Organic exfoliators for sensitive skinShare on Pinterest

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  • Best clean exfoliator for improving skin tone: KraveBeauty Kale-Lalu-yAHA
  • Best brightening clean exfoliator: REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic
  • Best moisturizing clean exfoliator: True Botanicals Resurfacing Moisture Mask
  • Best exfoliating serum: Farmacy Beauty Honeymoon Glow
  • Best bar exfoliator/cleanser combo: Drunk Elephant Juju Bar
  • Best clean exfoliator for dark spots: Moon Juice Acid Potion
  • Best clean exfoliator for mature-looking skin: Caudalie Glycolic Peel Mask
  • Best overnight exfoliating peel: Beautycounter Counter+ Overnight Resurfacing Peel
  • Best mild exfoliating serum: Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum
  • Best clean exfoliating pads: First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads
  • Best clean exfoliator for rough, crepey skin: Skinfix Resurface+ Glycolic Renewing Scrub
  • Best budget-friendly body exfoliator: The Seaweed Bath Co. Hydrating Exfoliating Body Scrub
  • Best clean exfoliator for keratosis pilaris: First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub
  • Best sugar-based body exfoliator: Herbivore Botanicals Coco Rose Coconut Oil Body Polish
  • Best moisturizing body exfoliator: OSEA Undaria Body Polish
  • Best face and body exfoliator: Lush Cosmetics Angels On Bare Skin
  • Best coconut oil-based exfoliator: SheaMoisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Crème Sugar Scrub
  • Best eco-friendly exfoliating scrub: Weleda Body Cleansing Scrub
  • Best lip exfoliator: French Girl Organics Rose Lip Polish

In recent years, exfoliating products exploded on the skin care market, and influencers on social media became increasingly vocal about the benefits and importance of exfoliation.

Exfoliation is the process of removing buildup of dead skin from the top layer of skin. This process helps cell turnover, or the replacement of dead skin cells with younger skin cells — resulting in a smoother, clearer, and more polished-looking skin.

However, exfoliation can also damage the skin barrier and cause long-term irritation, redness, and sensitivity. For people who already have sensitive skin, exfoliating incorrectly can make sensitivity worse.

There are two main types of exfoliants: chemical and physical.

The main chemical exfoliants used in beauty products are alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) — like glycolic, lactic, and malic acids — and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), like salicylic acid.

Physical exfoliants, on the other hand, physically peel away dead skin cells from the top layer of skin. These can be, for example, scrubs with beads, facial brushes, and dermaplaning tools.

People with sensitive skin often struggle with redness, rashes, dryness, flaking, and itching. They also often experience stinging or burning after using certain beauty products.

While numerous factors can cause sensitivity, including genetics, sun exposure, product use, and the environment, one thing is clear: Skin sensitivity is the result of a damaged skin barrier.

Therefore, people with sensitive skin need to be careful about what kinds of exfoliants they use and how often.

In fact, Dr. Matt Innes, a board certified dermatologist at the Tanner Clinic in Utah, says people with sensitive skin may rarely need to exfoliate at all.

“The main reasons to exfoliate are if you have hyperpigmentation, keratosis pilaris, acne-prone skin, or mature, photo-damaged skin,” he explains. “If you don’t need exfoliation for any of those things, then you may skip it altogether.”

For people with sensitive skin who want to exfoliate, Innes recommends starting with a gentle cleanser. These cleansers have a shorter contact time with the skin and thus lead to less irritation. Once a week should be enough for people with sensitive skin.

He also recommends removing other potentially irritating products, including retinoids, vitamin C, and other AHAs that might cause irritation while exfoliating. Always patch-test products before using them, and use SPF after exfoliating.

Thankfully, many clean skin care brands specialize in products for sensitive skin. We scouted out the best natural skin care exfoliators for sensitive skin to help simplify your search.

We chose exfoliants based on their gentle ingredients, affordability, and, most importantly, customer reviews. We also looked carefully at each company’s reputation in the market, including their approach to transparency.

