I’m so glad you found your way to this post. In this post, we’re going to take a look at the best skin peels on the market today.
With all of the hype surrounding skin care products and treatments, it can be hard to figure out what’s worth trying and what’s not. I know that when I was working my way through the market, I couldn’t find a resource that really helped me understand what different peels do and how they work—everywhere I looked just wanted me to buy their product. So I made one myself: this blog post!
You’ll see that as we go through our list, we’ll also talk about how these products work and why they’re effective. We’ll also tell you what you should expect from using these peels and whether or not they’re worth your time and money (spoiler alert: they are).
Right here on cosmeticsurgerytips, you are privy to a litany of relevant information on best professional chemical peels, types chemical peels, medical grade chemical peel before after, and so much more. Take out time to visit our catalog for more information on similar topics.
Best Skin Peel
The past year has forced us to completely rethink the way we approach beauty. After months of social distancing and widespread lockdowns, we’ve sought out new ways to bring the salon and spa into our own homes. With the majority of our social, work, and even medical interactions now happening over Zoom, why not our beauty treatments, too?
Cue the “virtual” chemical peel. A cult-favorite procedure for treating an array of skin conditions and boosting overall glow, dermatologists and aestheticians are now moving these typically in-office-only treatments to the video call space, fully administered by the clients themselves but supervised by a professional on the other side of the screen.
With the future of in-person procedures and treatments still uncertain, virtual peels are without a doubt destined to be the next big beauty trend of the pandemic era. Thanks to Aristocrat Plastic Surgery and MedAesthetics, I got to play aesthetician and apply my own medical-grade peel from my bedroom—under the close guidance of an actual aesthetician, of course.
Interested in trying one for yourself? Here’s everything to expect.
What Kind Of Peel Is Right For You?
Chemical peels are a cosmetic procedure wherein a chemical solution—typically composed of acids such as AHAs, BHAs, or trichloroacetic acid (TCA)—is applied to the skin to exfoliate and improve its overall appearance and feel. Depending on the strength of the peel and type of acids used, it can penetrate the skin at various levels and deliver a number of benefits. “Chemical peels are great for people who have sun-damaged skin, uneven pigmentation, acne, acne scarring, actinic keratosis, fine lines, freckles, and age spots—or even if you feel like you need a little glow,” says Louisa Agate, the medical aesthetician and laser specialist at Aristocrat who oversaw my peel.
In terms of medical-grade chemical peels typically done in-office (and now virtually), there are three different categories: mild/superficial peels, medium peels, and deep peels.
As the name suggests, mild peels are relatively gentle, offering minimal exfoliation and improving minor skin issues like rough texture and slight discoloration. Medium peels penetrate the middle layer of the skin and are great for improving the appearance of superficial scars, lines, and wrinkles, melasma, and age spots. According to Agate, both will result in temporary dryness, flaking and peeling, redness, and slight irritation that can last up to two weeks.
Deep peels, which target everything from wrinkles and discoloration to damaged skin cells and severe scarring, penetrate the skin on a much deeper level than other peels. Because of their intensity, they should always be administered by a professional. Agate points out that these procedures aren’t offered virtually and have substantially more downtime than a mild or medium peel.
Generally, chemical peels can be beneficial for most people depending on the level and type of peel that’s done. However, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elyse Love points out that there’s more risk involved for those with sensitive skin and/or darker skin tones. “Darker skin tones are at risk of developing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can occur when redness and irritation resolves,” she says. “Therefore, only gentle peels should be used for this skin type. Those with sensitive skin are at risk of worsening that sensitivity if the peel is too aggressive or irritating.” Agate adds that anyone taking Accutane should also avoid chemical peels for at least six to 12 months after stopping medication to avoid increased sensitivity and possible scarring.
That said, be sure to consult with a professional before pursuing any type of peel—including at-home products—as they’ll know what type of peel best suits your skin type and concerns.
As someone with lackluster, congested skin with texture issues and sun damage (my 30-year-old self still hasn’t forgiven my 16-year-old self, who worshipped the tanning salon and didn’t believe in sunscreen), I knew I could definitely benefit from a peel. I’ve gotten superficial peels in the past, but I was ready for something stronger—and “shedding my skin” (and the gunk and congestion my pores have accumulated over a year of mask-wearing) would be as cathartic as it would be necessary.
