It may seem like a new trend, but the act of peeling your skin is nothing new. As far back as ancient Egypt, the practice was used to help keep the skin soft and smooth. In modern times, skin peel products have become much more sophisticated, and range from at-home peels to professional treatments.
Whether you’re looking for a way to get rid of acne scars or want a way to prevent wrinkles as you age, there are a number of reasons why you may want to add skin peel products to your skincare regimen. Below we will outline what these benefits are, and how they can help you with your own personal beauty goals.
We will also review some of the best skin peel products on the market today, along with their pros and cons so that you can make the most informed decision possible when it comes time to purchase one for yourself!
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Best Skin Peel Products
When you’re used to professional-level spa facials to smooth and brighten your complexion, using one of the best chemical peels at home—and likely on your own—might seem a little scary at first. Thankfully, there are a number of tried-and-true formulas available that are not only editor and expert approved, but also work quickly to deliver worthwhile results. “While it’s definitely best to leave the pro-strength peels to the professionals, the beauty of using an at-home peel is it can deliver dramatic benefits without the downtime and discomfort, and in the comfort and convenience of your own home,” Tammy Yaiser, the VP of product development at Algenist, says.
How do at-home chemical peels work?
A literal chemical solution, peels are topically applied to remove the very top layer of the skin, revealing the newer—and younger—skin underneath over the course of one to three weeks. As chemical peels feature varying concentrations, each formula is designed to penetrate the skin differently. When it comes to using any type of peel at home, professionals advise starting slowly. If you’re using retinol as part of your daily regimen, peels powered by glycolic acid—especially in higher concentrations—can cause chemical burns, leaving behind hyperpigmentation, especially on darker skin tones. Try doing a test spot with a peel of a lower concentration peel (aim for between 5 and 10 percent glycolic acid) before treating the entire face.
Which ingredients should you look for in an effective at-home peel?
The best formulas include a blend of active ingredients, like alpha hydroxy acids (including glycolic, lactic, and mandelic acids), beta hydroxy acid (like acne-fighting salicylic acid), plus a gentle exfoliant, like fruit enzymes. In addition to these staple ingredients, experts suggest keeping an eye out for other skin care essentials in your chemical peel for more specific skin care needs.
“It’s so important to read the label when it comes to at-home peels, otherwise you will be shedding like a snake or develop an unwanted or unforeseen reaction,” Azadeh Shirazi, a board-certified dermatologist at La Jolla Dermatology in La Jolla, California, tells BAZAAR.com, adding that skin type is also crucial when considering formulations. “If you have normal skin and want to improve tone and pigment, then go for a glycolic acid,” Shirazi says. “And if you have acne, a peel that features a combination of glycolic and salicylic is most effective. For dry or sensitive skin, formulations with mandelic or lactic acid are most suitable.”
What are some red flags that indicate sensitivity to a chemical peel?
While many peels are created for a wide range of skin types, there are a few signs that make it clear your skin may be experiencing irritation from one. “A slight tingling or sunburn-like sensation may occur, but it should resolve pretty quickly,” Shirazi says. “If it worsens and doesn’t go away, then it’s always best to seek professional help. Any itchiness or swollen skin may indicate an allergic reaction to the ingredients.”
To soothe sensitive skin after using a peel, Shirazi suggests reaching for a moisturizer containing calming ingredients like glycerin and ceramides, which help restore barrier function and maintain hydration. She also recommends using products containing allantoin, an ingredient that helps calm inflammation and irritation, and phytosphingosine, a natural lipid that not only strengthens the skin barrier, but also contains antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties—especially when combined with glycerin.
Without further ado, here are 19 of the very best at-home chemical peels worth adding to your weekly—or monthly—skin care rotation.
1. Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel Dr Dennis Gross
Dr. Shirazi often recommends this professional-grade peel from Dr Dennis Gross to her clients, since it uses a blend of powerful ingredients like lactic and glycolic acids to reveal younger skin, plus calming ingredients like green tea, glycerin, and colloidal oatmeal to soothe afterward.
If you have sensitive skin, Shirazi suggests using this dual-phase toner. The top-rated toner removes dull surface cells and boosts skin’s overall brightness while unclogging pores in the process.