We did our best to choose products in a budget-friendly price range. The good thing about exfoliators for people with sensitive skin is that they last a long time when used sparingly, making the price well worth it.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $20
  • $$ = $20–$40
  • $$$ = over $40

Face

Best clean exfoliator for improving skin tone

KraveBeauty Kale-Lalu-yAHA

  • Price: $$
  • Who it’s best for: people hoping to even skin tone and texture
  • Recommended uses per week: 2-3 times
  • Pro: designed to be gentle, yet effective
  • Con: some reviewers reported breakouts after using this product

KraveBeauty takes a simple approach to skin care, offering five basic products with the philosophy of giving your face a reset and healing the skin barrier.

Kale-Lalu-yAHA is designed to be a gentle exfoliant made with glycolic acid, antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid to help soothe and hydrate. The 5.25% concentration of glycolic acid is an ideal amount to provide a gentle exfoliation.

Many of Krave’s customers have sensitive skin, and reviewers say they notice a visible difference from the product without irritation or redness. Others said they would highly recommend the product to others with sensitive skin.

On the downside, a handful of reviewers note that they broke out after using this product.

Best brightening clean exfoliator

REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic

  • Price: $$
  • Who it’s best for: people hoping to brighten their complexion
  • Recommended uses per week: daily
  • Pro: designed to deliver seven individual skin benefits
  • Con: should be diluted if you have very sensitive skin

In a consumer study done by REN Clean Skincare, 96% of users reported that the Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic did not cause irritation. Odds like that make this clean beauty product potentially a solid bet for people with sensitive skin.

Technically, this product is geared toward all skin types, though the company recommends that people with hypersensitive skin start by diluting the tonic with water to see how their skin reacts to it. People with hypersensitive skin will also do well using this tonic occasionally rather than daily, according to the company.

Reviewers swear by the lactic acid in this product, saying that the tonic leaves their skin feeling bright, clean, and noticeably clearer.

Best moisturizing clean exfoliator

True Botanicals Resurfacing Moisture Mask

  • Price: $$$
  • Who it’s best for: people looking for a hydrating boost
  • Recommended uses per week: 1
  • Pro: designed to gently exfoliate and hydrate with lactic acid and avocado butter
  • Con: high price point

This lactic acid-based mask is a quick way to exfoliate and moisturize at the same time.

The Resurfacing Moisture Mask contains lactic acid, one of the gentler AHAs, along with hyaluronic acid to help prevent moisture loss and heal the skin’s barrier.

Reviewers said the mask did not irritate their rosacea or sensitivity, and some said it helped reduce redness.

Best exfoliating serum

Farmacy Beauty Honeymoon Glow

  • Price: $$$
  • Who it’s best for: people looking to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Recommended uses per week: 2-3 times
  • Pro: serum goes on easily
  • Con: high price point

Farmacy Beauty’s products are a favorite of organic skin care users due to their formulations that fuse nature and chemistry. Honeymoon Glow is a nighttime serum formulated with ingredients meant to exfoliate and soothe skin.

The brand says lactic, glycolic, citric, and fruit acids do the work of addressing hyperpigmentation and promoting cell renewal, while BHA from willow bark may diminish the appearance of pore sizes. Hyaluronic acid and honey work to help hydrate and soothe the skin.

A 6-week consumer panel done by Farmacy Beauty that tested all skin types, including sensitive skin, concluded that people with sensitive skin found the serum to be gentle. It also found that people with dry, sensitive skin experienced more softness without irritation.

Best bar exfoliator/cleanser combo

Drunk Elephant Juju Bar

  • Price: $$
  • Who it’s best for: people looking for a multipurpose exfoliating cleanser
  • Recommended uses per week: 2-3 times
  • Pro: exfoliating plus cleansing in bar form
  • Con: may be drying

Drunk Elephant calls this their “ultra-mild multitasking” exfoliating bar, and it is formulated for people with sensitive skin.

The bar is free of fragrance, soap, silicones, and essential oils, and it has a pH of 6.3. This means it should cleanse the skin without stripping the barrier of its important oils.

Bamboo powder, heilmoor clay, and virgin marula oil are the all-stars in the exfoliating moisture combo of this bar. While bamboo powder is technically a physical exfoliant, the powder is so thin and gentle that it shouldn’t irritate skin the way a scrub might.