Agate opted to give me the APS Customized Medical Peel, an advanced, custom-mixed peel formulated with clinical-grade acids and a maximized peel concentration. My particular blend consisted of a combination of resorcinol, retinoid acid, TCA, mandelic acid, and salicylic acid to target oiliness, congestion, and improve my overall texture and tone. Even though this peel is potent and would include a considerable amount of skin peeling, she points out that it would fall into the mild to medium range.
What To Expect During A Peel
Depending on the type of peel you get and your existing skin condition, some prep might be involved. “Your skin-care professional may start you on retin-A or a pre-lightening cream with hydroquinone, depending on the severity of the condition we are trying to treat, such as melasma, acne, acne scarring, or sun damage,” says Agate. However, Love points out that sometimes the professional will have you hold off on using any retinoids leading up to your peel.
Other than that, make sure you show up to your appointment with freshly cleansed, makeup-free skin.
After unpacking my peel kit, I set up a makeshift workspace with the tools Aristocrat provided, squeezed the acid-filled syringe into a small bowl, and set up my laptop for a video call with Agate to get to work.
She guided me virtually as I first dotted my eyes, nostrils, and corners of my mouth with Aquaphor (which prevents any acids/other strong ingredients from dripping into, and potentially burning, these sensitive areas) and glided the acid-soaked Q-tip over my cheeks, forehead, nose, chin, and neck, going over each area with the peel solution three or four times. Agate consistently checked to make sure I wasn’t “frosting,” which is when parts of the skin turn white and ashy as the acid exfoliates the surface of the skin. For any areas that did frost, she had me wait a few minutes for my skin to calm down before applying another layer of the solution.
As expected, I experienced quite a bit of burning and stinging throughout, but it was definitely tolerable. I’m someone who considers getting tattooed to be therapeutic, so this didn’t bother me one bit. But be aware, even superficial peels will sting, so make sure you’re prepared for whatever level of peel you’re getting.
How To Care For Your Skin Post-Peel
Once all the peel solution was used, I was done! My skin was mildly red and blotchy and felt pretty irritated, and this increased over the hours after my peel. Again, totally tolerable. I was instructed to not wash my face until the evening and to only cleanse and apply sunscreen (a strong SPF 50) the next day.
When I posted my at-home spa setup to my IG stories, a friend DMed me saying, “Expect your skin to get much worse before it gets better”—and boy, was she right. While Agate said I probably wouldn’t see any peeling until two or three days post-peel, my skin tightened and started flaking off around my mouth and lower cheeks just 24 hours later. By the next day, my entire face was peeling, and it continued to peel and flake for the next six or seven days.
During this time, it’s crucial to avoid sun exposure as much as possible. “The skin will be especially sensitive after a chemical peel, so it’s extremely important to follow strict sun avoidance during the healing process,” says Agate. She recommends using an SPF of at least 35 and reapplying it throughout the day. Given that a massive snowstorm hit NYC the day after my peel and that I’m required to wear a face mask anytime I leave the house, I was able to hide my face from the sun and the elements with relative ease.
For the next week, I pared back my usual skin-care routine to include only the basics: a gentle, unscented cleanser and moisturizer and a lot of SPF. “Only gentle skin care should be used as the skin recovers from a peel, which may take [up to] ten days,” says Love. “Irritating actives, such as retinol and glycolic acid, should be [avoided] as the skin heals, and serums that support the skin barrier may help to speed up recovery.” Agate also recommends avoiding any type of granular scrub or exfoliant or aggressively rubbing the skin for up to two to four weeks, depending on the depth of the peel you received.
Whatever you do, do not pick at your face. I can attest to how tempting it is to peel off the skin that’s already dangling off your face (gross, I know), but seriously, don’t do it. This can mess with your skin’s natural healing process and can potentially result in infection or permanent hyperpigmentation.
