March 22nd 2021
Peels have come a long way since the days when you had to go to a salon and then disappear for a week until you were presentable. Now at-home peels ranging from gentle to high-strength are one of the quickest and easiest ways to rejuvenate the skin. They remove the top layer of dead skin cells to reveal a more radiant-looking complexion, help stimulate collagen growth and even out skin tone. They can also work to fade dark spots, acne scarring and hyperpigmentation (hello Beyonce's 'Melanated Monas').
Most at-home peels contain a lower percentage of exfoliating acids than you'd find in a salon. AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid) exfoliate the surface layers and BHAs (beta hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid) penetrate deeply into pores. They are effective if you want to achieve a brighter complexion, but they also increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun - so wearing a daily broad spectrum SPF is imperative.
We've tested the best at-home peels for every skin type which can be used daily, weekly or over the course of a month.
Dr Lancer is a world-renowned dermatologist who counts Beyonce as one of his clients. The Lancer Caviar Lime Peel treatment contains caviar lime (aka Australian finger lime) and 10 per cent glycolic acid which work to exfoliate and remove dead skin cells. Meanwhile, 10 per cent phytic acid and fruit enzymes brighten and soften the skin. When used regularly, it is said to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and scarring.
This is a personal favourite of GTG writer Jessica who, after reading Dr Lancer's book Younger The Breakthrough Anti-Aging Method for Radiant Skin, was impressed by his in-depth scientific knowledge and his signature three-step skincare routine, The Method.
You can leave this peel on for 10 minutes if you have sensitive skin, or if your skin has a high glycolic acid tolerance you can go the whole hog (and by that we mean experience one of the best at-home peels we've tried) and leave it on for 60 minutes during your Netflix marathon or waiting for your Deliveroo to arrive, to reveal a whole new face...almost.
The Universal Daily Peel is super easy to use daily with a two-step process containing a formula of five AHA and BHA exfoliants (glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, malic acid, and salicylic acid) plus antioxidants (retinol, ubiquinone and resveratrol) and vitamins (including vitamin C). It comes as two sachets each with a product-infused wipe: step one exfoliates the top layer of the skin and step two neutralises the chemical exfoliant.
When used over a longer period of time (peel comes in 5, 30 or 60-use paquettes but 30 is recommended) it repairs uneven skin tone, dark spots and fades acne scars.
This was one of the most talked about products in our WhatsApp group (yes, we have one) because it's simple, easy to use and it can fit in your handbag if you need a quick peel while on-the-go or before an important event. Jessica, who has combination skin, has been using it for a few days a week said it did tingle at first but soon settled after a few seconds. The result? Baby soft skin. No rinse and completely fuss-free.
Want a product you can put on overnight and let it work its magic while you sleep? It’s the ultimate lazy girl peel and ideal for anyone with a busy schedule. Drunk Elephant’s Glycolic Night Serum has a light, gel-like texture that glides easily across the skin. It doesn’t tingle at all considering that the formula is on the higher end of the acid spectrum with 12 per cent AHA and BHA which gives it that almost-professional result come dawn.
GTG's resident combo skin type Jessica saw a dramatic improvement in her skin when she used it for a period of weeks after a bout of hormonal acne when her pimples had scarred. The scars gradually faded and her skin returned back to its glowy and healthy state.
If you want a face mask that will get rid of your dead skin cells and/or scare your partner to death, The Ordinary’s Peeling Solution is great for both. Brightly hued and high in strength, when left on for 10 minutes, the formula gently sloughs away the top layers of the skin and deep cleans pores, revealing a brighter, more even-toned complexion. Containing AHAs (glycolic, lactic, tartaric and citric acid) to exfoliate the skin's top layer and BHAs (salicylic acid) to help clear pore congestion, the formula also contains a blend of vitamin B5, black carrot and Tasmanian pepperberry to reduce irritation associated with the acid use and assist healing.
Our tester said it tingled (in a good way). Be warned, you might look like you've smeared blood all over your face thanks to the product's bright red hue, but if that means you get some solitude for 10 minutes of your day, then you're welcome.
Glycolic acid is one of the strongest alpha-hydroxy acids, thus a mightily effective skin surface smoother and dead skin cell shifter, but it can provoke irritation if you really overdo it. This chemical exfoliant, however, is on the weaker end of the glycolic spectrum coming in at only four per cent. The formula contains blueberry polyphenols and fermented black tea which aim to add antioxidant and probiotic cloud, while Vichy's signature thermal spring water helps to soothe the skin.
GTG's Anna was a fan, saying she was pleasantly impressed by how clear, soft and bright it left her skin after a night of gobbling up her facial grime. She does warn that there is a lot of alcohol in the product, so recommends that you do a patch test first and slather on a healthy amount of moisturiser afterwards to guard against any potential dryness.
First up, we loved the look and feel of this round container with a scoop that snaps magnetically on to the lid. It’s all part of making this slightly stingy experience into a pleasant ritual. The hero ingredient of facialist Deborah Mitchell’s natural Heaven range, beloved by celebs and royals, is her patented bee venom formula Abeetoxin, which tricks the skin into feeling as though it has been stung, stimulating a healing response of collagen and elastin production.
The glycolic Beepeel produces a definite stinging effect (like an in-salon peel) within seconds. If you have sensitive skin, you're advised to wash it off immediately, while everyone else can leave it on for a minute. The stinging sensation and redness subsided pretty much instantly, but you can feel a slight tingle for a few hours. it’s fragrance-free with organic coconut oil and as Deborah’s focus is problem skins of all kinds, the claim that its suitable for all skin types is probably a good one. If you yearn for that post-peel shine, tighter pores and a hydrated face, this is for you. It is pretty faultless, which you'd expect with this high price tag.
