If you’re looking for a non-invasive way to remove dead skin cells from your face and get rid of excess oil, then you may have heard about skin peel pads. These pads promise to exfoliate and smooth your skin, as well as help prevent acne and wrinkles by removing dead skin cells, dirt, oil, and other debris that can clog pores and make your skin look dull. But are these claims true?
Skin peels are a type of chemical exfoliation that uses a combination of acids to break down the top layer of your skin. This process removes dead cells while also helping to stimulate collagen production in the underlying layers of your skin. While there are many different types of chemical exfoliators available today, one option is particularly popular with its users: glycolic acid pads.
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Best Skin Peel Pad
Every time I hold a peel pad, I’m taken back to middle school. Slick strips of oil had just started forming around my forehead, nose, and chin. I hadn’t yet been introduced to skin care or dermatologists or anything resembling a multistep regimen. But I had a little tub of salicylic-soaked circular pads. Each night I’d unscrew the little cap and go to town on my young skin. The tingle was addictive. In my pre-beauty-editor mind, it meant it was working.
Things have certainly changed since then. For one, I have indeed been introduced to skin care and dermatologists and multistep routines. Products have greatly changed too: So much so that my middle school favorite go-to product is now widely available in the clean, natural space. And they work well, very well.
Now, these chemical exfoliators may be formulated gentle enough for daily use, but I recommend them one to three times per week depending on your need. (I’m a fierce believer in the dangers of stripping the skin barrier, and even the most mild acids with excessive use can do so). Personally, I keep a pack on my vanity that I use for a quick tuneup.
Naturally Serious Get Even Cold-Pressed Peel Pads
What I enjoy about these is not the exfoliation factor—although I love that they do that with natural pomegranate enzymes—but the skin-soothing and smoothing blend of colloidal oatmeal and fatty acids. They feel fresh, hydrating even, not like the astringent options of yesterday.
naturally serious / naturally serious
m-61 PowerGlow Peel
These soft little towelettes pack a punch: Not that they’ll dry out your face in one use, but they do contain a potent mix of glycolic and salicylic acids. But then they are buffered with chamomile and a few other botanicals, which is why they won’t cause irritation. I pretty regularly have one on me and sometimes even find them pop up in old jean pockets, which is basically the beauty gal’s version of finding a crisp bill.
m-61 / m-61
Sephora Collection Glow Peel Pads
Naturally derived glycolic acid, aloe vera, and marine-based peptides? Three of my favorite ingredients packed into one product. The slightly dimpled pads, too, give an easy physical exfoliation, so you get that instant gratification with use. The packaging should also be noted: 88 percent of the jar is made from sugar-cane residuals.
sephora / sephora
Sonage Glow To Go Glycolic Peel Pads
These are for the proper breakout-sufferers and oil-producers among us. I was introduced to the brand a few years ago, while I was in the throes of a bad spell of adult acne. The strong AHA just dissolved the buildup in my pores. While I firmly believe there is no “miracle” cure for a skin condition as complicated as acne, I do think this did wonders for clearing up my breakouts at the time.
sonage / sonage
Reveal Peel Pads
These contain some of the most unique ingredients I’ve seen on a peel pad ingredient list—caviar lime, azelaic acid, and willow bark. These are geared to target signs of aging rather than oil and breakouts (peel pads tend to skew toward a younger audience, but especially at their higher price point, these do not). The combo subtly buffs the skin, reduces redness, and smooths fine lines. Bonus: The natural ingredients leave a refreshing whiff, like you just left the spa.
ever / ever
First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads
These glycolic pads are buffered with soothing aloe and cucumber, so even though you get that tingle of exfoliation, you also get a wash of cooling hydration. It’s also packed with herbs and botanicals for their anti-inflammatory benefits.
Beautycounter Counterman Clarifying Toner Pads
These are formulated with a blend of witch hazel (for oil control) and green tea extract (to soothe skin). Use them as a toner—or right after washing your face— to remove residual dirt and excess oil, help tighten pores, and improve the appearance of the skin. Other than the primary actives, you’ll also find a unique stem cell complex to help barrier function.
Kinship Insta Swipe
These compostable pads are soaked in botanical acids (glycolic to be exact) and manuka honey for it’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties soothe skin, leaving your complexion bright with a natural glow. It also comes with the brand’s signature probiotic blend to help support your skin microbiome.
Indie Lee Gentle Daily Peel
This blends both AHAs and BHAs to slough off dead skin cells and dissolve oil. Then there’s the vitamin C help brighten and encourage collagen production. That’s not all: Jasmine, Sophora Japonica Flower and burdock root extracts ensure skin is left hydrated and conditioned.
Dr. Loretta Micro Peel Pads
These exfoliating pads equally balance exfoliation and skin hydration. With 10% glycolic acid at pH 3.5, the rounds help unglue dead skin cells to clarify and exfoliate—promoting luminous skin with fewer fine lines. Then glycerin, and a host of plant extracts like kola seed extract, bring in the moisture.