The 7 Best At-Home Chemical Peels, According To A Dermatologist

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Designed to help shed dull layers of skin in favor of fresh skin cells, the chemical peel will rejuvenate your face and complexion — when used correctly. Luckily, the best at-home chemical peels are a fantastic way to reap the benefits of a chemical peel at an affordable price without needing to leave your home. So, we asked a dermatologist: What makes for a good at-home chemical peel?

Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills, says when it comes to choosing an effective at-home chemical peel, stick to five ingredients:

  1. Beta-hydroxyacids (or salicylic acid). BHAs will unclog pores and clear up acne lesions.
  2. Glycolic and lactic acids (AHAs). AHAs remove dead skin cells in a more gentle manner than salicylic acid.
  3. Fruit enzymes. Fruit enzymes like papaya, pumpkin, and pineapple will leave your skin glowing.
  4. Retinol. Retinol helps boost collagen production, promoting smoother skin.
  5. Trichloroacetic acid (TCA). Dr. Shainhouse says TCA can penetrate deeper layers of skin, allowing newer, smoother skin cells to surface.

“At-home peels are generally milder than professional grade peels, but they do contain many of the same ingredients," says Dr. Shainhouse. She warns that an at-home peel is still a peel, and that they come with the risk of burns and irritation — especially if they aren't applied correctly or aren't suited for your particular skin type or condition.

Once the peel is off, protecting your freshly-exfoliated skin is of the utmost importance. “Any peel will leave your skin more prone to UV-damage and sunburn," cautions Dr. Shainhouse. She recommends using a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide with at least SPF 30 for the week following your peel — since mineral formulas reduce the risk of irritation. She also recommends wearing a wide-brimmed sun protection hat for extra coverage.

The seven best at-home chemical peels, below, each contain effective ingredients that leave skin brighter, clearer, and more even-toned. But, be sure to always read labels carefully and remove the peel immediately if you experience discomfort.

1. The Most Affordable: The Ordinary Peeling Solution AHA 30% + BHA 2%

A cult-favorite peel from a popular brand, The Ordinary's AHA 30% + BHA 2% peeling solution contains a heady mix of three acids: glycolic, salicylic, and lactic. It unclogs pores, exfoliates skin, and encourages an overall healthier, brighter looking complexion. To prevent irritation, The Ordinary added a botanical ingredient called Tasmanian Pepperberry into the formula, so this peel should be safe enough for all skin types to use. Leave it on for no longer than 10 minutes before rinsing off and following with a moisturizer.

Looking for the most value? You can also get this popular at-home peel in a two-pack.

According to one reviewer: "I love this! I use it twice a week. Abrasive exfoliation wasn't working anymore. And I don't want to pay for facials. This removed the dead surface skin and left my face feeling so soft and smooth. I even noticed that the very minute blackhead type pours around my nose and chin are gone too! Bonus!"

2. The Best Chemical Peel Pads: Exuviance Performance Peel AP25

No need to fumble around with droppers with these glycolic acid chemical peel pads, which can be used twice weekly (as long as your skin isn't too sensitive) to minimize pore size and make skin appear truly radiant. It might seem a little pricey, but this six-week supply of peels is a favorite amongst Amazon reviewers. Many say this is one of the best peels they've ever used and that you'll see results in as little as one month (but make sure you're using a quality moisturizer because these can dry out your skin).

According to one reviewer: "This product is a GAME CHANGER!! I’ve suffered with terrible adult acne, it’s gotten worse with hormonal changes. I’ve always heard I should try chemical peels if I get the chance so I decided to start with Exuviance. It’s cleared my face and lightened up scarring. The product itself is so easy to use, sometimes I experienced tingling when applied to my face sometimes I did not. Either way it did it’s job! Its worth every penny in my opinion and I’m living proof this product works."

3. A Gentler At-Home Chemical Peel: Perfect Image Glycolic Acid 30% Chemical Peel

The retinol in this at-home chemical peel promotes collagen and re-texturizes skin to address any aging concerns, while 30% glycolic acid penetrates deep into the skin to exfoliate dead skin cells. If you're worried about your skin drying out from peels, soothing ingredients like green tea extract and chamomile provide antioxidant and anti-bacterial benefits while moisturizing and calming skin.

