides a tingling sensation during application, however, that didn’t bother me one bit.

Alcohol denat is the second ingredient on the list, which can be considered an icky additive and contribute to dryness, especially if you are sensitive to alcohol. However, it does act as an antibacterial solvent and astringent. To combat this element, the mask also includes sodium hyaluronate, which is pretty much the same thing as hyaluronic acid. After rinsing off, I do ensure to follow up with an extremely hydrating toner and serum(s) to make up for that “potential” hydration loss.

Overall. after using the mask, my skin looks and feels AMAZING!

Note, if I use this mask and/or the HoliFrog powder wash, I would subsequently avoid using chemical exfoliators for that week.


There are so many amazing exfoliating products out there, but don’t just look at the extremely popular ones. Of course, they must be popular for a reason, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will work for your skin. You can find great diamonds in the rough if you’re looking hard enough, especially some of the smaller businesses who may not have deep enough pockets for major influencer support or YouTube reviews.

Remember, it never hurts to support small and local! I am always on the lookout for new products that check all the boxes for my skincare needs, especially if I want to achieve better results and stay within a respectable budget. Something we can all use a bit of nowadays. Lockdown or not, we can all agree that when you look good, you feel even better!

Let me know your impressions if you’re using any of the products listed, or if you wanted to share some of your favourites to our community.

Until next time!

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10 Comments

  • Natalie Richardson says:

    Great post Fleur – thank you for sharing this information!

  • Dutchie says:

    Thanks for publishing such informative article, Fleur. In Europe we adore the sun and using SPF is not a very common thing. Also, I remember that in the early days, SPF didn’t go higher than 30 and we only used it while on the beach. And when someone got a sun burn, we just laughed and put slices of cucumber on it to cool it down. You are absolutely right, we need to include SPF in our daily skin routine. Now one more challenge to go: introduce this to my husband.

    • Fleur Boomsma says:

      Thank you for sharing this little story! If we can normalize the use of sunscreen a lot of skin cancer could be prevented! Luckily the skincare companies are getting more innovative with their formulas to make sunscreen attractive for everyone of all skin colors/conditions/types!

  • Eva B says:

    So informative! Thank you for the sunscreen recommendations xx

  • Jennifer says:

    Sunscreen can save your life!!

  • Sue says:

    Your hair looks lovely. I want to try this now.

  • Celine says:

    Hello! I want to ask, after using the innisfree super volcanic mask, you rinse it off and then do you apply your skincare after that? or do you just leave your bare face after rinsing the clay mask off?

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