Reviewers like the Juju Bar, saying it exfoliates without drying out or irritating their skin when used a couple times a week.

Using it too often may lead to dryness, but if you have sensitive skin, you should only be exfoliating occasionally anyway.

Best clean exfoliator for dark spots

Moon Juice Acid Potion

  • Price: $$$
  • Who it’s best for: people hoping to minimize the appearance of dark spots and sun damage
  • Recommended uses per week: nightly, or 3 nights in a row
  • Pro: designed to be smoothing, hydrating, and balancing
  • Con: may cause redness

This exfoliator contains a mix of lactic, glycolic, and salicylic acids, along with reishi and niacinamide, which have been known to have some calming and hydrating properties.

The Acid Potion is a potentially good option for people who have dark spots and sun damage and are looking for a gentle way to clear their skin.

It averages 4.9 out of 5 stars with over 500 reviews, and many reviewers say it’s the best acid toner they have used. Reviewers with sensitive skin say they wake up with clearer complexions and have no irritation, even on hypersensitive skin.

Some users recommended using the product at night, noting that they experienced redness after applying it during the day.

Best clean exfoliator for mature-looking skin

Caudalie Glycolic Peel Mask

  • Price: $$
  • Who it’s best for: people with mature-looking skin
  • Recommended uses per week: 1
  • Pro: made with mostly natural ingredients
  • Con: high price point

Caudalie’s products are made up of mostly natural ingredients derived from grapes — and 85.7% of the ingredients in the Glycolic Peel Mask are natural, according to the company.

This cream mask aims to exfoliate with glycolic acid, and it’s made for all skin types, including sensitive skin.

It is meant to be left on for 10 minutes, though those looking for an even gentler exfoliation might find less time works well for them.

Reviewers have only positive things to say about this mask. Many reviewers are older, and given that this mask is meant to restore radiance, it may be worth considering for people with mature-looking skin.

Best overnight exfoliating peel

Beautycounter Counter+ Overnight Resurfacing Peel

  • Price: $$$
  • Who it’s best for: those looking to brighten dull skin
  • Recommended uses per week: 3-4 times
  • Pro: easy overnight application
  • Con: high price point

The Counter+ Overnight Resurfacing Peel is specifically formulated with irritation in mind.

This leave-on AHA and BHA product is meant to be used at night while the skin regenerates. Glycolic, lactic, and citric acids act as exfoliants, while arginine and fatty acids aim to moisturize.

This product averages 4.8 out of 5 stars with over 4,000 reviews. Many reviewers who identify themselves as having hypersensitive skin and rosacea say this peel leaves them without irritation and with skin that feels soft.

Best mild exfoliating serum

Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum

  • Price: $$
  • Who it’s best for: those looking for a mild exfoliating serum
  • Recommended uses per week: nightly
  • Pro: designed as a mild exfoliant with ingredients that may plump and protect the skin’s barrier
  • Con: some reviewers found that nightly use was too strong for their sensitive skin

Mad Hippie’s products claim to merge chemistry with natural beauty, alongside a commitment to the environment.

Anyone looking for a mild nighttime exfoliant that they can use consistently may find it in the Vitamin A Serum. The serum is made with a form of vitamin A that is meant to gently reduce the appearance of wrinkles and discoloration over time.

The brand says phytoceramides plump up the skin and protect the skin’s barrier, and sodium hyaluronate, oat beta glucan, and aloe vera all soothe and moisturize the skin.

This product boasts 5 stars on the company’s website, and many reviewers, including those with sensitive skin, refer to this serum as their “holy grail.”

Best clean exfoliating pads

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads

  • Price: $$
  • Who it’s best for: those looking for the convenience of presoaked exfoliating pads
  • Recommended uses per week: daily
  • Pro: easy application and safe to use daily, even with sensitive skin
  • Con: disposable pads aren’t eco-friendly

Many lists of sensitive skin products include First Aid Beauty, a clean beauty brand that claims it’s committed to products that are safe for sensitive skin and do not cause irritation.

