The Best At Home Chemical Peels – The Ultimate Guide. Chemical peeling can eliminate a whole host of imperfections including wrinkles, acne scarring, and skin discoloration (hyperpigmentation) among others.
It is the gold standard in skin rejuvenation and is one of the most popular techniques to improve skin damage and maintain youthful and flawless skin.
The basic principle is to apply a chemical solution to exfoliate old and damaged skin in order for your body to regenerate a fresh new layer of skin that will be smoother, younger, and healthier.
Video: What happens after a chemical peel? from Jessica Rom, Licensed Esthetician
- 1 Editor’s Choice: The Best At Home Chemical Peels
- 2 A. Glycolic Acid Peels
- 2.1 Glycolic Acid 10% Gel Peel - Enhanced with AHA Collagen Stimulation (Professional Chemical Peel) - 1 fl oz For Acne, Oily Skin, Wrinkles, Blackheads, Large Pores
- 2.2 Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel - Enhanced with Retinol and Green Tea Extract (Professional Chemical Peel)- 1 fl oz 30mL
- 2.3 Glycolic Acid 50% Gel Peel - Enhanced with Retinol & Green Tea Extract (Professional Skin Peel) 1 ounce
- 2.4 Glycolic Acid 70% (Professional Chemical Peel ) 100% Pure-Highest Quality Dermal Hydration - 1 fl oz
- 2.5 Glycolic Acid Peel Kits
- 2.6 Retexturizing Chemical Glycolic Facial Skin Peel Kit
- 2.7 30% Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Aging Glycolic Peel System - FREE $65 Anti-Wrinkle Creams INCLUDED
- 2.8 Planet Eden 70% Glycolic Acid Chemical Skin Peel Kit + Glycolic Acid Pre-Peel Cleanser + Antioxidant Recovery Cream + Treatment Fan Brush
- 3 B. Lactic Acid Peels
- 3.1 Theraderm - Fruit Acid Exfoliant (10% Lactic Acid) 2 fl oz.
- 3.2 Makeup Artists Choice 40% Lactic Acid Peel For Acne, Anti Aging, Hyperpigmentation (.5 Oz)
- 3.3 Lactic Acid 50% Gel Peel with Kojic Acid, Bearberry & Licorice Root Extracts - Professional Grade Chemical Face Peel - Alpha Hydroxy Acid, 1 Bottle of 1 fl oz - QRxLabs
- 4 C. Salicylic Acid Peels
- 4.1 ASDM Beverly Hills 10% Salicylic Acid Medical Strength, 2oz
- 4.2 Salicylic Acid 20% Gel Peel - Enhanced with Tea Tree Oil & Green Tea Extract (Professional Chemical Peel)
- 4.3 SALICYLIC Acid 30% Chemical Peel with Beta Hydroxy BHA For Rosacea, Acne, Oily Skin, Blackheads, Whiteheads, Clogged Pores, Seborrheic Keratosis & More by Skin Beauty Solutions – 4 oz/120 ml
- 5 D. TCA Peels
- 5.1 10% TCA Peel Including After Peel Neutralizer. Best for Wrinkles, Acne, Smoker’s Skin. Mild-Medium Strength. Contains Retinol & Vitamin C
- 5.2 TCA 15% Gel Peel - Salicylic Acid 5% Enhanced with Botanical Extracts (Professional Quality Chemical Peel)
- 5.3 Trichloroacetic Acid Solution TCA 25% Chemical Skin Peel Kit
- 5.4 Professional 30% Pure Medical Grade Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA Peel) + Jessner's (Lactic Acid, Salicylic, Resorcinol) Chemical Peel, 30mL each, with Powerful Ultra Healing Moisturizing Lotion
- 5.5 Trichloroacetic Acid Solution TCA 35% Chemical Skin Peel
- 5.6 Trichloroacetic Acid - TCA Peel 50% Medical Grade 1oz. 30ml Pro Size (Level 4 pH 0.6)
- 5.7 75% TCA Chemical Skin Peel - Tattoo Remover, Age Spots, Skin Tags, Warts, Moles
- 5.8 Before and After Care
The Benefits of Chemical Peeling:
- Helps reduce pore size
- Improve moderate acne scars
- Improve uneven skin tone
- Reduce skin discoloration like sun spots, melasma, and acne/post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark spots)
- Improve dry, dull, and sagging skin
- Diminish fine lines and crow’s feet
- Improve sun damaged skin or photoaging
- Help eliminate comedonal acne or whiteheads and blackheads
- Help elimintate inflamed acne
- Produce hydrated, radiant, and glowing skin
- And more
Save for deep peels, regular chemical peeling isn’t a one-off procedure. It has to be done in a series of 6-10 weekly treatments in order to achieve full results.
