The 17 Best At-Home Chemical Peels (and Why You Need One) - The Dermatology Review

The 17 Best At-Home Chemical Peels (and Why You Need One)

SKIN CARE REVIEWS

01.11.22DISCLAIMER

Despite what you’ve been conditioned to believe, the best chemical peeling need not require an in-office visit or a large budget. While the best professional chemical peels come with rewards as well as risks, the strongest chemical peel at home can still make a significant improvement in skin texture, tone, and more. 

Though at-home peels are typically milder than professional-grade peels performed in a doctor’s office, they contain many of the same ingredients and are more affordable. Whether you’re looking for the best chemical peel for acne scars at home or the best at home chemical peel for dark spots, with regular use, you can achieve desirable results. 

Of course, the best at-home chemical peel needs to be formulated well to be safe yet effective — and we’re here to help you out with that. Here at the Derm Review, we’ve reviewed hundreds of products with a scientific lens to ensure you’re creating a skincare routine that’s safe and effective. 

Ahead, 17 of the best at-home chemical peels to help refresh and renew your skin’s appearance.  

Best At-Home Chemical Peel: The List

Carrot & Stick The Brightening Pads, $40

Formulyst Retexturizing and Perfecting Serum, $39

Strivectin New Daily Reveal Exfoliating Pads, $45

The Ordinary AHA/BHA Peeling Solution, $6.80

Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel, $65

Dermalogica Rapid Reveal Peel, $85

Drunk Elephant TLC Sukari Babyfacial, $80

Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Full Strength Exfoliating Mask, $49

Glymed Plus AHA Accelerator, Professionally Prescribed

Kate Somerville Liquid Exfolikate Triple Acid Resurfacing Treatment, $60

Marini Multi-Acid Resurfacing Peels, $88

REN Glycolic Lactic Radiance New Skin Radiance Mask, $58

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel, $88

Dr. Jart + Dermaclear Micro Milk Peel, $42

Olay MASKS Resurfacing Peel Vitamin C + AHA, $26.99

Natrium Mandelic Topical Acid 12%, $20

Lancer Caviar Lime Acid Peel, $95

Related: Best Medical-Grade Skincare

The Science Behind Skin Peels

The skin may be the largest organ of the body, but it’s subject to free radical damage, microbial invasion, the absorption of chemical pollutants, and the natural aging process.

Fortunately, the skin can rebuild itself via an influx of new cells from the basal layer of the epidermis. However, with age, cell regeneration slows down, and the integrity of the skin changes. This is where chemical peels — both the acid and non-acid variety — come into play. 

Chemical peels remain some of the most effective and efficient skincare treatments available. Understanding the science behind them allows professionals and consumers to choose the best peel based on skin type, concern, and budget.

 

Professional Peels 

The best professional chemical peels work to change your skin on a deeper level. A medical esthetician or dermatologist applies peel solutions of different strengths (superficial, medium, and deep) to exfoliate dead skin cells to peel away dermal layers, resulting in fresh (and healthier) new skin. 

The strength of an acid peel is based on several factors: The type of peel agent, the concentration of the active ingredient, the peel’s pH, and the delivery system. 

Acid peels are the most common type of professional peels. They remove the cells at the top layer of the skin’s upper epidermis by breaking the weak chemical bonds that hold these cells together. 

The skin cells peel and lift away upon application depending on the peel product’s strength, pH, and delivery agent. 

As the peel process proceeds, or with additional treatment, the peeling solution can penetrate deeper into the epidermis to weaken the bonds holding together the cells of the lower layers of the epidermis.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the best professional chemical peel costs approximately $644 (less for a milder peel that doesn’t require anesthesia). It has to be performed regularly to maintain results. Despite the cost, statistics show that the chemical peel market is expected to grow from 2 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 to about 3.1 billion dollars by 2026.

 

Chemical Peel At Home

At-home peels have similar ingredients to in-office peels, but they’re less powerful and can only treat the skin’s top (superficial) layers. With that in mind, you’ll have to use the peel multiple times before you start to see a result — and then regularly repeat the process to maintain the results. 

Home peels can help break down the intercellular “glue” that keeps dead skin cells harboring on the surface. They work to exfoliate top layers of cells and help clear up clogged pores, breakouts, dull skin, and dry skin. While the downside to even the best at-home chemical peel is that you can’t customize the treatment, here are some notable benefits.

  • Fades fine lines and wrinkles — even some stubborn ones.
  • Effectively treats acne at a deeper layer.
  • Minimize pores size by removing dead, damaged skin that makes them appear larger.
  • Fades hyperpigmentation more effectively than topical treatments. In some cases, even permanently.
  • Improves skin texture and tone, including the appearance of scarring.

Related: Best Wrinkle Creams

How to Choose the Best At-Home Chemical Peel

Even if you’re not going the professional route, it’s still important to choose the right type of peel for your skin type, tone, and concerns to avoid an adverse reaction. Chemical burn symptoms include redness, irritation, peeling, blisters, and being painful to the touch.

Before choosing and performing a chemical peel at home, you must know the difference between the different types of acids because they provide different exfoliation levels and work differently on the skin. 

 

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Water-loving AHAs like lactic, mandelic, or glycolic, malic, tartaric, and citric acids increase cell turnover and renewal rates, stimulating the exfoliation process. They’re great for improving skin texture and tone and addressing skin concerns such as discoloration, acne, and fine lines. 

 

Beta Hydroxy Acids

BHAs such as salicylic acid consist of a larger molecule, yet they also remove dead skin cells. BHAs are oil-loving, so they’re excellent for oily, acne-prone skin —  and for unclogging pores. 

How to Do a Chemical Peel at Home

There’s no one-size-fits-all at-home chemical peel, so it’s vital that you thoroughly read the instructions on the label before applying the product, as some of these steps may need to be tweaked. If you’re using a new peel formula or have sensitive skin, conduct a patch test first to ensure you can tolerate the peel.

Related: Best Cleansing Oils

  1. Start by thoroughly cleansing your skin and removing all traces of makeup to ensure there isn’t any dirt, oil, or other impurities interfering with the progress of the peel. The best time to use a peel is at night when the skin is in regeneration mode while you sleep.

    Our skin is three times more receptive at night, especially since it doesn’t have to protect itself from environmental factors, so it can go to work recovering and renewing.
  1. Apply the home peel according to the instructions on the label. Some peels are left on anywhere from 5-15 minutes, whereas others are left on overnight to work their magic while you’re sleeping.The only sensation you should be feeling (if at all) is slight tingling. If you’re experiencing burning or extreme itching, remove the peel immediately. Note that it’s normal to have a little bit of redness upon removing the peel — even if your skin is not reacting.
  1. Apply a gentle toner or essence to restore the skin’s pH.
  2. Follow up with a generous amount of moisturizer suited for your skin type, such as a night cream. 
  3. In the morning, it’s vital you apply an SPF with a minimum of 30, so you don’t damage your freshly peeled skin. A mineral-based formula is best as it can be less irritating. Additionally, try to avoid being in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest and most dangerous.
  4. Avoid retinol or other acid-based products too soon to prevent post-peel irritation. 

Related: Best Retinol Creams

Best At-Home Chemical Peel

Carrot & Stick The Brightening Pads, $40
Reveal a fresh, smooth, and radiant complexion with these pre-saturated pads. A concentrated blend of salicylic, lactic, and mandelic acids sweeps away the build-up of dead skin cells, gently exfoliating to promote clarity, refine texture, and rid pores of impurities. Herbal extracts fight visible photodamage and help keep the appearance of redness in check. Resurfaced skin is smoother, brighter, and more receptive to products.

Formulyst Retexturizing and Perfecting Serum, $39
When it comes to exfoliating and deeply cleansing your skin, soluble acid groups like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are more effective than physical exfoliants, which can scratch and irritate your skin. Expertly formulated to exfoliate, clean gently, and refine pores, This serum maximizes an active AHA complex, which helps remove dead cells and visibly reveals the brighter, healthier skin beneath.

