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An at-home chemical peel is one of the easiest, most effective ways to give a dull complexion a glowy boost. But looking for the right one can send you down a rabbit hole that you might never make it out of. Seriously, there are that many.
Not only are chemical peels super popular to the point of making it hard to know which to pick, some of them are kinda pricey. Enter this handy guide. We pored over the top-rated chemical peels to help you figure out which might be a good fit for your skin, no matter your budget.
Chemical peels are basically just exfoliating treatments that slough off old, dead skin cells, which can cause dullness and make wrinkles more noticeable. With the old skin peeled off, the fresh new skin cells underneath can shine — giving you a brighter, smoother complexion.
The peels rely on a range of chemical acids with different strengths. Milder peels, which you can buy over the counter and use at home, often rely on acids like alpha- or beta-hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, or salicylic acid.
And while “chemical acid” and “face” might sound like a terrifying combo, the name is more intimidating than reality. Some acids used in at-home peels are derived from plant-based ingredients, while others are the same acids that show up in over-the-counter (OTC) acne products like cleansers or creams.
At-home chemical peels are generally mild to moderate in strength, compared to the more heavy-duty ones a dermatologist might apply. When used correctly, you’re unlikely to run into issues or mess up your skin.
That said, they’re not for everyone. Deep chemical peels aren’t typically recommended for people with darker skin or those who have taken acne meds like isotretinoin within the last 6 months, as the risk of scarring and dyschromia (skin discoloration) is high.
You also should also steer clear if you have abnormal skin pigmentation, a history of severe cold sores, or ridged skin caused by scar tissue. If you’re not sure whether a peel is a good fit for you, check with a dermatologist first.
If you decide you want to give a peel a try, the main key is to do it in a way that avoids overtaxing your skin. Steer clear of using any wax, depilatories, bleach, or heavy duty scrubs on your face for a week beforehand.
And avoid unprotected sun exposure for a few weeks afterward. (Your dermatologist can tell you how long you’ll need to stay out of the sun based on the type of peel you use.)
As with other OTC skin care products, at-home chemical peels aren’t regulated by dermatologists, so there’s no central agency or group saying which peels are good and which aren’t.
We stuck to peels with proven exfoliators, with a preference toward clean-label products free of additives parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, and formaldehyde.
Customer ratings also factored in: It’s no secret that skin care buffs are a passionate bunch. So if a peel had hundreds (or in some cases, thousands) of four- or five-star ratings, we gave it consideration for this list.
OK! Without any further ado, let’s talk products.
Best for any skin type: Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel
Considered by many to be the holy grail of peels, the two-step peel pads work first to exfoliate skin and refine pores then follow up with a dose of retinol and resveratrol for anti-aging (or as we like to say, pro-aging) power. It’s designed for normal, dry, combo, and oily skin.
Cons: Each pad comes in its own packet. So if you’re trying to minimize trash and waste, this might not be the best option.
Superfast application: Kate Somerville Liquid Exfolikate Triple Acid Resurfacing Treatment
This lightweight liquid boasts 10 percent alpha-hydroxy acids and fruit enzymes to smooth skin’s surface and boost brightness, plus honey and tea extract to soothe away any potential irritation. Also convenient: To apply, just swipe it on with a cotton round and follow up with moisturizer.
Cons: Some users have said it’s not the best option for sensitive skin.
Good for acne-prone skin: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
In addition to exfoliating, the alpha-beta hydroxy acid combo is a winner for reducing the appearance of blemishes, making it a good choice for oily or combination skin.
Cons: This stuff has to sit on your skin for 10 minutes, so it’s not the best when you’re in a rush.
Try it for dark spots: Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Full Strength Exfoliating Mask
Alpha and beta hydroxy acid deliver a dose of spa-grade exfoliation, but that’s not all. Antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E work to nourish skin and minimize the appearance of discoloration.
Cons: Some users complain that the exfoliators in this mask make their skin itch.
Helps with redness and veiny-ness: M-61 PowerGlow Peel
The one-step exfoliator pads slough off dead skin with glycolic and salicylic acid, while vitamin K helps ease red, rosacea-like patches and spider veins around the nose and cheeks.
Cons: Some users with sensitive skin found the peel ended up causing irritation. If you’re using it for rosacea-like redness, consider doing a patch test before applying the peel to your entire face.
Heavy duty option: Exuviance Performance Peel AP25
With 25 percent glycolic acid, mandelic acid, gluconolactone, this award-winning exfoliator comes close to rivaling what you might get from the dermatologist. In fact, it’s been clinically proven to smooth texture, improve brightness, and reduce pore size after a month of regular use.