Once I stopped peeling, my skin still looked a little rough and bumpy, and it didn’t fully calm down until day ten. By day 11, my skin looked immaculate. Any dry patches were gone, and my long-lost radiance and brightness had been restored. Any areas where I had texture issues were now baby-soft and smooth. I didn’t notice a dramatic difference in my blackheads or sun damage, but there was some improvement. Overall, I looked healthy, glowy, and not like I’d been mostly locked away in my apartment for the past year.
I’m pretty pleased with my results after one treatment, but Agate suggests a series of four peels every four to five weeks for optimal results. You bet I plan to keep this up.
What About At-Home Chemical Peels?
If a virtual or in-office peel isn’t an option for you, there are plenty of home peels you can shop in-store or online that don’t require the guidance of an aesthetician or dermatologist. For obvious reasons, these are gentler than the medical-grade peels administered by a professional but still require a bit of know-how.
“Most at-home peels will contain a combination of alpha hydroxy acids and salicylic acid to provide a superficial improvement in skin tone, texture, and comedonal acne (whiteheads and blackheads),” says Love. “They’re formulated to be tolerated by most people, with the exception of those with very sensitive skin.”
These, she says, typically have little to no visible peeling—and, in turn, little to no downtime—but will also require more time to see results. But even though they’re gentler, you can still potentially irritate or damage your skin. “The directions included with the product should be followed, but in general, you should hold off on using other active, irritating ingredients (such as retinol, vitamin C, or AHAs) one to two days after an at-home peel, depending on how long it takes the skin to return to a normal appearance and feel.” Sun sensitivity can also be expected, so consistent SPF application is crucial.
While they can seem intimidating at first (especially multi-step kits), Love says they’re designed to be relatively foolproof. “It’s OK to explore them as long as you follow the instructions and don’t have incredibly sensitive skin,” she says. If you’re unsure of how your skin will handle it, patch-testing first is key. “It’s also a good idea to have reasonable expectations. Consider them a boost to your daily skin-care routine rather than a product that will make a dramatic difference in your skin’s appearance.”
We Rounded Up Six At-Home Kits We Love, Below:
PERFECT IMAGE CUSTOM SAMPLE KIT
This nifty little kit provides a four- to six-week supply of trial-size, professional-strength chemical peels, including pre- and post-peel necessities. It’s completely customizable, so you can choose between 10 different peels—from stronger glycolic acid peels to medium-strength TCA peels—and select the best cleanser, moisturizer, and post-healing facial for your skin needs.
MEDPEEL SALICYLIC ACID 30% DEEP STRENGTH PEEL
Ideal for oily and acne-prone skin, this peel is powered by salicylic acid to clear clogged pores and improve the appearance of dark spots. We recommend using it with the brand’s Deluxe Facial Peel Essentials Kit, which includes the essentials for safely peeling at home: a pH-balancing peel prep serum, a neutralizing spray, and a replenishing serum and cream moisturizer for aftercare.
DR. DENNIS GROSS SKINCARE CLINICAL GRADE RESURFACING LIQUID PEEL
This two-part liquid peel from Dr. Dennis Gross will refine pores, improve the look of lines and wrinkles, and boost your overall glow. The first step is a peel that contains glycolic acid, lactic acid, and bromelain for powerful exfoliation, while the second step is a soothing leave-on solution containing Centella Asiatica extract, green tea extract, and colloidal oatmeal to heal and protect the skin’s moisture barrier.
GLO SKIN BEAUTY GLYPRO AHA RESURFACING PEEL
This all-inclusive peel kit from Glo Skin Beauty contains everything you need for a professional peel at home, including skin prep and aftercare. Powered by glycolic acid and other skin-care favorites like niacinamide and retinol, you can expect a smoother, brighter complexion and improved lines, pores, and hyperpigmentation.
ELLEN LANGE RETEXURIZING SKIN PEEL GLYCOLIC CHEMICAL FACIAL TREATMENT KIT
One of the original at-home peel kits, this peel from Ellen Lange is powered by glycolic acid to retexturize the complexion. In addition to the peeling solution, it includes a skin-prepping enzyme scrub, peel accelerator pads, and a fan brush and medicine cup for easy, mess-free application.
