Gently exfoliates skin with salicylic acid to promote natural cell renewal. Helps firm skin and smooth over rougher areas, especially around the chin and jawline.
One of the more expensive products to use long-term.
Glycerin and hyluronic acid hydrate and smooth skin. Helps heal and smooth over blemishes. Penetrates pores to lift deep-set dirt. Free of harsh chemicals, including parabens, tricolsans and sulfates.
Mixed reviews regarding how effective the exfoliation is.
Application is easy and only needs 10 to 15 to sit on skin. Suitable for all skin types. Formula is free of parabens and sulfates. Results are sooner than expected for first-time users.
Occasional reports of a tingling sensation, so it might not be ideal for sensitive skin.
A 50% glycolic acid peel with a gel-like consistency that makes it less messy than liquid solutions. Produces results for most users for a variety of skin issues by clarifying skin and stimulating collagen production.
Caution must be taken to follow the instructions closely to prevent chemical burns. May be too harsh for very sensitive skin. Use of a neutralizer is recommended.
An innovative product with glycolic and lactic acids infused with botanicals in convenient gauze pads. Effective yet gentle peel that can be used up to 3 times a week. Earns praise for its pleasing scent.
Too mild for some uses – it's good at exfoliating and brightening skin, but not intended to make major changes such as minimizing lines and other imperfections.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Smooth, healthy skin without fine lines or acne blemishes: sound like a dream come true? Actually, you can go far toward making that dream a reality with a chemical facial peel.
Although only licensed professional aestheticians or doctors can administer deep peels, you can find an abundance of gentle facial peels for use at home. And although these products can’t perform miracles, when properly chosen for your skin type, a chemical peel can minimize fine lines, reduce breakouts, and return a healthy glow to your complexion.
Depending on the peel you use, your complexion could see a range of benefits, including the following.
Improved smoothness and softness
Lightening of dark spots
Reduction in fine lines
Healing of acne blemishes
Brighter skin tone
Improved absorption of other skincare products, such as serums or moisturizers
Despite the name, chemical peels don’t work by burning or peeling away your skin. Instead, they gently dissolve the bonds that hold the upper layer of dead skin cells in place. A day or two later, you’ll generally start to notice some peeling as the upper layer lifts away, revealing healthy, new skin cells. Peels also stimulate the production of collagen that improves your skin’s elasticity and smooth appearance.
While the application of acid to your face might sound scary, the acids used in facial peels, particularly the peels sold for at-home use, are very mild. Your skin has a normal pH of around 5.5, which is very slightly acidic (7.0 is neutral on the pH scale.) Most at-home peels have a pH of 2.0 or more. By comparison, the acid in your stomach – which is mostly hydrochloric acid – has a pH of 1.0 to 2.0.
There are several mild acids used in at-home peels, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The following are the most common.
Fruit enzymes are the gentlest type of at-home peel chemical. Pumpkin, papaya, and pineapple are commonly used in these facial treatments. They don’t stimulate collagen production the way acids do, but they do help remove surface cells to improve overall skin quality. Generally, fruit enzyme peels are mild enough for all skin types, even sensitive skin.
Mandelic acid, a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from bitter almonds, is quite mild and penetrates skin slowly. Therefore, it is less likely than stronger products to cause irritation or burns. Mandelic acid works well to reduce dark spots and acne blemishes.
Lactic acid is an AHA derived from soured milk. It also makes for a fairly mild facial peel. It’s especially good for lightening dark spots and helps skin retain moisture. This makes it suitable for dry or mature skin.
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) derived from willow tree bark. It is especially good for treating acne. It also works well to clear congested pores, minimize sun damage, lighten dark spots, and reduce fine lines. It can be a bit strong for sensitive or mature skin, however, and is best for normal to oily complexions.
Glycolic acid is an AHA that comes from sugar cane. It is one of the strongest AHAs used for at-home facial peels. It works very well to stimulate collagen production, brighten the complexion, restore skin tone, and reduce wrinkles and fine lines.
You’ve purchased a chemical facial peel that’s suitable for your skin type and needs, and now you’re ready to apply it. Here are some safety guidelines for using a chemical peel at home.
Do not shave, apply an exfoliating product, or use any harsh skin treatments for at least three days prior to your peel.
Two days before your peel, do a patch test to check for allergies or irritation by applying a dab of the facial peel product behind your ear.
Right before you apply the peel, wash your face with a gentle cleanser.
Tone your face with the astringent that accompanied your facial peel. If the product you purchased didn’t include toner, witch hazel works for most skin types.
Use a gauze pad, fan brush, or cotton ball to apply the peel to your face, avoiding your eyes, nostrils, and lips. Don’t go overboard; a thin application of acid is all you need.
Leave the facial peel on for the time recommended in the product instructions. Do not go beyond this recommendation, as doing so could burn your skin.
If your facial peel includes a neutralizer, apply it now, and then rinse your face thoroughly to remove the peel.
Apply a gentle moisturizer to the treated area. Continue to apply moisturizer twice per day until your skin is finished peeling.
Expect to see some mild peeling within a day or two of your treatment. Do not pick at the peeling skin or scrub it harshly. Doing so could cause scarring or irritation.
Avoid exposure to direct sunlight for several days after your peel, and apply sunscreen before going outdoors.
Q. Are at-home facial peels safe for African American skin?
A. Dark skin is at higher risk of discoloration and scarring after a deep chemical peel. For this reason, you should only use the mildest products with the lowest concentrations of acid.
Q. Can I use an at-home peel if I have rosacea or another skin condition?
A. Always check with your doctor before using a chemical peel on any type of active skin condition, including rosacea, eczema, severely inflamed acne, or large birthmarks. If you are prone to cold sores around your mouth, be aware that a chemical peel could bring one on.
Q. How much should I spend on a chemical facial peel for home use?
A. The price range for at-home peels is a large one, but if you’re looking for a product of similar quality to what your doctor or aesthetician would use, expect to pay between $25 and $80. For this price, you’ll likely get a kit with the chemical peel, a neutralizing solution, and a moisturizer for after the treatment.
Q. How often can I use a facial peel?
A. Most at-home chemical peels are fairly mild. There are products suitable for daily use, and there are others for which weekly use is best. Always follow the directions that come with your specific product.
Q. Do at-home chemical facial peels have any side effects?
A. If you choose a product that is suitable for your skin type and follow the directions carefully, you should only experience mild side effects. It’s common to have some reddening of the skin, slight burning or stinging, mild swelling, “frosted” patches of whitish or ashy-looking skin, and skin sensitivity. These side effects should clear up within minutes to hours after the peel. If your skin blisters, becomes extremely red or painful, or feels burned, contact your doctor or aesthetician.