3. AHA 30% + BHA 2% Exfoliating Peeling Solution The Ordinary
Thousands of Sephora customers agree: This formula from The Ordinary really delivers. It features a blend of AHAs and BHAs that target dull, uneven texture, and because it’s also oil free, it’s especially ideal for acne-prone and combination skin.
This two-step mask and peel activator will give you spa-like results for about $20. Vitamin C brightens dark spots, while the AHA peel activator works to exfoliate away dull skin.
5. Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant Paula’s Choice
You don’t have to be on skincare TikTok to hear about this beloved exfoliant, which has a cult following. And the hype is real: 2 percent salicylic acid gets deep into pores, while green tea helps prevent irritation.
6. Solution Exfoliating Skin Perfector
This skincare cocktail from the experts at Glossier contains a blend of salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acids, along with ingredients like niacinamide and aloe to soothe skin.
7. The Shortcut Overnight Facial Peel
It’s hard to find a great blend of lactic and glycolic acids, plus vitamin A, this potent at less than $20 a tube. In addition to being vegan, this peel is even gentle enough to use back to back.
8. That’s Incredi-peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads Bliss
For moments when you’re on the go, consider packing a few of these top-rated 10 percent glycolic acid peel pads in your carry-on, which more than 2,800 Amazon shoppers swear by.
9. Rub-a-Dub Refining Peel Gel Saturday Skin
Papaya and pineapple extracts power this gel, which is rubbed into dry skin. The exfoliation is impressive (and so satisfying), but it’s gentle enough to use once or twice a week, depending on your skin’s needs. Bonus: You can get it on sale right now at Amazon.
10. Blue Algae Vitamin C Dark Spot Correcting Peel
Hyperpigmentation, spots, and wrinkles are no match for Algenist’s at-home vitamin C peel.
11. T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial
Don’t let the word baby fool you; this peel isn’t child’s play. Made up of 25 percent AHAs and 2 percent salicylic acid, this peel leaves no pore unturned. Apply it once a week for luxurious and, yes, baby-soft skin.
12. Resurfacing Compound
Not quite a toner, and not exactly a peel, this versatile resurfacing compound is designed to streamline your routine. Apply it after cleansing and let the blend of hardworking ingredients—including AHAs, peptides, and hyaluronic acid—minimize fine lines and dark spots with ease.
13. Liquid ExfoliKate Triple Acid Resurfacing Treatment
Here’s a popular exfoliator that uses a blend of glycolic, lactic, and malic acids, plus fruit enzymes, to deeply exfoliate skin. It also contains a blend of peptides, honey, and tea extract that expertly calms even the slightest inflammation.
14. Nightly Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate
Adding just a few drops of this dermatologist-tested refining peel from Kiehl’s to your night time skin care routine gently exfoliates an otherwise dull complexion as you sleep.
15. Resurfacing BHA Glow Mask Tata Harper
This popular mask contains a natural derivative of BHA found in white willow bark extract, plus pomegranate enzymes to slough away dead skin cells. One Sephora customer writes that the mask made their skin feel “softer and smoother. My skin was also brighter and more radiant than before, which shocked me. I love the clean ingredients and packaging. This was a very gentle exfoliant and didn’t burn, so I definitely recommend it.”
16. Exfoliating Peel Gel boscia
Here’s a lightweight gel exfoliator that smooths your complexion using gentle fruit enzymes, which are ideal for most skin types.
17. Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Peel Mask Caudalie
If one of your main skin concerns centers around dark spots, we suggest using this glycolic acid-based mask that also features Viniferine, a brightening ingredient that’s said to be up to 62 times more potent than vitamin C.
18. Papaya Enzyme Peel
Instead of the usual chemical peel suspects, like glycolic and lactic acids, this peel relies on a papaya enzyme called papain, which breaks down proteins that keep complexion-dulling dead skin cells hanging on.
19. Caviar Lime Acid Peel
This weekly peel uses extracts from naturally AHA-rich caviar limes—finger-shaped citrus fruit filled with tiny caviar-esque pearls of juice—along with glycolic acid and retinol to seriously smooth skin.