OBAGI CLINICAL BLUE BRILLIANCE TRIPLE ACID PEEL
This one might not be a complete kit, but it’s Love’s favorite for at-home options. “Obagi Medical is known for their in-office-only Blue Radiance Peel,” she says. “They’ve now used their formulation skills to design a gentle at-home peel series designed to provide gradual improved skin texture.” The set contains four vials of its salicylic, lactic, and glycolic acid peel to be used every two weeks.
Types Chemical Peels
When it comes to revitalizing the skin, chemical peels are the most common cosmetic treatment in the world of dermatology. Chemical peels are a customizable way to treat a myriad of skin conditions, including acne scars, age spots, discoloration, fine lines and wrinkles, melasma, and even rosacea. Chemical peels are designed to exfoliate the skin and eliminate dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin, which allows for healthier, younger-looking skin.
The American Academy of Dermatology specifies three different types of chemical peels. The different types are determined by the strength of the chemical peel, as well as how deeply the layers of skin are affected. The three major classifications of chemical peel are a light or superficial peel, a medium depth peel, and a deep peel. Within those three major classifications are four common types of peels: Alpha Hydroxy acid peels, Beta Hydroxy acid peels, Trichloroacetic Acid Peels, and Phenol peels.
Chemical Peels contain a tailored chemical solution designed to target specific skin care needs, and range in depth and intensity of treatment. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, in NYC, has over 25 years of experience treating patients with chemical peels, and determines the best type of chemical peel for each patient based on both your skin type and skin care needs. When developing a treatment plan, Dr. Green customizes your skincare routine with a combination of the best cosmetic products and types of chemical peels tailored especially for you.
Choosing the correct chemical peel for your skin type and skin condition is the most important aspect to chemical peel treatment. If you’re interested in revitalizing your skin through chemical peels, contact the NYC office of Dr. Michele Green today to learn what are the best options designed for you.
How do chemical peels work?
A chemical peel is a type of skin resurfacing treatment that uses a chemical solution to remove outer layers of dead skin. Through a process of chemical exfoliation, chemical peels can stimulate cell turnover, which in turn unclogs pores and corrects skin discoloration, giving the skin a vibrant glow. The chemical solution is applied to the surface of the skin and targets the top layers of the skin in order to eliminate dead skin cells.This “controlled trauma” to the skin stimulates the natural peeling of the skin, which can improve the texture of the skin for a variety of skin types. Chemical peels rely on a variety of acid types, including glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, and trichloroacetic acid (TCA). The depth and effect of the peel varies depending on the intensity and make-up of the chemical peel.
Chemical peels have been approved by the FDA for decades, and this skincare treatment has actually been around since the 19th century. They are used today to create a customizable skin treatment that can both reduce the signs of aging and revitalize irritated skin with little downtime required.
What types of chemical peels are there?
The types of chemical peel for face are incredibly varied, each type tailored to the needs of the patient. The peels are divided into a few different categories that address the depth of the treatment.
Light Chemical Peels
Light chemical peels, or superficial peels, are formulated with mild peeling agents to gently exfoliate the skin. The lightest chemical peels have an exfoliating chemical solution that only affects the top layer of the skin (epidermis).
What are the different types of superficial peels?
When it comes to superficial peels, there are a few common acids that are used. Alpha Hydroxy acid peels are considered the most gentle form of chemical peel, which can help to reduce the appearance of very fine lines, dry skin, minor acne, and mild pigment or skin irregularities. Beta Hydroxy acid peels have lipid-based chemical solutions that help to control oil production, which can be particularly useful for those with naturally oily skin or who are acne prone.
Jessner’s peels combine lactic acid, salicylic acid, and resorcinol in order to move acids deeper into the layers of the skin. Jessner’s peels are often followed up with the application of retinoid acid. Retinoid acid (retinol) provides a deeper peel penetration, which can help to trigger faster skin healing and new skin growth.
Alpha Hydroxy acid (glycolic acid) Peels
Alpha Hydroxy acids (AHA) refers variety of different acids, including citric acid (from citrus fruits), lactic acid (from fermented milk), magic acid (from apples) and tartaric acid (from grapes). However, the most popular AHA peel is a glycolic acid peel in order to exfoliate the skin and stimulate collagen production in the body. Glycolic acid, derived from sugar cane, has a very small molecular structure which allows it to penetrate the layers of the skin, and varies in strength to balance active exfoliation with skin sensitivity.
