If you’re not well-versed in skincare — or perhaps even if you are — the concept of a “peel” can be cryptic. But it’s worth deciphering this mysterious category: beauty editors, skincare professionals, and more all swear by them. These gentler versions of in-office treatments use acids, extracts, and other exfoliating ingredients to delicately slough off the dead cells on your skin’s surface, revealing a fresher, more luminous complexion. Really, think of it as a striptease for your skin — it’s far more sexy than it is scary. Below, find our editors’ favorite at-home chemical peels for when they want their skin to do a little showing off.
Who: Lauren Levinson, Editorial Director
What: La Prairie® Cellular 3-Minute Peel ($250)
Why: What I love about this peel is that it actually works in just three minutes — I can put it on cleansed skin at night while I brush and floss my teeth. Yes, it is super expensive, but the experience is luxe and the benefits are real, so I’m all for it. The creamy peel comes with a chic brush to apply it onto skin (not touching the formula with your fingers keeps bacteria from contaminating the pricey potion). It tingles a little, like most peels, but it’s nothing my slightly sensitive skin can’t handle. The formula contains AHAs, BHAs, salicylic acid, and fruit enzymes — which, if you know your skincare ABCs — dissolve dead skin. When I wash it off, my skin truly looks more radiant (I know this sounds like “marketing talk” — but it’s one of the only products I’ve found that truly does it).
Who: Joslyn Winkfield, Senior Visuals Editor
What: Drunk Elephant® T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial® ($80)
Why: Every now and then, my skin needs a quick refresh, so a home peel to do a little resurfacing is the way to go. This creamy, PH-balanced mask packs a punch, containing 25% AHA and 2% BHA Glycolics, plus tartaric, lactic, citric and salicylic acids, giving my face a much needed overhaul. Though gentle, the treatment still does the job — so I only use it two to three times a month. I love that it comes with a mini Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil to soothe, hydrate, and smooth my skin even more after treating it.
Who: Emily Orofino, Senior Beauty Editor
Why:When anyone ever asks me about my skincare routine, the one consistent product I always share is this one. I’ve been singing the praises of Dr. Dennis Gross’s two-step peel pads for years now, and have no plans to stop anytime soon. They’re loaded with powerful exfoliators, like glycolic, mandelic, and salicylic acids, and impossibly easy to use (just swipe the first pad across your face, wait two minutes, then swipe with the second pad), and incredibly travel-friendly. Plus, they’re so gentle, you can use them every day. They come in three iterations, but I’m a sucker for a classic (the original Universal).
Who: Julie Ricevuto, Senior Beauty Writer
Why: I’m a huge fan of these exfoliating peel pads from PeterThomasRoth. With a 20 percent exfoliating complex made up of phytic acid, salicylic acid, and sodium lactate, these mini wipes reduce the look of pores, uneven skin texture, and fine lines. They also contain chamomile and green tea to soothe sensitive skin while working to dissolve dead skin cells. Personally, I like to toss these wipes in my gym bag to use after I get out of the shower post-workout — that after-exercise glow combined with the radiance I get from using these peel pads is seriously next level.
Who: Thia Laurain, Social Media Editor
What: Caudalie® Glycolic Peel ($39)
Why: I have sensitive, eczema-prone skin, and exfoliating is one of my greatest joys in life, so I’m always on the hunt for products that smooth and plump without any redness or irritation. This deceptively buttery formula from Caudalie feels like a moisturizing mask, but gently buffs away dead skin cells using a combination of papaya enzymes and alpha-hydroxy and glycolic acids. It leaves my skin feeling soft and radiant, thanks to moisturizing grape seed oil and a proprietary brightening ingredient that lightens dark spots 62 times more than vitamin C.
Who: Madisen Theobald, Social Media Editor
What: m-61 by Bluemercury® PowerGlow® Peel ($68)
Why: I am the queen of spray tans, so wanting to do a peel mid-week has always been a hard choice for me, as I’ve never wanted to sacrifice my weekend spray tan for brighter skin. That all changed when I was introduced to the m-61 by Bluemercury PowerGlow Peel pads. These palm-sized wipes exfoliate away the rough, dull patches on your face while building a streak-free, sun-kissed color without an orange tinge. Now, I never have to sacrifice a faux tan for the sake of better skin — I just have better, glowy skin.
Who: Sophie Wirt, Beauty Editor
Why: This is one of those peel formulas that you can literally feel going to work as it tingles away. A combination of AHAs and BHAs work in tandem to leave skin feeling soft and ready for makeup, while hydrating hyaluronic acid balances any potential irritation.
Who: Cat Matta, Copy Editor & Fact-Checker
What: GOOP® GLOW Overnight Glow Peel (12 pack for $125)
Why: I’m always looking for ways to shorten my morning and night beauty routines, and I’ve found there’s no better way to minimize the latter than using formulas that work while you sleep. Each individually-sealed GOOP pad has 15 percent glycolic acid mixed with fruit extracts to gently slough away dead skin cells as I dream the night away. By the time I wake, both my mind and skin are refreshed and ready to conquer the day.
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