The 7 Best At-Home Chemical Peels, According To A Dermatologist
The one and only time I received a professional chemical peel I emerged one week later from a cocoon of dead skin cells and flakes to discover the brightest-looking skin of my life. But the price of pro treatments adds up quickly, which makes at-home chemical peels as compelling as ever — especially given the fact that I can vouch for the otherworldly radiance a good peel gives your complexion.
That doesn't mean at-home chemical peels don't intimidate me just a little — my dermatologist was supremely careful during my chemical peel to apply chemicals with a light hand, giving me a superficial peel that could improve skin texture but would be gentle enough not to irritate my sensitive skin.
So how do at-home peels stack up? According to Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills, “At-home peels are generally milder than professional grade peels, but they do contain many of the same ingredients." But an at-home peel is still a peel, and Dr. Shainhouse warns 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.
When it comes to choosing effective at-home chemical peel ingredients, Dr. Shainhouse says to stick to five: Beta-hydroxyacids (or salicylic acid), which unclogs pores and clear up acne lesions, glycolic and lactic acids that remove dead skin cells in a more gentle manner than salicylic acid, fruit enzymes like papaya, pumpkin, and pineapple to make skin glow, retinol for increased collagen production, and tricholacetic acid (TCA), which Dr. Shainhouse says can penetrate deeper layers of skin.
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 an SPF 30 (or higher) mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide for the week following your peel — since mineral formulas reduce the risk of irritation — and wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
If you're ready to try an at-home treatment, these seven chemical peels 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. Glycolic Acid Peel Pads For Smaller Looking Pores & Brighter Skin
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. Reviewers 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).
2. A Cult-Favorite Peel That Uses A Strong Mix Of BHAs And AHAs
The Ordinary Peeling Solution 30ml AHA 30% + BHA 2%
A cult-favorite peel from a cult-favorite 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.
3. A Glycolic Acid Peel With Retinol & Chamomile
Perfect Image Glycolic Acid 30 % Peel
The retinol in this at-home chemical peel promotes collagen and re-texturizes skin to address any aging concerns, while 30 percent 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.
4. A Liquid Salicylic Acid Peel That You Can Use Daily
Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Stubborn acne, blackheads, and even hormonal cysts respond to this two percent 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.
5. A Strong TCA Peel For Softer Skin With Fewer Dark Spots
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.
6. A Lactic Acid Gel Peel With Bearberry Extract To Help Fade 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.
7. These Cult-Favorite Peel Pads That Beauty Insiders Swear By
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.
"The best product of its kind," one reviewer writes. "I've been a loyal user of the Dr. Gross daily peels ... 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."
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