Having them regularly done at a clinic will cost you anywhere from $150 to $400 PER SESSION. That’s $900 minimum and a whopping $4000 maximum for a series of treatments.
Definitely a dent to your bank account!
The good news is, you can definitely safely do this on your own and at the convenience of your home with the best over the counter chemical peels.
But first, you have to learn what the different types of chemical peels are and what kind of peeling agent is right for you in order for you to achieve the results you want.
Types of Chemical Peels:
Also known as lunchtime peels, these are superficial peels that penetrate only the upper layer of the skin. These are mild acids (AHAs & BHAs).
- Skin problems: Mild acne, blackheads, whiteheads, fine lines, dry and dull skin, minimal sun damage.
- Pain: These do not hurt at all, only a mild tingling sensation on contact.
- Downtime: Virtually no recovery time, though you might be a little pink after with bits of flaky skin. It’s called a lunchtime peel because you’re able to go to work straight away.
- Peeling Agents: Low concentrations (10-25%) of glycolic acids, lactic acids, fruit acids, and Jessner’s solution.
- Number of Treatments Recommended: 6-10 treatments in one week intervals.
The acid penetrates to the middle layer of the skin to remove damaged skin cells.
- Skin problems: Acne, blackheads, whiteheads, fine lines and wrinkles, light acne scarring, photoaging or medium sun damage, age spots, moderate skin discoloration or hyperpigmentation, precancerous skin growths ie. actinic keratosis
- Pain: It will sting more than the light peel but will not be overly painful. The sensation will reduce over time once your skin adjusts to the acid.
- Downtime: 7-14 days. The skin will be red in the first 48 hours. The skin will crust and peel off during the downtime period. Skin should be soaked in antibacterial solutions followed by ointments to ensure full healing.
- Peeling Agents: A combination of higher concentrated acids – 50% TCA, glycolic acid or Jessner’s solution up to 70% with TCA up to 35%
- Number of Treatments Recommended: 6-10 treatments in one week intervals
The peeling agent will penetrate deep into the skin to correct damaged skin cells. You will see a dramatic improvement to the skin but we recommend that you DON’T DO THIS AT HOME, especially for beginners, as complications or potential side effects may produce permanent scarring. If you think your skin issues require this type of peeling, please visit your local dermatologist and have them assess your condition. The peeling agents used for this procedure should only be administered by trained physicians.
- Skin problems: moderate lines and wrinkles, moderate acne scarring and hyperpigmentation
- Pain: This feels like a severe sunburn
- Downtime: 14-21 days. There will be redness, swelling, and irritation. The area will be bandaged and must be soaked 4-6 times daily, followed by ointment application. The dermatologist may also prescribe antibacterial and antiviral medication. There will also be several follow-up appointments to monitor the healing progress.
- Peeling Agents: TCA, Baker’s phenol
Video: The Types of Chemical Peels
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Editor’s Choice: The Best At Home Chemical Peels
At home over the counter chemical peels varies in type and strength.
When choosing which product would suit you best, you must first determine:
- Your skin type (oily skin, dry skin, etc.)
- What skin problems you’re looking to address (dull skin, pigmentation, etc.)
- Skin sensitivity or tolerance to acids (AHAs & BHAs – This will determine what % or concentration you should choose. The list is in ascending order or lowest % to highest %.)
Peeling for maintenance: For those wanting to maintain a youthful glow, regularly doing a series of light peels every 6 months or so will keep your skin in top shape.
Peeling for correction: Those looking to correct imperfections like hyperpigmentation or dark spots, acne, or scarring; gradually moving up to a series of medium to deep peels would be your best bet.
If this is your first foray into home peeling (Be prepared for your best skin yet! 😉 ), you will need tools like a fan brush and an acid neutralizer for certain types of peeling. You can refer to our Before and After Care Guide or more details.
- Ideal for
- Unique Strengths
(Note: All acid types share the same core benefits of chemical peeling, though some areas to a greater degree than others. Weve organized them here so you can take advantage of each type for your skin conditions.)
- Targeted Skin Issues
- Concentrations Available
Normal to combination skin
- Fast-acting, quickest acid to penetrate the skin.
- Smallest of all AHAs, able to penetrate deeper into the skin
- Induces exfoliation, skin turnover, and boost collagen formation.
- Reduces visible signs of aging
- The most popular type of peeling treatment.
- Usually with zero downtime; used in most lunchtime peels.
Mild acne, dull skin texture, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, minimal sun damage
10%, 30%, 50%, 70%
Dry, Dehydrated, or Sensitive skin; Mature skin
- Moisturizing; hydrates the skin and improves the skins natural barrier
- Brightening; clears out uneven skin tone
- Gentlest type of peeling acid, usually has minimal irritation
- Combined with other acids for the above unique characteristics
- Induces exfoliation, skin turnover, and collagen formation.
Dehydrated skin, dull or tired skin, aging skin, age spots, freckles, rosacea, light sun damage, fine lines, mild acne
10%, 40%, 50%
Oily and Acne-prone skin
- Oil-soluble; has the ability to penetrate into congested pores and soften any hard plugs
- Helps minimize and clear out large pores
- Exfoliates built-up layers of oil and dead skin cells
- Induces skin turnover, and collagen formation.
Moderate acne, blackheads, whiteheads, large pores, superficial scars, dull skin, medium sun damage
10%, 20%, 30%
Mature skin or damaged skin
- Used for facial resurfacing and skin rejuvenation; higher concentrations are commonly used for deep peels
- Used for skin discolorations such as melasma, hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone; best at home chemical peel for dark spots and sun damage
- Used to treat skin laxity like fine lines, wrinkles, crows feet, drooping skin
- Used for superficial damage or acne scarring
- Downtime can take days to a few weeks
Discoloration, melasma, acne scars, pigmentation, fine lines, sun damage, large pores, stretch marks, milia and skin tags
15%, 30%, 45%, 50%, 75%
A. Glycolic Acid Peels
Glycolic acid is a naturally occurring acid found in sugar cane. It has the smallest molecule among all the AHAs, making it fast-acting and able to penetrate the skin at a rapid rate. Peels in lower concentrations can be done quickly and effectively with little to no downtime.
Glycolic acid peels are used to combat signs of skin damage and increase efficacy of everyday skincare products by removing any build-ups on the skin. It has also been proven to be effective against mild to moderate inflamed acne, hyperpigmentation, and melasma. Because of its cost-effectiveness, Glycolic peels are among the most popular type of chemical peeling performed by dermatologists worldwide.
These are mostly used for superficial peels but the depth of penetration still depends on the % strength used. Again, if you’re new to peeling, you can start with the lowest concentration and work your way up. You will also need other tools like a fan brush and an acid neutralizer. Alternatively, you can buy them in sets for convenience.
Best for: Normal to combination skin.
Treatment for: Mild acne, dull skin texture, fine lines, minimal sun damage
Video: In-Office Lunchtime Glycolic Peel Demo with Dr. Schultz
Glycolic Acid Peel Kits
When you buy your first bottle of chemical peeling agent, you’ll need to purchase other tools as well, like a brush applicator and a neutralizing agent among others.
You can save yourself the trouble and reduce any chances of buying the wrong one by getting a complete set instead.
B. Lactic Acid Peels
Lactic acid is naturally occurring and found in sour milk. It is one of the oldest types of skin treatments, dating back to Ancient Rome and Egypt. (Cleopatra reportedly bathed in milk to maintain her youthful beauty. Turns out its was lactic acid all along!)
It has the characteristics of all acid peels, which is inducing exfoliation, cell turnover, and collagen formation.
What makes lactic acid unique however is its ability to induce hyaluronic acid, the skin’s natural way of retaining moisture. It hydrates the skin and improves the skin’s natural barrier moreso than the other acids. It also brightens and evens out uneven skin tone, even difficult cases like melasma in darker-skinned patients.
Lactic acid does all of this while keeping it gentle with minimal irritation. This makes it perfect for sensitive, dry, or dehydrated skin.
Best for: Dry, Dehydrated, or Sensitive skin; Mature skin
Treatment for: Dehydrated skin, dull or tired skin, aging skin, age spots, freckles, rosacea, light sun damage, fine lines, mild acne
Video: Chemical Peels – Lactic Acid Peel Demonstration by Skin therapist Nash Tsolos
C. Salicylic Acid Peels
All of the other type of peels are water-soluble. This means that while it can exfoliate the upper layers of your skin, it won’t be able to get through any pockets of oil in the pores.
For those with oily or acne-prone skin, you’ll need an oil-soluble peel that can cut through the oil so it can flush out the pores. This is where salicylic acid comes in.
Salicylic acid is the only oil-soluble peel that is able to penetrate into congested pores to effectively exfoliate the pore lining. It’s able to unclog blackheads, whiteheads, and acne because of this. It’s also a good anti-inflammatory agent so it can help with some of the redness associated with acne.
Salicylic peels have proven to have excellent results against hyperpigmentation and comedonal acne.
With regular exfoliation, there will be less build up of dead skin and debris on the skin, resulting in less frequent bouts of acne.
You skin will also me more susceptible to any topical medication and serums you use, increasing its efficacy.
If you’re new to peeling, you can start with the lowest concentration and work your way up. Make sure to avoid this if you are pregnant or allergic to aspirin.