For those a little nervous about using chemical peels, Eminence's offering contains a gentle exfoliating solution that calms the skin whilst it works its magic. It is made from all-natural ingredients, including chamomile, calendula and arnica flower which reduces inflammation in the skin.
Our tester recommends this product for sensitive skin, simply for its quick and effective exfoliating and calming results. Her skin was left looking luminous after a few uses, but she warns that as this essentially an exfoliating toner it's probably best you check your routine so you're not doubling up.
Alpha-H's Beauty Sleep Power is an overnight rejuvenating sleep mask designed for mature skin and acne-prone complexions. It contains vitamin A/retinol to provide firming and regenerating properties, chronodyn for toning and glycolic acid to help with the appearance of fine lines. It comes with a pushdown distributor to keep things hygienic.
This was a firm favourite by GTG's Anna who had been using it twice weekly for two months. If you still approach peels with a smidge of trepidation, you are in safe hands. Her skin was left smooth and soft with a refined texture and zero dullness. This is probably one of the best products we've come across to clean up a breakout or dissolve signs of fatigue. Pricey, yes, but as all-in-one skincare goes this is the ultimate blueprint.
Murad's peel is an intensive treatment that promises brighter skin and a more radiant complexion. It uses a deeply anti-ageing glycolic acid to exfoliate the skin and accelerate cell turnover, while antioxidants vitamin C and Indian fig are said to protect against free radical damage and strengthen the skin's natural defences.
Our tester said the most satisfying part of applying this peel was applying it immediately after stepping out of the shower after a gym session. Removing it left her skin feeling refreshed with a facial glow that mirrored the effects of an afternoon in the summer sun (or a welcome glass of red wine after a hard day).
This is an exfoliator made with fruit acids specially formulated to gently treat mature skin. It is designed to act within five minutes of application delivering a smooth and radiant complexion. It contains the L-Proline complex which stimulates the elasticity and tone of the dermis, while soothing ingredients such as essential oils help boost cell renewal.
Our tester was impressed by this peel's ability to instantly plump and soften the skin. She reported that the texture was gel-like, making it an easy application and a great booster for when you need a little pick-me-up.
The aim of this two-step kit is to help brighten your complexion and we believe it really lives up to the claim. It comes in two parts: the Glycolic Renewal Peel Professional Cleansing pads and the Glycolic Renewal Peel Professional Renewal Gel. You have to sweep the former over clean skin in order to prepare for step 2.
Our tester said the pad felt rough so you do feel it exfoliating your skin as you glide it across. There's not much of a tingling sensation (even for the five minutes she kept it on) but after three weeks of consistent use, our tester said her skin looked clearer, brighter and spot-free.
Having an uneven skin texture can be the bane of your life, but Dr Gary Goldfaden has developed the ultimate treatment to smooth out complexions. Rich in organic and natural ingredients, this supercharged peel contains a combination of lactic acid and multi-fruit extracts (a blend of lemon, orange and bilberry extracts) to rejuvenate the skin and tackle fine lines, pigmentation and wrinkles. Our tester reports that its gel-like texture makes it easy to sweep across the face and that can be left on for one to three minutes, depending on your tolerance. There is a slight tingle upon application, but once rinsed off with warm water, it leaves your skin feeling brand new.
This pick from Darphin contains a combination of lemon, pineapple and sandalwood essential oil to brighten, refine and lift dead skin cells. It has proven to be a winning cocktail for our tired-looking combination skin, but is best for oilier skin types as a monthly treat. It leaves your skin looking smoother and more radiant.
If you are not one for fuss, Perricone MD's No Rinse peel could be for you. It can be used day and night after cleansing (although important to note that if you use it in the AM, you MUST use an SPF broad spectrum) and thanks to its liquid texture, it's easy to apply. It's also designed to hydrate as well as exfoliate, which makes it different from most peels (as they can be drying) but this one is packed full of hyaluronic acid, copper complex for elasticity and firmness and amino acids to brighten.
Our tester said it kept her skin feeling plump and hydrated even under her serums and moisturisers, and praised its ability to exfoliate her skin with little to no fuss throughout the day. Plus, it doesn't leave a tingling sensation. It comes in a glass bottle, all you need to do is swipe the product across your face using a cotton pad and leave the peel to sit on your skin throughout the day. As this doesn't contain any harsh or strong AHA or BHAs such as glycolic acid, it is suitable to be worn during the day.
Containing both AHAs and PHAs, the former being the gentlest exfoliator of all, Verso Skincare’s Enzyme Peel is a powerful, yet gentle concoction of glycolic acid and lactic acid. The product is a gel-like texture that removes dirt and dead skin cells whilst accelerating skin cell production. Our editorial director waxed lyrical after one use, saying it felt natural on her skin thanks to the formulation of antioxidants and fermented fruits. It tingles a little but it’s not overpowering or uncomfortable.
For those who want to tackle the signs of ageing in a serious way, Elizabeth Arden's 28-day at-home peel promises to deliver newer, brighter and younger-looking skin. It contains skin-resurfacing AHAs (lactic acid) as well as Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) to gently exfoliate and buff away at dead skin cells.
The kit includes four vials and one dropper pipette, each with a dose of Prevage's signature antioxidant idebenone, to repair skin damage and protect cells. It is designed to be used a 'slow peel' over the course of four weeks, using one full pipette to clean skin every evening before bed. With every weekly vial, the peel increases in strength. Week one feels super gentle but the results in the morning are noticeable in the form of clearer pores (we'll report back on the full four weeks). So far, our tester loves the fact that she can put her favourite serum over the top so there's no going to bed with dry skin.
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