The 10 Best Chemical Peels

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This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in May of 2016. Many people use chemical peels to give them a more youthful glow and to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. However, the formulations in our selection are also great at helping with a number of other frustrating skin issues, such as warts, scarring, acne, hyperpigmentation, melasma, and more, and can even fade the signs of sun damage with consistent use. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Philosophy Microdelivery

2. Olay Regenerist

3. Paula's Choice Perfecting

Editor's Notes

January 06, 2020:

Chemical peels can help with myriad issues, but everyone's skin is different and there are endless formulations out there that champion different ingredients and come in varying strengths, so you'll need to scrutinize the products you're looking at and consider your skin type. Following instructions is paramount, as is following the proper protocol post-application, like using a light moisturizer to restore hydration and a mineral sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to protect vulnerable skin from UV damage.

At-home peels are generally milder than professional-grade peels, but they do still contain many of the same ingredients and come with the risk of burns and irritation if they aren't applied properly or don't suit your skin type or the condition you're trying to treat. Always do a patch test before going ahead with application and when in doubt, consult a dermatologist.

Today we said goodbye to the Planet Eden Kit, which became unavailable, and the Skin Beauty Solutions Beta Hydroxy, which we felt wasn't as efficacious as the newly-added Bliss That’s Incredi-Peel. The pads that come in this pack are not only extremely easy to use, but they contain a spa-strength, vegan solution that's not overly aggressive and works overnight for great-looking skin in the morning.

We also added Paula's Choice Perfecting, a product that's appropriate for all skin types and is especially helpful for minimizing pores and evening texture. This is another one that is very easy to apply – just use a cotton pad to wipe it gently over your face and you're done. No removal is necessary.

Those looking for something very strong should consider ASDM Beverly Hills Glycolic, while nervous beginners should have no issues with Skin Obsession 40% Glycolic or RePare TCA 25%. For instant brightness Olay Regenerist is a solid option, while products like OZNaturals Anti Aging can take up to one month for results to show.

Special Honors

Natura Bisse Diamond Glyco Extreme Peel Notably expensive, the award-winning Diamond Glyco Extreme Peel from Natura Bisse is a pro-enzyme peptide exfoliant. Its triple-enzymatic system boasts five alpha hydroxy acids to produce renewal and rejuvenation by dissolving dead cells and impurities while penetrating the deepest layers of the skin. It is non-aggressive and produces visible effects in 15 minutes. It can restore glow, fade dark spots, and minimize pores.

Lancer Caviar Lime Acid Peel A powerful solution made to tackle dull, stressed skin, this paraben-free peel is formulated with 10% glycolic acid and caviar lime. Its alpha hydroxy acid blend works with 10% brightening phytic acid to help resurface and remove surface cells, improving the look of pores and skin tone. Pineapple and papaya fruit enzymes moisturize and help improve the appearance of uneven texture, while stabilized retinol helps refine the look of lines and wrinkles. The result is skin that appears smoother, softer, even, and younger.

Savor Beauty Pumpkin Enzyme Peel This offering from Savor Beauty is a gentle alpha hydroxy acid formulation that dissolves dull skin for an instant glow and is appropriate for all skin types. Its lactic acid eats dead cells to visibly improve texture, eliminate fine lines, and illuminate tone for soft, revitalized skin. It contains pumpkin puree to brighten, smooth, and soften, while gluconic acid increases collagen and cell turnover.

4. OZNaturals Anti Aging

5. Perfect Image Gel

6. ASDM Beverly Hills Glycolic

7. Bliss That’s Incredi-Peel

8. Refresh Skin Therapy Fruit

This item has been flagged for editorial review and is not available.

9. Skin Obsession 40% Glycolic

10. RePare TCA 25%

This item has been flagged for editorial review and is not available.

What Conditions Can A Chemical Peel Treat?

A chemical peel can remove the layer of skin that has uneven pigment, and reveal a new layer that has yet to be exposed to the atmosphere which still has an even color.

Various ingredients might be used in a chemical peel to enhance its moisturizing properties, odors, and other elements, but the basis for every peel is usually a combination of alpha hydroxy acids, phenol (which has many health benefits, including reducing the damage of free radicals), and trichloroacetic acid. While the exact formula of chemical peels may vary, they all work to remove old and damaged skin cells through the use of an acid solution. The skin that is then exposed is usually smoother and softer than that which was removed.