Best for: Oily and acne-prone skin
Treatment for: Moderate acne, blackheads, whiteheads, large pores, superficial scars, dull skin, medium sun damage
Video: Acne Prone Skin Care : How Do I Peel Skin With Salicylic Acid? Expert Advice by Dr. Rosayln George
D. TCA Peels
TCA or trichloroacetic acid have long been considered the de facto peeling agent for damaged skin because of its versatility and extensive history. Because TCA is a stronger acid than glycolic, lactic, and salicylic; these are used for medium and deeper type of peels because of its effectiveness against pigmentation, sun damage, and wrinkles.
It’s used for facial resurfacing to correct discolorations like melasma, pigmentation, brown spots, sun damage, and uneven skin tones. It’s best for damaged skin as well, like leathery skin from tanning/sun damage or acne scarring.
This is one of the best at home chemical peel for dark spots and sun damage. A series of medium depth peels have been proven to significantly reduce sun damage.
TCA is also used in clinics for skin rejuvenation, especially for mature skin. It improves skin laxity like sagging skin, fine lines, wrinkles, and crows feet.
If you’re looking for the best at home chemical peel for acne scars and wrinkles, this is a great way to start.
Best for: Mature skin or damaged skin
Treatment for: Discoloration, melasma, acne scars, hyperpigmentation, dark spots, fine lines, sun damage, large pores, stretch marks, milia and skin tags
Video: How to TCA peel – Tutorial by Aesthetic & Laser Dermatologist Dr Davin Lim
Before and After Care
Before Doing Chemical Peels at Home:
- Do a patch test to make sure your skin can tolerate the strength of the product. Over the counter chemical peels usually come with instructions on how to properly perform a patch test.
- Only do a peel once a week to avoid damaging your skin. You can do a series of peels once every 6 months, 1 week apart for 5-8 weeks.
- It’s extremely important you do not leave the peel on any longer than the recommended amount of time to avoid damaging your skin.
- If you have acids in your skincare routine like retinoic, salicylic, or lactic acids, avoid using the at least 24 hours before doing a chemical peel. The same goes for any physical exfoliants in your regimen like scrubs.
- Peel type and strengths should be tailored depending on your condition. You know your skin best so be very observant especially on your first time.
What you will need:
- Gentle cleanser
- Petroleum jelly (Vaseline)
- Peeling Agent
- A fan brush (e.g. Fan Brush Taklon 7.75″), gauze, or cotton pads
- Neutralizing agent (e.g. Planet Eden Organic Botanical Skin Chemical Peel Neutralizer, QRxLabs Chemical Peel Neutralizer – post-peel PH balancing with chamomile and green tea extracts)
- Soothing gels like aloe vera, hyaluronic serums, gentle moisturizers, or hydrocortisone at night
- Cleanse with a gentle face wash and a washcloth. Avoid anything with exfoliants like beads or any other strong ingredients. You won’t go wrong with face washes that are aimed at sensitive skin.
- Pat your face dry before putting on the peel. Your skin needs to be completely dry before starting the process.
- Apply a barrier in your eye and lip area to protect them. You can use petroleum jelly.
- Get your timer ready. If it’s your first time, turn the timer on before you start applying the peel. If you’re on your 5th or 6th try, you can start timing your sessions once you finish applying the peel.
- Dip your gauze, brush, or cotton in the solution, making sure to squeeze out any excess to avoid any drips.
- Apply a thin layer of the peel starting with your forehead and working your way down, avoiding sensitive areas like around the eyes. (Acid in the eyes or lips is trouble!)
- As you wait for the timer to go off, you might feel a tingling sensation on your skin. You can fan your face to help with the discomfort. If it hurts too much, wash it off immediately. If you did the patch test though, you should be fine.
- Using lukewarm water or your neutralizing agent, gently. Be very gentle because it will be sensitive from the chemical peel. Make sure to wash thoroughly to remove any residue.
You’ll notice that your skin will be brighter and clearer. For some, it might be slightly pink but this will subside in about an hour.
- Finally, you’ll have to nourish and protect your skin. You can use soothing gels like aloe vera, hyaluronic serum, or hydrocortisone at night. Again, products aimed for sensitive skin will be your best bet. This will help calm down the skin from any irritation you might have from the peel.
Aftercare Reminders: Chemical Peels at Home
- Avoid using acids or exfoliants for the next few days to allow your skin time to heal.
- Avoid direct sunlight. The week after the peel, you’ll be more sensitive to sunlight.
- Avoid smoking to minimize the risk of any infections.
- Apply a sunscreen with at least the 30 SPF to protect the skin while healing and avoid any hyperpigmentation.
- Do not manually peel the flaking skin. This is very important because if you do, you’re going to create scabs and could potentially be infected.
- Use a gentle cleanser to avoid aggravating your skin.
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