Skin peels are popular procedures that can vastly improve the appearance of your skin. They work by stripping away a thin layer of skin to reveal the smoother, younger-looking layers underneath. The chemical peel is a specially formulated solution that helps to exfoliate the outermost layer of skin. Skincare professionals will apply a chemical solution to your face, allow it to sit for a few minutes, and then remove it. This effectively removes dead skin cells from the surface of your face and can dramatically improve the appearance of acne scars, wrinkles and fine lines, dark spots, and other blemishes.
Chemical peels are one of various types of chemical exfoliation techniques. Chemical exfoliation involves removing dead skin cells through the use of topical chemicals rather than physical friction that is used in mechanical exfoliation. Chemical exfoliants include enzymes, acids and retinoids, each with their own strengths and weaknesses as well as side effects or risks.
Chemical peels are most effective when they are done by a professional dermatologist or cosmetologist who has been trained in using them effectively and safely. There are many different types and strengths of chemical peels that can be used on different areas of your body in order to achieve the results you desire.
Best Overall: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel
An at-home take on the uber-popular peels the celeb derm performs in his NYC office, this peel is a two-stepper. The first pad is full of five exfoliating alpha hydroxy acids; the second pad neutralizes the acids and also delivers anti-aging ingredients. Ideal for uneven tone, texture, wrinkles, or pores, this is pretty much peel perfection.
Type: Normal | Active Ingredients: Glycolic Acid, Alpha Hydroxy Acids, Witch Hazel | Size: .07 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Budget: Versed The Shortcut Overnight Facial Peel
Since the formula is also balanced with skin conditioning allantoin1 and vitamin E and is pH balanced, you don’t have to worry about irritation. Meant to be left on overnight and rinsed in the morning, it soaks into your skin fast, so you don’t have to worry about residue on your pillowcase, either.
Type: Mature | Active Ingredients: Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Vitamin A | Size: .5 or 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Soothing: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial
Marula oil is a naturally-occurring oil derived from the marula tree. It’s lightweight and non-comedogenic—the specific profile of fatty acids in marula oil is very similar to the oils naturally found in the skin.2
This exfoliator touts a whopping 25% alpha hydroxy and 5% beta hydroxy combo, so you know it means business. It’s powerful, yes, but it also boasts a skin-calming antioxidant blend to balance things out. Plus, it comes with the brand’s virgin marula oil, meant to be applied immediately after for even more soothing and hydrating benefits.
Type: Normal, Oily, Combination, Dry | Active Ingredients: 25% Alpha Hydroxy Acids, 2% BHA/Salicylic Acid | Size: 1.69 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Natural: Tata Harper Resurfacing BHA Glow Mask
All-natural, this peel mask also happens to be the winner in our 2019 Eco Beauty Awards. The key ingredients are beta hydroxy acid from white willow bark and pomegranate enzymes, though there are also plenty of other plant-based ingredients meant to help refine pores and soften skin, too (and 83% of the ingredients are from organic farming).
The classic way to use it is to leave it on (apply a thick layer) for 20 minutes up to three times a week, though you can also layer it with the brand’s regenerating cleanser for five minutes for a speedier solution.
Type: All | Active Ingredients: BHA from White Willow Bark and Pomegranate Enzymes | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yeshttps://4ff77da853b9d9c11873ea7416936846.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Best for Acne: Savor Beauty Yuzu Lemonade Peel
Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that works to exfoliate the skin. Its molecule is slightly larger than glycolic acid, meaning it works a bit slower and doesn’t penetrate the skin’s outermost layer as easily.3
Salicylic acid is one of the best blemish-busting ingredients out there, thanks to its ability to break down pore-clogging oil.4 It’s the star of the show here, where it’s also coupled with lactic acid, plus brightening ingredients such as vitamin c and lycopene. The nice thing about that? If you have any dark marks left over from old blemishes, this will help fade those. The citrusy scent (think lemon Italian ice) is a nice touch, and, perhaps best of all, it works in only 30 seconds.
Type: Oily to Normal | Active Ingredients: 2% Salicylic Acid, PHA, Yuzu Oil, Kakadu Plum | Size: .07 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes