This ‘Microfoliant’ Gives My Dry Skin a Deep Clean, and Leaves It Bright and Smooth Sans Irritation

Photo: W+G Creative
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In recent years, exfoliation has gotten a bad rap. After spending far too much time on 12-step, active-heavy routines that left everyone's skin stripped and sensitized, we all sort of agreed to lay off the intense scrubs in favor of gentler alternatives. Generally speaking, this was a step in the right direction, and gave us a chance to rehab our complexions sans potential irritation. But though *too much* exfoliation can do more harm than good, there's still a benefit to having it in your daily routine, and that's where Dermalogica's Daily Microfoliant ($45) comes in.

Dermalogica, Daily Microfoliant — $45.00

Highlighted ingredients: Papain enzymes, salicylic acid, rice-bran derived phytic acid, colloidal oatmeal, allantoin

Size: 1.4 oz.


  • Gentle enough to use every day
  • Offers chemical and physical exfoliation
  • Safe for all skin types
  • Luxe user experience


  • Expensive

Why do you need to exfoliate?

The main goal of exfoliation is simple: slough off the dead skin cells from the surface of your skin (and whatever dirt and grime is trapped beneath them) to leave your complexion bright and even. Additionally, removing this layer of gunk creates a clean canvas that allows the rest of the products in your routine to penetrate more deeply.

Experts In This Article

There are two different ways to exfoliate. Physical exfoliation is the most common, thanks to our collective obsession with St. Ives in the early 2000s. This involves using a scrub or brush to manually polish your skin; and chemical exfoliation, which employs hydroxy acids (like glycolic, lactic, and salicylic) to break the bonds that hold dead skin cells to the surface of your skin and melt them away.

While most dermatologists recommend limiting your exfoliation practice to a few times a week, there are certain situations where doing it daily is A-okay—for example, if you've got oily or acne-prone skin, or you're using a "micro-exfoliant" that employs smaller-than-usual scrubbing grains à la Dermalogica's Daily Microfoliant.

"For many skin types, micro-exfoliation can be done daily," says facialist Michaella Bolder (the one exception is if you've got super-sensitive skin, in which case you should still only exfoliate once a week). "The process is much less abrasive and so it doesn't interfere with the skin's superficial layer, leaving it feeling smoother and looking brighter but with nothing rough—making it ideal for regular use."

How Dermalogica's Daily Microfoliant Works

Dermalogica's Daily Microfoliant employs these much smaller "micro" particles in powder form—which makes it safe to use every day on (almost) all skin types. "Micro-exfoliation is a way to remove surface dead skin cells and encourage new skin cells to appear, which gives the skin an overall rejuvenated appearance," says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group. It's unlike regular exfoliation because it's done more gently and has a lower risk of irritation and a quicker recovery."

Photo: Dermalogica

Dermalogica's powder is made from finely milled rice bran particles, which are far less abrasive than other common sloughing ingredients (ahem, apricot kernels) but still get the job done. It pairs this physically exfoliating powder with chemical exfoliants—namely papain enzymes and salicylic acid—to give you a one-two punch of purifying powers. The enzymes work by breaking down the keratin in the skin's upper layers to release dead skin cells, while salicylic acid dives way down deep into your pores to clear away dirt and grime from the inside out. "These acids and enzymes act to loosen the glue-like substance that holds the cells together, allowing them to ease away," Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, previously told Well+Good.

While Dermalogica's exfoliating actives are gentle by nature, the formula pairs them with a few additional calming ingredients to ensure that you can use it every day without irritation—namely, colloidal oatmeal and allantoin. Additionally, the Daily Microfoliant includes white tea and licorice to up its skin-brightening abilities even further.

One more cool thing about the powder that's worth mentioning: Because there's no water in the formula, you're getting a highly concentrated form of the actives that are both more potent and more shelf-stable. So, though $66 may feel steep, it's worth the investment given just how much ingredient goodness you're getting and how long you can hold onto the product without having to worry about it expiring.

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant review

First things first, this product is extremely satisfying to use. It comes out of the bottle as a powder—you only need about half of a teaspoon—which transforms into a frothy lather when you mix it with water. Massaging the foam into your face is nothing short of luxurious, especially because you can feel the itty-bitty rice particles buffing your skin. Together, the two textures really make you feel like your pores are getting a deep clean.

I like to use the Microfoliant in the shower, mostly because it makes it really easy to combine it with water and rinse off without a mess (just be careful when you open and close the bottle so you don't accidentally let in any water). Per dermatologists's recommendation, I use small, circular motions and a light touch to really work the powder into my skin for a full minute.

My complexion skews dry, so I typically limit my exfoliation to twice a week, maximum—the thought of scrubbing my skin every day initially made me very stressed as visions of inevitable irritation swam in my head. After using the Microfoliant every day for a week, though, I'm happy to report that not only is my skin not sensitized, but it actually looks better than it has in a very long time.

The dullness that I'd always accepted as a side effect of living in a polluted city has been replaced with a complexion that can best be described as "lit from within bright." Beyond that, though, it feels *so* soft, which I credit partially to the Microfoliant's sloughing ability, but also to the fact that using it daily helps whatever moisturizing products I layer on top of it work to their full potential.

With a sweaty summer on the horizon, I'm thrilled to have found a product that gives my skin a deep clean—especially because I can feel and see it at work. Exfoliation may have burned me—and a whole lot of other people—in the past, but with this stuff, bright skin sans irritation is just a one-minute daily massage away.

But wait, there's more!
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