Cons: The peel is meant to be used twice a week, and it’s pretty pricey.
Dermatologist-worthy results in way less time: Dermalogica Rapid Reveal Peel
This peel is billed as professional-grade, thanks to maximum strength acids like alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, and pumpkin fruit enzyme. But unlike a trip to the skin doctor, you’ll reap the benefits of this peel in 1 minute flat.
Cons: It might be a risky buy. While it’s a cult favorite, there are definitely some reviews where users said it had no impact on their skin.
Gentle option that still gets the job done: Dr. Jart+ Dermaclear Micro Milk Peel
If “milk peel” sounds soothing, well, you get what this peel is all about. It’s part-exfoliator, part-moisturizer that nourishes and rehydrates skin with coconut water plus the brand’s proprietary Hydrogen Bio Water complex.
Cons: Since it’s designed to be gentle and add hydration, it might not be the best option for oily or acne-prone skin.
Designed for daily use: HydroPeptide 5x Power Peel
These pre-soaked peel pads are meant to be used as a daily exfoliator to keep skin looking bright and fresh, well, all the time. The addition of peptides and green tea nourishes skin to fight off redness and reduce the damaging effects of free radicals.
Cons: They’re not exactly cheap, so swiping one on every day could start to add up.
Planet-friendly pick: Beautycounter Counter+ Overnight Resurfacing Peel
Slather the serum on your face before bed, go to sleep, and wake up with fresher, brighter skin, thanks to botanically derived acids that work to promote skin cell turnover without irritating. The packaging is fully recyclable too.
Cons: The smell is off-putting to some users.
Serves up a side of plumping action: Peter Thomas Roth FIRMx Exfoliating Peel Gel
The gel formula is designed to be massaged into your skin to literally roll, lift, and sweep away dead skin cells and impurities with ingredients like pineapple and pomegranate enzymes. Hyaluronic acid acts as a hydrator to give skin a firmer, more youthful appearance too.
Cons: You have to rub the gel into your skin well, so it’s more involved than just using a pad or applying a serum.
Rich in fruit extracts: LANCER Skincare Caviar Lime Acid Peel
This peel harnesses the power of caviar lime, an Australian fruit that happens to be loaded with alpha hydroxy acids. It’s designed for normal, oily, combo, dry, and even sensitive skin — in other words, it probably won’t do you wrong.
Cons: You’ve gotta let this stuff sit on your skin for 10 to 15 minutes, so it’s not great in a time crunch.
Easy on your wallet: Saturday Skin Rub-A-Dub Refining Peel Gel
The lightweight gel uses fruit enzymes like papaya and bromelain to slough away old skin and improve brightness. Aloe adds a soothing factor, so you won’t feel dry or irritated after peeling.
Cons: It’s super gentle — which may or may not be your jam.
Doubles as an anti-aging treatment: Alpha-H Beauty Sleep Power Peel
The glycolic acid in this peel doesn’t just exfoliate, it also stimulates the production of the skin-smoothing protein collagen. It’s got .5 percent retinol too, to help firm skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Cons: Since it’s a cream peel, it might be too greasy for oily or acne-prone skin.
Gentle enough for daily use: Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel
It exfoliates to revive dull skin — but not so much that you can only use it once or twice a week. It also serves up adaptogenic holy basil and omega-rich oils to nourish the fresh skin underneath and offer protection against free radicals.
Cons: Some users complain this peel has a slick, oily feel that doesn’t feel good on oily or combo skin.
This potent blend of AHA/NHA acids plus chickpea flour works like a mini facial to speed up skin cell turnover and make skin look brighter without causing redness. It’s pretty potent, so it’s worth starting slow with this one and revving up your use over time.
Cons: You’ll need at least 20 minutes for this mask.
Scrubby option: Erno Laszlo White Marble Dual Phase Vitamin C-Peel
It’s a two-part scrub, so you can feel those tiny beads sloughing away the dullness. The addition of carrot seed oil and vitamin C fight damage and dark spots, so it’s a good for those with more mature skin.
Cons: You have to mix the main scrub with an activator “oil,” which could be fun or annoying depending on what you’re into.
Top-notch for oiliness: First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance AHA Intensive Peel
Even though you only leave it on for a minute, this peel feels like one of those thick, clay masks that sit on your face for half an hour. So it’s great for sopping up excess oil and minimizing the appearance of pores, in addition to exfoliating.
Cons: The clay can be drying for dry or sensitive skin.