Chemical peels can be used to treat uneven skin pigmentation, otherwise known as hyperpigmentation. There are various causes of this condition, including sun damage, and even exposure to certain dyes and air contaminants, but they all result in skin that is darker in some areas than others. A chemical peel can remove the layer of skin that has uneven pigment, and reveal a new layer that has yet to be exposed to the atmosphere which still has an even color.

Chemical peels can also be used to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Dark skin in the lines of stretch marks makes them appear much more severe than they are. Because chemical peels remove dead cells, they reveal a new layer of skin that is usually brighter than the old one. This evens out skin tone and helps blend stretch marks in with the surrounding skin. Chemical peels do not need to be applied to just the face; they can go anywhere on the body. They can also be used for spot treatments, evening out the tone and texture of skin in targeted areas.

Surprising Things A Chemical Peel Can Do

Those who do not want to undergo invasive skin tag removal surgery, which can often result in scarring, can try a chemical peel instead. Chemical peels have also been shown to be effective in fading tattoos and reducing the appearance of some scars. Some evidence even suggests that they can also prevent the forming scars, too. Dermatology research has shown that whiteheads and blackheads can result in scars. Some chemical peels can also effectively clean pores, and prevent white and black heads.

Some contain a formula that lightens the appearance of freckles and is especially effective for anyone with sun damage.

One of the common complications one experiences after a chemical peel is a strong tingling or burning sensation. This is typically harmless and goes away within a few days, but it can be very uncomfortable. Many chemical peels include a healing kit that covers one's skin in antioxidants and botanical extracts. These can be very calming on your inflamed skin and can help make it stronger, quicker. Freckles are additional skin ailments that people often turn to chemical peels for. Some contain a formula that lightens the appearance of freckles and is especially effective for anyone with sun damage.

Many chemical peels produce visible peeling, which makes users hesitant to go outside until the process is complete. Some manufacturers have created formulas that do not produce visible peeling, so the wearer can go outside immediately after applying their peel. People who are at an age when their skin stops producing as much natural collagen can look for a peel that boosts collagen production, helping them fight the effects of aging.

A History Of Chemical Peels

The Ancient Egyptians, who were pioneers in many beauty services and products still seen today, like tattoos and wigs, were some of the first to use chemical peels. Ancient Egyptian women discovered that the lactic acid in sour milk rejuvenated their skin, and so they would put it on their faces. Ancient Romans turned to grape skins, which contain tartaric acid. In the 1800s, a dermatologist named Ferdinand Hebra began lightening freckles with a combination of nitric acids, hydrochloric acid, croton oil and a few other ingredients. This mixture would cause the skin to blister, at which point Hebra would puncture them, cover them with starch and remove the dead cells.

In 1871, another dermatologist noted that using a mixture that contained 20 percent phenol could lighten skin, and in 1882, a German dermatologist named P.G. Unna discovered the benefits of adding salicylic acid and trichloroacetic acid to peels. Unna made a paste of zinc oxide, petrolatum, resorcinol and ichthammol that allegedly rejuvenated skin, and reduced the appearance of wrinkles. Unna's work inspired much of the research done in the 1990s on salicylic acid, which is still often found in peels today.

Glycolic acid is another ingredient that took the chemical peel industry by storm in the 1990s. A derivative of sugar cane, glycolic acid has tiny molecules capable of deeply penetrating the skin. A 10 percent concentration of the acid is found in many moisturizers, and a 50 percent concentration goes into chemical peels.

Gia Vescovi-Chiordi
Last updated by Gia Vescovi-Chiordi

Born in Arizona, Gia is a writer and autodidact who fled the heat of the desert for California, where she enjoys drinking beer, overanalyzing the minutiae of life, and channeling Rick Steves. After arriving in Los Angeles a decade ago, she quickly nabbed a copywriting job at a major clothing company and derived years of editing and proofreading experience from her tenure there, all while sharpening her skills further with myriad freelance projects. In her spare time, she teaches herself French and Italian, has earned an ESL teaching certificate, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and unashamedly devours television shows and books. The result of these pursuits is expertise in fashion, travel, beauty, literature, textbooks, and pop culture, in addition to whatever obsession consumes her next.

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