According to the company’s website, the Facial Radiance Pads are safe to use daily by all skin types, including sensitive skin. Designed to gently smooth the skin, these pads are formulated with low concentrations of lactic and glycolic acids, along with lemon peel, Indian gooseberry, and antioxidants to protect the skin.

Reviewers with sensitive skin emphatically recommend this product, saying it helped clear acne and redness without irritation. Others say this is one of only a few products that doesn’t cause reactivity for them.

Body

Best clean exfoliator for rough, crepey skin

Skinfix Resurface+ Glycolic Renewing Scrub

  • Price: $$$
  • Who it’s best for: those looking to smooth and tighten rough, crepey skin
  • Recommended uses per week: 1-3 times
  • Pro: clinically-proven results
  • Con: high price point

Skinfix Resurface+ Glycolic Renewing Scrub uses glycolic and lactic acids for a gentle exfoliation.

This scrub is designed to target rough, bumpy, and crepey skin, along with keratosis pilaris. In a 2-week dermatologically led study, 100% of users said their skin felt softer and smoother, and 94% said the scrub exfoliated their dead skin.

Skinfix’s products are nontoxic, cruelty-free, and free from a long list of irritating ingredients, according to the brand.

Best budget-friendly body exfoliator

The Seaweed Bath Co. Hydrating Exfoliating Body Scrub

  • Price: $
  • Who it’s best for: those looking for a gentle exfoliator on a budget
  • Recommended uses per week: 2-3 times
  • Pro: great price point
  • Con: made with essential oils, which could be irritating to very sensitive skin

The Seaweed Bath Co. was founded with the goal of creating products for the founders’ sensitive skin, and, in the process, they discovered the healing benefits of bladderwrack seaweed from Maine, according to the company. This is the basis for all the company’s products.

The Hydrating Exfoliating Body Scrub was formulated specifically for sensitive skin, and, although it is technically a physical exfoliant, the pumice is so finely ground that it should be safe for compromised skin.

The scrub contains pumice to exfoliate, along with organic, sustainably harvested seaweed, Hawaiian kukui oil, coconut oil, and aloe vera meant to nourish and hydrate.

Reviewers rate this scrub highly, saying it leaves their skin feeling soft without the harsh effects that are often felt from a physical exfoliant.

Best clean exfoliator for keratosis pilaris

First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub

  • Price: $$
  • Who it’s best for: those looking to treat keratosis pilaris
  • Recommended uses per week: 1-2 times
  • Pro: designed to be gentle with ingredients to smooth rough, bumpy skin
  • Con: may increase sensitivity to the sun

The KP (keratosis pilaris) Bump Eraser Body Scrub is one of First Aid Beauty’s most popular products due to how effectively it may reduce scaly bumps on the body.

This dual chemical and physical scrub is formulated with 10% combined glycolic and lactic acids for people with sensitive skin. The acids should remove the top layer of dead skin cells, while pumice buffing beads aim to de-clog pores that often lead to bumps.

Like all First Aid Beauty products, the scrub is specially formulated with sensitive skin in mind, and it also contains bisabolol and vitamin E to soothe skin.

Reviewers say the scrub isn’t too harsh for sensitive skin, and it helps remove bumps along with ingrown hairs.

Best sugar-based body exfoliator

Herbivore Botanicals Coco Rose Coconut Oil Body Polish

  • Price: $$
  • Who it’s best for: those looking for a fragrant sugar-based exfoliant
  • Recommended uses per week: as needed
  • Pro: beautiful rose fragrance
  • Con: coconut oil can be slippery in the shower

The Herbivore Botanicals Coco Rose Coconut Oil Body Polish is a cult favorite that has rapidly grown in popularity.

The scrub is a blend of coconut oil, Moroccan rose, shea butter, and pink clay. The coconut oil and shea butter are intended to provide hydration, while the rose and clay give the scrub its pink color and floral scent.

The main exfoliating agent is sugar, along with the pink clay, which aims to provide a gentle detoxification. In the proper concentration, sugar can be a gentle enough physical exfoliant for skin on the body, and many reviewers say that the scrub isn’t irritating for their sensitive skin.

