The beauty world is in the throes of a new wave of innovation, one that focuses on the skin from the neck down. Products and targeted treatments that used to be reserved strictly for your face are being reformulated for the rest of your body (because, well, it deserves TLC too). That means things like masks and serums, but it also means body peels.
Facial chemical peels — the category’s counterpart — work to slough away dead skin cells as an exfoliating treatment. These peels, which you can get done professionally or DIY at home, use staple chemical exfoliant ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and salicylic acid or retinol to shed cells to reveal a brighter and more even complexion. Body peels function in a similar way and use similar ingredients. The main difference, as is the case with body serums, is the increased potency of the aforementioned chemical actives since the skin beneath your neck is thicker and tougher than that on your face. So the peeling products need to work extra hard to penetrate the skin.
Generally speaking, you should always consult with a dermatologist or skin care expert before embarking on a new treatment journey, especially so if you have skin sensitivity or a condition like eczema or psoriasis. Once you’ve been given the green light, there are a few commandments to get familiar with ahead of your first body peel excursion.
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What Exactly Is A Body Peel?
As with facial skin care, there are two categories of body peels — those that you get done in an office with a licensed practitioner, and those you can do at home with the right products. Either option you go with, the goals of both are the same, says Dr. Ava Shamban, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist. “[These peels work] to remove the rough exterior surface and penetrate the deeper layers of the skin,” she tells Bustle.
According to Shamban, the star ingredients in both professional and at-home body peels are different acids — most commonly, AHAs, beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), and trichloroacetic acids (TCAs). “These all help break up the bonds between dead skin cells, lifting and eliminating them from the skin’s surface,” she says. Just note that in-office treatments are going to be much more powerful than what you’ll get from a bottled peel for home use. “[In-office] peels use prescription-strength concentrations of peeling agents,” says Beverly Hills-based dermatologist Dr. Madhuri Chadha, M.D.
And they’re targeted: “They can treat damage or discoloration caused by acne, sun exposure, and aging factors,” Chadha explains. A body peel is therefore a great choice if you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation, dryness, bumps, dullness, or breakouts. Think of them as potent masks that are specifically aimed at heavy-duty exfoliation.
How To Use A Body Peel
When looking for an at-home body peel treatment, the experts advise looking for products with the aforementioned chemical exfoliating ingredients of AHAs, BHAs, and TCAs. Generally, AHAs and BHAs tend to be a better fit for all skin types while TCAs can be stronger and more intense. If your skin’s on the sensitive end of the spectrum, Shamban recommends patch testing TCA-spiked formulas before committing to a full-body treatment.
You can do a body peel any time you notice fine lines, hyperpigmentation, breakouts, or lackluster skin, says Chadha. Just note these aren’t meant to be a daily part of your skin care regimen. “Frequency of use depends on the person, but I generally suggest starting with three peels done 4-6 weeks apart,” she tells Bustle. That gives your skin enough buffer time to experience the initial purge and shedding that can happen after a deep exfoliating session. After those initial peels, she recommends doing maintenance treatments spaced anywhere from 4-12 weeks apart depending on your skin’s appearance.
Pro tip: Don’t overuse your body peel, even if it’s giving you awesome results. The main risk, according to Chadha, is over-exfoliation, which entails side effects like irritation, redness, burning, and skin dryness, she explains. So always start slow to make sure your body can tolerate the products.
Body peels come in various forms, from serums to liquids, peel pads, lotions, and scrubs. Most of them involve an apply, sit, and rinse application, though each product will have its own instructions you should always follow. And with that, keep scrolling to shop body peels for your beauty routine.
5 Body Peel Treatments For A DIY Glow
A Hydrating Body Treatment
Apply this peel like you would a mask: Spread it onto clean, dry skin and let it sit for 15 minutes before you rinse. Its combination of vitamin C and AHAs will wash off to reveal a more even, retextured complexion. This formula also has hydrating aloe and glycerin to counteract the potential drying effects of the acids.
A Tried & True Body Peel
I first heard of this body treatment in 2015 on a beauty blog, and have had my eyes on it ever since. As the name suggests, it contains five superstar acids for the exfoliating job: lactic, glycolic, mandelic, citric acid, and salicylic acid. On top of that, it uses licorice root extract to further target discoloration.
An Overnight Exfoliating Treatment
Stacked Skincare’s peel doesn’t need to be rinsed off — simply apply it on clean skin at night and then get your beauty sleep. Its combination of TCAs, AHAs, and BHAs work overnight to diminish discoloration, subdue conditions like keratosis pilaris, and deliver a more clarified, clear complexion from head to toe.
A Soothing Glycolic Peel
Pixi’s Glow Tonic is one of the holy grails of the drugstore skin care world, so think of this glycolic body peel as its chummy body care cousin. It’s formulated with glycolic and lactic acids but is still gentle enough to purportedly be used daily (it’s balanced with aloe vera and shea butter along with other soothing ingredients). Still, remember to slowly increase usage to avoid possible irritation.
A Cult-Favorite Peeling Scrub
All of First Aid Beauty’s products are formulated to be safe for even the most sensitive skin types. The brand’s keratosis pilaris (KP) scrub is a cult favorite that has become one of the defining products in the targeted body care category. It works to gently slough away dead skin cells with the help of a healthy dose of 10% AHAs.
Ciganovic, P. (2019). Glycerolic Licorice Extracts as Active Cosmeceutical Ingredients: Extraction Optimization, Chemical Characterization, and Biological Activity. Antioxidants. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6826613/
Kumari, R. (2010). Comparative Study of Trichloroacetic Acid Versus Glycolic Acid Chemical Peels in the Treatment of Melasma. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20657143/
Molinaro, M. (2017). Nonfacial Chemical Peels. Chemical And Physical Procedures. https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-319-16805-0_7
Rendon, M. (2010). Evidence and Considerations in the Application of Chemical Peels in Skin Disorders and Aesthetic Resurfacing. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921757/
Soleymani, T. (2018). A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6122508/
Dr. Madhuri Chadha (aka Dr. Madh), M.D., board-certified dermatologist