Beta Hydroxy acid (salicylic acid) Peels
Beta Hydroxy acid Peels, or BHA peels, are an excellent option for those hoping to reduce the appearance of blemishes or congested skin. The lipid base of BHA peels can reach farther than many AHA peels, as the solution can penetrate deeper layers of the dermis by attaching to the skin’s natural oils. Salicylic acid, the most common acid in BHA peels, acts as a clear-out for the pores, and has anti-inflammatory characteristics that reduce irritation due to acne breakouts.
Jessner’s peels can vary by strength depending on the percentages of the acids used. Jessner’s peels can also contain additional acid combinations, such as mandelic acid (from almonds) for anti-inflammatory benefit, phytic acid to treat patients with sensitive skin, or lactic acid to brighten and hydrate the skin. Oftentimes, for patients with rosacea, chemical peels can be tailored with a solution that includes phytic, mandelic, and lactic acids.
Medium Depth Peels
Medium strength peels vary in terms of chemical solution, but the most common medium depth peel is a Trichloroacetic acid peel.
Trichloroacetic Acid Peels (TCA)
Trichloroacetic acid peels, or TCA peels, are offered in a range of strengths and combinations. TCA can be used in combination with salicylic acid, among others, at a lower percentage within a solution. However, when the TCA percentage exceeds 20%, it is administered solely by a medical professional, such as Dr. Green. TCA peels are an excellent choice for patients who experience pigment irregularities and sun damage, as well as deep wrinkles and acne scars.
Deep peels are designed to penetrate deeper into the layers of the dermis. Deep chemical peels tend to require more recovery time, but they offer long-lasting, dramatic facial rejuvenation.
When considering a deeper peel, patients may also consider laser resurfacing as a means to reinvigorate the skin. Laser resurfacing has become a popular treatment for convenient, safe, and successful skin rejuvenation.
Phenol peels use carbolic acid as their peeling agent. Phenol peels have perhaps the strongest chemical peel solution, and the concentration of carbolic acid can shift or be combined with resorcinol or salicylic acid to wonderful effect. Due to the intensity of the phenol peel, results can be transformative, but in some concentrations a phenol peel can only be administered once in a lifetime. For both safety and consistency of results, a phenol peel should always be administered by a board-certified physician, such as Dr. Green.
What are the side effects of chemical peels?
The side effects of chemical peels are typically temporary and mild, and include burning, dryness, redness, and swelling. After any chemical peel, and particularly if you are administered a deep peel, it is essential to avoid sun exposure and apply sunscreen regularly. Within the first few days post-treatment, you may experience lighter or darker skin tone, though this is temporary. Occasionally, patients experience herpes simplex (cold sore) flare-ups, in which case Dr. Green can prescribe an antiviral medication.
In rare cases, side effects from chemical peels can include scarring, as well as heart, liver or kidney damage. These side effects are more likely to occur when the incorrect chemical peel is administered, which is why it’s vital that a chemical solution be determined by a medical professional, such as Dr. Green.
What kind of chemical peel do I need?
When determining which chemical peel is best for you, Dr. Green considers your skin conditions and concerns. Ultimately, each individual will have different needs that will lead to the correct customized chemical solution but, in general, certain types of chemical peels are designed to target specific skin conditions.
What chemical peel is best for acne scars?
When it comes to acne, the best option is a superficial peel that has a chemical solution of glycolic acid or light TCA concentration. These acids are designed to unclog pores, exfoliate the skin, and remove the dead skin cells from the epidermis. This peeling procedure is able to get acne breakouts under control, and to clear out pimples and blemishes. BHA peels are also commonly used to treat acne, though this can cause some redness irritation for those with sensitive skin.
When it comes to acne scars, a AHA or TCA peel is actually able to lighten the appearance of blemish scarring when new skin is formed. Dr. Green often recommends a superficial peel in combination with her MGSkinLabs acne products, which can help to improve the appearance of acne and acne scarring further after chemical peel treatment.
What type of chemical peel is best for wrinkles?
