While there are certainly some skincare treatments you should leave to the professionals, there’s a surprising amount you can do at home — chemical peels, for instance. The term “chemical peel” might sound scary, but don’t worry, you won’t actually see your skin peeling off. Rather, this process uses chemical exfoliation to remove the skin’s outermost layers to reveal the newer skin beneath. “This shedding of the outer layer unclogs pores, keeps skin clean, and helps reduce acne breakouts,” says NYC dermatologist Dr. Hadley King. “It also smoothes and polishes the skin, decreasing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and evening out the texture.”
Regular exfoliation is a great way to see brighter, more even skin, but sometimes, you need an extra boost. That’s where at-home chemical peels come in; these treatments typically involve a higher concentration of chemical exfoliants, so that you see more dramatic results. “The difference between in-office peels and at-home peels is generally the strength of the acids,” Dr. King says. “A good at-home peel should be strong enough to be effective but gentle enough to be safe to use at home.”
When selecting the best at-home chemical peel for you, it’s important to pay attention to the ingredients. If you have normal, dry, or sun-damaged skin, chemical peels with alpha hydroxy acids (or AHAs) might be better for you. “AHAs are water-soluble and work on the surface of the skin,” Dr. King explains. They work on the surface of the skin and are therefore typically better at addressing sun damage. Beta hydroxy acids (or BHAs), on the other hand, are oil-soluble, so they can penetrate deeper into the pores. Because of this, BHAs are mostly preferred for oily, acne-prone skin types.
Check out our list of the best at home chemical peels for gentle, yet effective exfoliation.
These exfoliating pads come recommended by Dr. King and offer a blend of glycolic and lactic acids to target fine lines, hyperpigmentation, tone, and texture. “The formulation also contains blue agave, seawater, and comfrey extracts to help soothe and calm the skin,” she says, “as well as hyaluronic acid and niacinamide to hydrate and protects the skin’s moisture barrier.”
Dr. King also likes SkinBetter’s peel pads, which contain a combination of a retinoid and a triple acid complex of lactic, glycolic, and salicylic acid to provide exfoliation and skin rejuvenation. “Salicylic acid is particularly helpful for oily and acne-prone skin types, and lactic acid moisturizes while it exfoliates to help keep the skin healthy,” she says.
As the name suggests, this leave-on treatment works overnight with a blend of glycolic and lactic acids as well as rosehip and vitamin E for gentle exfoliation.
The fruit enzymes in this peel provide natural exfoliation while hydrating the skin and reducing the appearance of fine lines.
If you’re focused on anti-aging, this peel might be for you. With a skin-refining 8% Tri-Acid Complex, it helps smooth fine lines and wrinkles to reveal a youthful complexion.
This lightweight exfoliating mask packs a punch with a combination of 25% alpha hydroxy and 5% beta hydroxy, but don’t worry about irritation. It also comes with Drunk Elephant’s soothing marula facial oil that’s meant to be applied directly after.
Only got 10 minutes? This rinse-off treatment works to tackle the signs of aging in no time at all.