Best moisturizing body exfoliator

OSEA Undaria Body Polish

  • Price: $$$
  • Who it’s best for: those looking for a moisturizing body exfoliator
  • Recommended uses per week: as needed
  • Pro: eco-friendly
  • Con: high price point

OSEA is known for its naturally crafted products and commitment to the environment. This body polish may be worth considering for those looking for a gentle exfoliation.

The brand says undaria seaweed, hemp seed oil, and kukui seed oil work to improve the appearance of skin and moisturize — while ultrafine volcanic pumice and lychee seed gently exfoliate the skin.

Overall, reviewers rate this product highly.

Best face and body exfoliator

Lush Cosmetics Angels On Bare Skin

  • Price: $-$$
  • Who it’s best for: those looking for an exfoliator that can be used on the body and the face
  • Recommended uses per week: as needed
  • Pro: great fragrance
  • Con: may be too harsh for use on the face

This exfoliating cleanser can be used on both the face and body. Though, due to its physical exfoliation, we recommend using it on the body only.

Angels On Bare Skin uses ground almonds and cleansing clay to gently slough away dead skin, along with rose and chamomile to soothe redness.

Reviewers with sensitive skin rave about this cleanser, saying it helped relieve their dryness and irritation, and that it has a scent that’s subtle and pleasant, but not heavy.

Best coconut oil-based exfoliator

SheaMoisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Crème Sugar Scrub

  • Price: $
  • Who it’s best for: those looking for a smoothing product that leaves the skin feeling hydrated
  • Recommended uses per week: as needed
  • Pro: great price point
  • Con: includes essential oils, which may be irritating to some people

SheaMoisture’s Hydration Crème Sugar Scrub is designed to provide a mix of hydration and exfoliation for people with sensitive skin.

The scrub has a velvety texture due to the combination of coconut oil, coconut milk, shea butter, and raw sugar. This should allow for gentle exfoliation as well as deep hydration.

Reviewers say the scrub is very gentle on their skin, and many say it leaves them feeling smooth and hydrated.

Best eco-friendly exfoliating scrub

Weleda Body Cleansing Scrub

  • Price: $
  • Who it’s best for: those looking for an eco-friendly exfoliating scrub
  • Recommended uses per week: 1
  • Pro: eco-friendly, great scent
  • Con: ingredients include fragrance

Weleda is one of the original natural skin care brands, and their products have remained popular with consistently high-quality ingredients and formulations.

The Body Cleansing Scrub is designed to provide gentle exfoliation that refreshes dull skin without stripping it of moisture. The scrub has tiny granules of wax that are made to be gentle on the skin and environmentally friendly. Plus, the fresh scent is the result of grapefruit, citrus, and cypress.

Weleda recommends using the scrub once per week, which is a good bet for people with sensitivity.

Best lip exfoliator

French Girl Organics Rose Lip Polish

  • Price: $
  • Who it’s best for: those in need of a gentle lip exfoliator for a more hydrated pucker
  • Recommended uses per week: daily or as needed
  • Pro: gentle enough for delicate lip skin
  • Con: contains essential oils, which could be irritating to some people

Our lips often go unnoticed when it comes to exfoliation.

However, lips have cells that get regenerated like all the other areas of the body. Occasionally exfoliating the lips can leave them feeling more supple and hydrated.

The French Girl Organics Rose Lip Polish combines sugar, coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, castor oil, and more to create what should be a super hydrating scrub. The lip skin is delicate, and this hydrating sugar mix is said to exfoliate without irritation.

