As someone with textbook sensitive skin, for a long time I was nervous to use exfoliators because I thought they would be too harsh. The first exfoliator I ever used was a super cheap one from CVS that doesn’t even exist anymore. Probably because it was basically sand in a squeeze bottle. It made my face look like a pepperoni pizza, and after that experience, I was petrified of using exfoliators. But finally, in adulthood, I realized that exfoliating is arguably the most critical part of your skin-care routine. It’s all about finding the right exfoliator.
And after some trial and error, I found my game-changing exfoliator: Kate Somerville “ExfoliKate” Intensive Exfoliating Treatment ($98). To say it has a beloved following among the beauty industry would be an understatement. It has nearly a 5-star average review on Sephora, with a whopping 71,000 reviews. Said one Sephora reviewer, “I love this product. It leaves my face so soft, that my facialist told me I had the softest skin she ever felt. I have very sensitive skin, and this does not cause any issues.”
Even celebrities who have access to every prestige skin-care brand under the sun rave about Kate Somerville. The brand has a long list of celeb fans, like Drew Barrymore and Meghan Markle— both have gotten facials from Kate Somerville herself, a perk of being an A-list celebrity. But for mere mortals like myself who can’t afford to see a celebrity facialist on the reg, we can at least spring for the products.
I reached out to Dr. Ashley Magovern, a board-certified dermatologist, who also recommends the product. She gave me the rundown on the ingredients and how exactly this exfoliator works. “This product is a blend of enzymatic exfoliators (papaya, pumpkin and pineapple) and chemical exfoliators (lactic acid and salicylic acid),” she explained.
So basically, that means it’s a double-whammy: Both these physical and chemical ingredients work together to exfoliate, digest dead skin cells, and leave skin glowing. She went on to explain that exfoliating isn’t only important because it removes dead skin. “It also controls breakouts,” she said. “And it allows your other products to work more effectively, which to me, is the most important reason to exfoliate regularly.” Because if you don’t exfoliate, you’re just slathering product on top of your skin, and it can’t penetrate as effectively.
So what’s the best way to use it? You can apply it either in the morning or night, and the instructions say to use it once or twice a week. I’d definitely recommend just using it once a week and then building to twice a week, if needed. Apply to a clean, wet face, massage for 30 seconds and then wash off after two minutes, max.
And as someone with delicate skin who’s been using this for years, by far my best advice is to not leave it on too long. You don’t want to leave it on for longer than two minutes, ever, and start with leaving it on for less than a minute before washing off. It will tingle a bit, and that’s normal. But if you keep it on for too long (over two minutes), it can leave your skin red and irritated. And Dr. Magovern agrees, saying, “Don’t overdo it. I still see it all the time: People over-exfoliate and over-process their skin.”
Finally, let’s talk price. It’s $98 for 60 ml, which is admittedly pricey. However, it’s also available for $28 for a 15 ml size, which isn’t as big of a commitment if you want to try it out before you splurge on the full-size. And if you’re like me and have finicky skin, it’s worth it to invest in a prestige brand like Kate Somerville. Plus, the tube will last you a long, long time. Your skin will thank you.
Want to be the first to hear about the latest (and greatest) SHOP product drops, custom collections, discounts, and more? Sign up to have the intel delivered straight to your inbox.
Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.