According to one reviewer: "This stuff is amazing. It does not peel your skin off like active peels. Which is nice in my opinion. I use it every morning and every evening and always leave it on, mixing it in with a nice serum or light face lotion. My skin stays so refined, helping to get rid of any blemishes that pop up faster. You can use more or less or even just mix it with water then apply. I personally don't like my skin getting red or irritated, so I am mindful when applying."

4. A Stronger Peel With TCA: Skin Obsession 25% TCA Chemical Peel

The key ingredient in this chemical peel is trichloroacetic acid, a professional-level strength acid that boosts collagen, lightens pigmentation caused by sun damage, and improves skin tone and texture. This peel is only safe for light skin tones (there's a risk of pigment change on darker skin) and peeling newbies are encouraged to start off with a 15 percent TCA formula before graduating to this — because it's effective but no joke.

According to one reviewer: "I used this product for the first time 6 days ago and just finished peeling. I have had many peels (of all kinds) done professionally at med spas but this was my first do-it-yourself time. Since I knew my skin could tolerate a peel I opted for the more medium strength option of TCA 25% with 5% Salicylic Acid. I loved it, and love the results! I'll admit, it is scary doing this the first time and I frosted up only in my smile line areas but definitely stung and tightened up my skin all over my face."

5. Great For Acne: Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Stubborn acne, blackheads, and even hormonal cysts respond often well to this 2% Beta Hydroxy Acid chemical peel, which unclogs pores, exfoliates dead skin cells, and refines your skin's texture. Unlike most other peels, this can be used daily as an exfoliant, but only if your skin isn't easily irritated by salicylic acid.

According to one reviewer: "I have every skin issue you can think of. Rosacea, acne (hormonal, cycstic, Whiteheads, blackheads), dehydration, excessive oiliness, redness, all of it. I’ve spent probably thousands on a multitude of different products, trying to find one that would at least make a dent. I’ve had many procedures, many trips to the dermatologist. Nothing I’ve ever used, nothing I’ve ever done, has made such a profound difference in the appearance of my skin... I’ve been trying to turn my skin around for YEARS!! This was the product that did it. If I could give it 100 stars i would."

6. Great For Dark Spots: Perfect Image 50% Lactic Acid Gel Peel

This lactic acid gel peel contains brightening ingredients that help fade dark spots and post-acne marks, and also work overtime to eliminate free radicals — among them you'll find kojic acid, licorice, and bearberry extract. Because of the high level of lactic acid in this peel, it's recommended that you try a less potent peel first — until your skin gets used to the ingredients.

According to one reviewer: "This is some strong stuff, but it works. I’ve had several glycolic peels in a dermatologists office, and this is almost exactly the same thing. Left it on for 30-45 seconds. Tingling, rinsed with cold water. Skin is lightly peeling. Feels the same as what I paid for at the derm office! Glad I tried this!"

7. The Editor's Choice: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel

Ask any beauty editor, esthetician, or skin care junkie what their favorite at-home peel is, and they'll probably tell you Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare's Alpha Beta universal daily peels. The peel is actually a two-step process: First, you use the step 1 pad, which exfoliates skin and unclogs pores. Then, you apply the step 2 neutralizer, which nourishes skin to leave it clear, bright, and balanced. Together, they're like a one-minute facial — and the results are impressive, according to the countless devoted fans.

Editor's note: I use these peel pads regularly and love them. They can feel harsh for the first few uses, but the tingling or stinging you feel when you use them becomes less noticeable with regular use.

According to one reviewer: "The best product of its kind. I've been a loyal user of the Dr. Gross daily peels. They burn and sting, some days more than others, but it's worth every second. They do wonders to minimize pores, reduce red marks/acne discoloration and little imperfections. I went a few months without using them and my complexion took a noticeable turn for the worse. You don't need to use them everyday, depending on the current state of your skin. Sometimes just a 2 or 3x a week touch up is all you need."

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Experts:

Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a dermatologist at Stay Skin Safe in Beverly Hills

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