Strivectin New Daily Reveal Exfoliating Pads, $45
Four different types of acids (alpha hydroxy, beta hydroxy, polyhydroxy, and tranexamic) boost the skin’s natural exfoliation rate in just three days, resulting in a more even skin tone and glowing complexion. Because the peel solution is saturated in micro-peel fiber pads, you benefit from physical exfoliation, too.

The Ordinary AHA/BHA Peeling Solution, $6.80
As mandelic acid has a more considerable molecular weight than other AHAs like glycolic, this superficial peel is suitable for most skin types since it penetrates more slowly. Even so, it shouldn’t be used on sensitive, peeling skin. This formula contains 10% MA, an appropriate percentage for effectively peeling, resulting in a more radiant complexion.

Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel, $65
With regular use, this dual-phase peel increases cell turnover by 33% in just one week — more overtime — without excessive dryness and irritation. Phase one is a blend of alpha, beta, and tranexamic acids to remove dead surface cells, improve texture, and brighten, immediately and over time. Phase two contains antioxidant-rich adaptogenic holy basil and omega-rich oils to protect and strengthen the skin while promoting a more vibrant complexion.

Dermalogica Rapid Reveal Peel, $85
As the name suggests, this clinically proven peel works quickly to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while promoting radiance. A blend of phytoactive AHA extracts, lactic acid, fermented plant enzymes, Australian caviar lime extract, pumpkin fruit enzyme, and rice bran extracts provide the results of an in-office treatment without any downtime.

Drunk Elephant TLC Sukari Babyfacial, $80
This Drunk Elephant chemical peel works like an in-office treatment at home, thanks to an impressive 25% AHA/2% BHA blend. We’re talking about glycolic, tartaric, lactic, citric, and salicylic acids, making it a great chemical peel for acne, as well as other skin conditions. The Soothing matcha tea, milk thistle, and apple antioxidants give the skin that baby-soft look and feel.

Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Full Strength Exfoliating Mask, $49
This full-strength exfoliating mask helps improve the appearance of dark spots and discoloration, thanks to a potent (and patented) dose of AHAs derived from malic acid extrapolated from organic green apples, lactic and glycolic acids, and salicylic acid. Aside from fighting fine lines and wrinkles and improving skin tone and texture, it just may be the best at-home chemical peel for dark spots.

Glymed Plus AHA Accelerator, Professionally Prescribed
Glycolic acid peel at home? Though you’ll need to see your esthetician or dermatologist to purchase this at-home formula, it’s one of the strongest ones you can use on your own, thanks to 20% glycolic and lactic acids. Suitable for most skin types, this accelerator reduces dull and uneven skin texture, increases firmness and elasticity, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, and minimizes pores.

Kate Somerville Liquid Exfolikate Triple Acid Resurfacing Treatment, $60
This cult-favorite peel is powered by a 10% trifecta of glycolic, malic, and lactic acids and natural pumpkin, papaya, and pineapple acids to improve skin tone and texture while minimizing the size of pores. The addition of honey, skin-plumping peptides, and tea extract ensure that your skin looks soft, supple, and radiant despite getting a serious exfoliation.

Marini Multi-Acid Resurfacing Peels, $88
Best chemical peels for acne scars at home, you ask? These quadruple-acid peel pads effectively refine skin texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and pore size. They’re also an excellent option for those with acne (thanks to salicylic acid), including residual scarring. Despite being a powerful at-home peel, aloe, chamomile, and green tea extracts soothe and balance the skin, resulting in a clear, glowing complexion.

REN Glycolic Lactic Radiance New Skin Radiance Mask, $58
From papaya and pineapple to cranberry and grapefruit, this gel-like mask is chock-full of powerful fruit acids and oils (the ingredient list speaks for itself), as well as lactic acid to exfoliate, cleanse, and encourage skin radiance. It’s gentle yet effective enough to reduce fine lines and imperfections.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel, $88
These peel pads are among the most popular on the market — and with good reason. They’re saturated with a compelling blend of seven alpha and beta hydroxy acids, sodium hyaluronate, squalene, saccharide isomerate, and Chinese foxglove to effectively target the skin concerns associated with oily, dry, or combination skin. 

Skin texture and pores become more refined, fine lines and pores are softened, blemishes are under control, and the skin is balanced and hydrated for up to 72 hours after use.

