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If You Needed a Sign to Finally Do An At-Home Chemical Peel, This Is It

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If you’ve never had a chemical peel before, you might at least be familiar with the concept (especially if you watched a particularly memorable Sex and the City episode where Samantha Jones gets one). Chemical peels are common noninvasive procedures performed in-office by dermatologists, but there are also products that some consider at-home chemical peels. Though they’re not exactly the same as going to a professional, they can still have effective results, greatly improving your skin.

According to dermatologist Purvisha Patel, MD, at-home chemical peels are generally milder and not as strong as in-office chemical peels performed by a doctor, and the big difference lies in the potency, or concentration of the ingredients. “Chemical peels are most commonly performed in the MD office to peel off the top layer of skin to open pores, reveal new smoother skin and help with scarring,” explains Dr. Patel. “Light chemical peels can be performed at home with low-dose salicylic acid and glycolic acid. They should result in some skin flaking. Medium-depth peels should be performed in the MD office using stronger concentrations of acids such as glycolic, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and malic acid, and they usually result in peeling over a few days. Deeper peels should be performed by a dermatologist/ physician only, as they require medical monitoring.” Dr. Patel says that the deeper the peel, the deeper the layers of skin that slough, which is both helpful for acne and scarring. 


About the Expert:

Purvisha Patel, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare.

If you aren’t ready for a medical-grade chemical peel, adding a chemical exfoliating treatment to your skincare routine will be extremely beneficial in the long run. Not only can they help reduce acne scars, sun spots, and other solar damage, they also have anti-aging benefits and can help reduce the appearance of fine lines. Tip: Look for brightening ingredients like alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), and vitamin C to help even skin tone and give your skin a glow. 

Before you try a chemical exfoliant, Dr. Patel says you should already know your skin type and the issues you want to address. “Asking your dermatologist for their recommendations is important before trying a peel at home,” she says. “Stop any retinoid or RX topical medication a few days before your peel, and switch your skincare to barrier repair and mild ingredients after the peel, so you can heal. Remember to continue using an SPF 30 on a daily basis to prevent any hyperpigmentation after the peel.” You also want to make sure you don’t go overboard with usage, so read each product’s instructions closely. Depending on your skin, some at-home treatments might be best used once or twice a week. 

Ready to give your skin the glow it deserves? Check out these at-home chemical peel products below. 

1. Best Cult Favorite:

THE ORDINARY AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

THE ORDINARY AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
Courtesy of THE ORDINARY

This peeling solution first gained popularity years ago due to its shock factor — the red liquid formula can make you look like a walking horror movie — but it's become well-loved by skincare lovers due to the deep exfoliation it offers. Fans of the product say it improves fine lines and wrinkles and uneven skin texture.

2. Best Celeb Favorite Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare:

DR. DENNIS GROSS SKINCARE Universal Daily Peel

DR. DENNIS GROSS SKINCARE Universal Daily Peel
Courtesy of DR. DENNIS GROSS

Celebs from Naomi Campbell to Chrissy Teigen swear by these two-step peel pads, which contain five different AHAs and BHAs to reduce fine lines and the appearance of pores while improving texture and giving skin an overall boost. 

3. Best for All Skin Types:

DRUNK ELEPHANT T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial

DRUNK ELEPHANT T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial
Courtesy of DRUNK ELEPHANT

The adorably named peeling solution contains a supreme mix of acids, including lactic, glycolic, citric, tartaric, and salicylic, as well as soothing plant-based and antioxidant ingredients like matcha, milk thistle, apple extract, and pumpkin ferment that work together to bring out a — you guessed it — soft-as-a-baby complexion. 

4. Best High Concentrated Peel:

QRX Glycolic Acid Gel Peel

QRX Glycolic Acid Gel Peel
Courtesy of QRX

Containing 30 percent of glycolic acid, this peeling solution is best for those more experienced with at-home chemical peels, but you can expect a reduction in acne scars and active breakouts, as well as skin texture and wrinkles.

5. Best for Acne Scars:

YEOTH 30% Glycolic Acid Gel Peel  

YEOTH 30% Glycolic Acid Gel Peel
Courtesy of YEOTH

A combination of 30 percent glycolic acid, retinol, and green tea target acne, blackheads, and scarring from past pimples.

6. Best for Lines and Wrinkles:

IS CLINICAL Active Peel 

IS CLINICAL Active Peel
Courtesy of IS CLINICAL

A unique combination of fruit extracts, tripeptide growth factor, and enzymes gently exfoliate the skin, reducing fine lines and protecting the skin from pollution. 

7. Best Rinse-Off Formula:

PAULA'S CHOICE Skin Perfecting 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel

PAULA'S CHOICE Skin Perfecting 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel
Courtesy of PAULA'S CHOICE

Unlike other chemical peels, this one is used like a mask because you keep it on for 10 minutes and rinse it off with warm water. The result? Smoother skin, clear pores, and a visibly brighter complexion.