When it comes to reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, a Jessner’s peel, Mandelic chemical peel, and Retinol chemical peel are all excellent options. a Jessner’s peel is an effective choice for those hoping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, melasma, hyperpigmentation, and even acne scares when used as a superficial peel. Mandelic acid is a common anti-aging peeling agent, as it encourages new skin growth and can strengthen collagen in the skin to provide smoother, firmer skin. Retinol is a very popular skin care ingredient, as its a form of vitamin A that encourages the development of new skin cells. Retinol is able to reach deeper layers of the skin in order to trigger renewed skin cell growth, and it can hydrate and refresh almost any complexion.
What type of chemical peel is best for hyperpigmentation?
The cosmelan peel is Dr. Green’s recommendation for reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation. A cosmelan peel is designed to target dark marks from acne, acne scars, melasma, and wide-spread hyperpigmentation, healing the skin and evening out skin tone. The cosmelan peel can be used for all skin types and skin tones, and is able to reduce issues of hyperpigmentation through a combination of in-office application and at-home treatment. In order to achieve optimal results, patients must avoid sun exposure and use a high SPF sunscreen post-procedure.
Another option for treating hyperpigmentation is a Vi Peel. A Vi Peel is a distinctive chemical peel that uses a chemical solution of salicylic acid, Vitamin C, TCA, and retinoid acid. A Vi peel can sun damage, melasma, acne scars, and other pigmentation and discoloration of the face. As the Vi peel addresses the skin texture, it is also able to tighten pores and reduce the appearance of fine lines, acne, and surface irregularities. Like many other chemical peels, the Vi peel can be offered in combination with laser skin resurfacing, Botox, and Juvederm.
How does laser skin resurfacing compare to chemical peels?
Both chemical peels and laser treatments are cosmetic skin resurfacing procedures that are designed to remove dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin. Both lasers and chemical peels ca be used to rejuvenate the skin, reduce pigmentation or sun damage, and make the skin smoother and firmer. However, depending on your skin condition or skin type, you may be better suited for one treatment over the other.
Those with a lighter skin tone can be safely treated by a variety of laser treatments and chemical peels, but unfortunately those with a darker skin tone can be sensitive to certain lasers. Dr. Green has helped a variety of patients to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation that has been caused by lasers, and therefore encourages patients to do their research before considering laser skin resurfacing. Dr. Green will always work with you to determine if a chemical peel or laser skin resurfacing treatment is best for you.
How many types of chemical peels are there?
The four most common types of chemical peels are AHA peels, BHA peels, TCA peels, and Phenol peels. AHA and BHA peels are classified as light chemical peels, whereas TCA peels are defined as medium depth peels and Phenol peels are labeled as a deep peel. However, the chemical solution of a peel can be custom designed for a patient in order to optimize results, which leads to a variety of possible acid combinations and concentrations. Dr. Green is an expert in determining which chemical solution is best for each individual patient.
Who can perform a chemical peel?
Depending on the type, strength, and PH content of the chemical peel, it may only be provided by an authorized physician. Superficial peels can generally be performed by a licensed aesthetician, whereas deeper peels require a licensed medical professional. A chemical peel experience provided by a certified medical professional will provide you with the tailored chemical peel experience you need in order to achieve optimal results. A board-certified dermatologist such as Dr. Green is incredibly knowledgable about how chemical solutions will affect different skin types and skin conditions.
Why choose Dr. Green for a chemical peel?
Dr. Green is a veteran in the world of cosmetic dermatology and specializes in skin rejuvenation and revitalization. Her goal with any treatment is ensure the safety and satisfaction of her patient, and she will work with you to create a curated skin care treatment plan that maximizes results while minimizing downtime. Dr. Green will help you to feel like the very best “you” possible through her care and expertise.
What is the best type of chemical peel?
Though it may surprise you, there is no one “best” type of chemical peel. The best chemical peel for you will always be different than the best chemical peel for another patient, as a chemical peel must be matched with your skin type, tone, condition, and area of the body. In general, fair-skinned patients can be treated with stronger chemical peels than patients with darker skin tones, but again this varies depending on the needs and skin condition of the patient. Dr. Green always works with her patients to best match the chemical peel with their particular skin type, and is incredibly knowledgeable in treating patients with all skin types and skin tones.