Dr. Jart + Dermaclear Micro Milk Peel, $42
Part chemical peel, part moisturizer, this dual-phase milk power peel harnesses the power of lactic acid to remove dead skin cells, purify pores, and hydrate the skin. Coconut water and dead sea salt provide additional antibacterial and disinfecting properties. It’s gentle enough to be used daily on cleansed skin; remove after one minute.

Olay MASKS Resurfacing Peel Vitamin C + AHA, $26.99
Don’t be deceived by a drugstore buy. This two-step Olay chemical peel starts with a vitamin C resurfacing mask to exfoliate and renew. Next, an AHA peel activator accelerates the exfoliation process while removing dirt, oil, and impurities without intense scrubbing. It reveals brighter, smoother, and more radiant skin after just one use, much like a professional spa treatment.

Natrium Mandelic Topical Acid 12%, $20
Mandelic acid is a good choice for sensitive skin because it has a larger molecular size than other AHAs, meaning it doesn’t absorb into the skin quite as fast. This formula ups the ante by adding niacinamide to help prevent dryness and irritation while targeting fine lines, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation caused by blemishes and photoaging.

Lancer Caviar Lime Acid Peel, $95
Potent glycolic and phytic acids work together with pineapple and papaya fruit enzymes to resurface and moisturize the skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The skin is left softer, smoother, and more radiant. And what’s caviar lime, you ask? It’s an ingredient often used in skincare products (like peels) to exfoliate, improve tone and elasticity, and reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and dullness.

Best Chemical Peeling: The Final Word

Can you do a chemical peel at home? Despite what you’ve been conditioned to believe, the best chemical peeling need not require an in-office visit or a large budget. While the best professional chemical peels come with rewards as well as risks, the strongest chemical peel at home can still make a significant improvement in skin texture, tone, and more.

Even if you’re not going the professional route, it’s still important to choose the right type of peel for your skin type, tone, and concerns to avoid an adverse reaction. Chemical burn symptoms include redness, irritation, peeling, blisters, and being painful to the touch.

Before choosing and performing a chemical peel at home, you must know the difference between alpha and beta hydroxy acids because they provide different exfoliation levels and work differently on the skin. 

Be sure to conduct a patch test before trying a new peel or if you have sensitive skin. Adhere to the instructions on the packaging and always follow up with a moisturizer at night and a full-spectrum sunscreen during the day.

What’s the best at-home chemical peel, in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below!

 

FAQs
At-home peels can be used as often as daily to monthly — it all depends on the strength of the peel and your skin’s response. However, when starting out, don’t use the peel more than once a week until you see how your skin reacts.
While it’s great that you can use home chemical peels safely and more frequently, if you do not see the results you wish to achieve, you may want to use them as booster treatments between professional, in-office treatments.
It usually takes several home peels to see noticeable results. However, you can immediately improve texture (including a better makeup application) after using a well-formulated home peel for the first time. Due to the peel’s exfoliating properties, the rest of your skincare products will work more efficiently, too.
Providing you’re using the right peel for your skin type, even a home version can help
reduce or improve fine lines and wrinkles, acne, scars, uneven skin coloring, and other skin imperfections.
Since chemical peels enhance melanin activity, it’s not a bad idea to apply a Vitamin C serum to help calm melanin cells. We suggest Carrot & Stick The Defense Serum, Formulyst Active Serum Vitamin B, C, E, Ferulic + Niacinamide, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic With 15% L-Ascorbic Acid, and, The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone.
Unlike a professional peel, many home peels don’t cause too much peeling — but if flakiness does occur, be sure to moisturize regularly (even more than usual if need be) for about 3-5 days afterward.
If we’re talking about professional treatments, you’ll likely need local anesthesia or another painkiller with a deep peel. Light and medium peels will cause some form of discomfort, depending on your tolerance. However, the only uncomfortable sensation you should feel from a home peel is light tingling — if it’s burning, remove the product immediately.

References:
How Much Does a Chemical Peel Cost?,” Plastic Surgery.org.
Chemical Peel Facial Rejuvenation Market Revenue Worldwide from 2016 to 2026,” Statista, January 2019.

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