8. Best Vegan and Cruelty-Free Peel:

BEAUTYCOUNTER Counter+ Overnight Resurfacing Peel

BEAUTYCOUNTER Counter+ Overnight Resurfacing Peel
Courtesy of BEAUTYCOUNTER

This leave-on peel contains a variety of acids that slough off old skin cells to bring out brighter and nourished skin. 

9. Best Easy-To-Use Pads:

PIXI Beauty Glow Peel Pads

PIXI Beauty Glow Peel Pads
Courtesy of PIXI

If you like the thought of peel pads but want something that’s quick, these one-step peel pads, which contain 20 percent glycolic acid, aloe vera, and vitamin E, are perfect. 

10. Best Light Formula Peel:

BLISS That's Incredi-peel Glycolic Acid Pads

BLISS That's Incredi-peel Glycolic Acid Pads
Courtesy of BLISS

These easy-to-use pads contain only 10 percent in case your skin leans more towards the sensitive side and you’d rather use something with a lighter concentration. 

11. Best Exfoliating Cleanser:

E.L.F. Gentle Peeling Exfoliant

E.L.F. Gentle Peeling Exfoliant
Courtesy of E.L.F.

This cleanser works great for sensitive skin types who are wary of leaving on a harsher chemical exfoliant. A great starter product for anyone new to peels. 

12. Best Pore Unclogger:

NATURIUM BHA Liquid Exfoliant 2% 

NATURIUM BHA Liquid Exfoliant 2%
Courtesy of NATURIUM

With salicylic acid as the star of this leave-on exfoliant, expect blackheads, congestion, and acne to be a thing of the past. 

13.  Best for Sensitive Skin Types:

YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE Mandelic Acid + Superfood Unity Exfoliant

YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE Mandelic Acid + Superfood Unity Exfoliant
Courtesy of YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE

With lower concentrations of mandelic and salicylic acid, you can still expect a huge improvement in skin texture, clogged pores, and even hyperpigmentation.

14. Best Heavy Duty Exfoliant:

SUNDAY RILEY Good Genes

SUNDAY RILEY Good Genes
Courtesy of SUNDAY RILEY

Lactic is the star acid in Good Genes, which has everything you need and more in a chemical exfoliator. It’s also super potent, so it’s probably best for those looking for a heavy duty treatment. 

15. Best Smelling Treatment:

OLE HENRIKSEN Dewtopia™ 20% Acid Night Treatment

OLE HENRIKSEN Dewtopia™ 20% Acid Night Treatment
Courtesy of OLE HENRIKSEN

Who says chemicals have to smell bad? This acid treatment from Ole Henriksen fights fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and rough texture all while smelling like lemon custard. 

16. Best Triple Acid Treatment:

GLOSSIER Solution

GLOSSIER Solution
Courtesy of GLOSSIER

Not only does Glossier’s exfoliant contain the usual AHAs and BHAs, it also contains PHAs, a.k.a. polyhydroxy acids, which work similarly to its cousins but more on a surface level. 

17. Best Vitamin C Peel:

ALGENIST Blue Algae Vitamin C Dark Spot Correcting Peel

ALGENIST Blue Algae Vitamin C Dark Spot Correcting Peel
Courtesy of ALGENIST

Say goodbye to dark spots with this peel, which contains brightening vitamin C derived from blue algae as well as alguronic acid, which plump skin and fights wrinkles. 

18. Best Works-While-You-Sleep Peel:

KATE SOMERVILLE KateCeuticals Resurfacing Overnight Peel

KATE SOMERVILLE KateCeuticals Resurfacing Overnight Peel
Courtesy of KATE SOMERVILLE

Apply this peel before you hit the hay and you’ll wake up with a visible improvement in texture and tone. 

19. Best Peel Mask:

CAUDALIE Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Peel Mask

CAUDALIE Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Peel Mask
Courtesy of CAUDALIE

Apply this 10-minute mask and let the glycolic acid, and natural AHAs derived from corn, beets, sugar cane, and more do its thing (which is targeting dark spots).

20. Best Closest-To-The-Real-Thing Peel:

DR. DENNIS GROSS SKINCARE Skincare Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel

DR. DENNIS GROSS SKINCARE Skincare Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel
Courtesy of DR. DENNIS GROSS

If you love DDG’s peel pads but are ready for something stronger, it’s worth trying out this liquid peel, which uses the same ingredients but at medical-grade levels. 

If you’re ready to get your at-home exfoliating on, get yourself an IPSY Glam Bag? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get things going. If you’re already part of the fun, don’t forget to refer pals to earn points, which you can use toward products. Don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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Article Last Updated December 20, 2021 12:00 AM