ExfoliatorPro/conWho it’s best forNumber of recommended uses per week
KraveBeauty Kale-Lalu-yAHAgentle yet effective/some reviewers reported breakouts after using this productpeople hoping to even skin tone and texture2-3 times
REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonicdesigned to deliver seven individual skin benefits/should be diluted if you have very sensitive skinpeople hoping to brighten their complexiondaily
True Botanicals Resurfacing Moisture Maskmade with lactic acid and avocado butter to gently exfoliate and hydrate/high price pointpeople looking for a hydrating boost1 time
Farmacy Beauty Honeymoon Glowserum form makes for easy application/high price pointpeople looking to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles2-3 times
Drunk Elephant Juju Barexfoliating plus cleansing in bar form/may be dryingpeople looking for a multipurpose exfoliating cleanser2-3 times
Moon Juice Acid Potionsmoothing, hydrating, and balancing/may cause rednesspeople hoping to minimize the appearance of dark spots and sun damagenightly, or 3 nights in a row
Caudalie Glycolic Peel Maskmade with mostly natural ingredients/high price pointpeople with mature-looking skin1 time
Beautycounter Counter+ Overnight Resurfacing Peeleasy overnight application/high price pointthose looking to brighten dull skin with an overnight treatment3-4 times
Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serumvery mild exfoliant with ingredients that may plump and protect the skin’s barrier/some reviewers found that nightly use was too strong for their sensitive skinthose looking for a mild exfoliating serumnightly
First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Padseasy application and safe to use daily, even with sensitive skin/disposable pads aren’t eco-friendlythose looking for the convenience of presoaked exfoliating padsdaily
Skinfix Resurface+ Glycolic Renewing Scrubclinically-proven results/high price pointthose looking to smooth and tighten rough, crepey skin1-3 times
The Seaweed Bath Co. Hydrating Exfoliating Body Scrubgreat price point/made with essential oils, which could be irritating to very sensitive skinthose looking for a gentle exfoliator on a budget2-3 times
First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser Body Scrubgentle, effective ingredients to smooth rough, bumpy skin/ may increase sensitivity to the sunthose looking to treat keratosis pilaris1-2 times
Herbivore Botanicals Coco Rose Coconut Oil Body Polishbeautiful rose fragrance/coconut oil can be slippery in the showerthose looking for a fragrant sugar-based exfoliantas needed
OSEA Undaria Body Polisheco-friendly/high price pointthose looking for a moisturizing body exfoliatoras needed
Lush Cosmetics Angels On Bare Skingreat fragrance/may be too harsh for use on the facethose looking for an exfoliator that can be used on the body and the faceas needed
SheaMoisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Crème Sugar Scrubgreat price point/includes essential oils, which may be irritating to some peoplethose looking for a smoothing product that leaves the skin feeling hydratedas needed
Weleda Body Cleansing Scrubeco-friendly, great scent/ingredients include fragrancethose looking for an eco-friendly exfoliating scrub1 time
French Girl Organics Rose Lip Polishgentle enough for delicate lip skin/contains essential oils, which could be irritating to some peoplethose in need of a gentle lip exfoliator for a more hydrated puckerdaily or as needed

If you have sensitive skin, it’s important to choose an exfoliator with care. Harsh ingredients can exacerbate sensitive skin, and over-exfoliating will create even more sensitivity.

Look for chemical exfoliants with AHAs like lactic, glycolic, and mandelic acids that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin. Avoid using physical exfoliants on the face if possible. And don’t exfoliate too often — once weekly should be more than enough.

What is the gentlest chemical exfoliant?

Mandelic acid is largely considered one of the milder AHAs. That’s largely due to the fact that it’s structurally bigger than other AHAs, which means it penetrates the skin more slowly. That makes it less irritating.

How often should you exfoliate your face if you have sensitive skin?

Most experts recommend exfoliating your face no more than once per week if you have sensitive skin.

How do you exfoliate your body?

Look for an exfoliator that’s designed for use on the body, then follow directions on the label. In general, body exfoliators should be applied with gentle pressure in a circular motion, then rinsed well.

People with sensitive skin should approach exfoliation with caution. When it comes to irritation-prone skin, under-exfoliating is better than doing too much.

Gentle chemical exfoliants, like glycolic and lactic acid, in small concentrations are ideal for people with sensitivity. It is best to avoid face products that have physical exfoliants.

When it comes to exfoliation with sensitive skin, less is more. And, no matter what, moisturize and wear SPF every day to protect your skin barrier.


Lucia Whalen is a Chicago-based writer and multimedia journalist specializing in the intersection of health, science, and environment; she is also a cofounder of Trashy Magazine. Her writing has been featured in Atlas Obscura, South Side Weekly, MindBodyGreen, and other publications. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.