Skin Care Blogs

The Best Exfoliating Peels for Every Skin Concern

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You may have traded a beach getaway for a picnic in the park this year, but the fact remains that the sun’s UV rays are more potent in the summer, and they can worsen concerns like dark spots, dullness and rough texture. Thankfully, exfoliating peels can help with these issues and more.

“As we get older, the top layer of our skin—the epidermis—turns over more slowly, and that leads to dull, hyperpigmented skin,” says Shari Marchbein, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “What peels do is remove those top layers of the skin to reveal healthy, glowy, dewy skin below.”

If you can’t get to your dermatologist’s office at this time, at-home exfoliating peels are a good alternative. While a chemical peel at your doctor’s office may use trichloroacetic acid (TCA), phenol or resorcinol, at-home exfoliating peels use gentler ingredients like alpha and beta hydroxy acids (such as lactic, glycolic and salicylic acids) at lower concentrations. “In-office peels may go into deeper epidermal layers, potentially the dermis, and really help with wrinkles and acne scars,” says Dr. Marchbein. “But at-home peels are also excellent to brighten skin, smooth texture and dramatically lighten spots.”

Do’s and Don’ts of Using a Face Peel

Before you dive in, here’s what you need to know about adding a peel to your routine. 

Do Wear a (Physical) Sunscreen

Dermatologists recommend everyone wear sunscreen every day, but if you’re using a chemical exfoliant, it’s even more important. “You’re leaving your skin a little more exposed, since you are removing those top layers of the epidermis,” says Dr. Marchbein, who recommends a physical (or mineral) formula. “Physical sunscreens protect skin that hyperpigments easily by creating a literal barrier that reflects off the sun, while chemical sunscreen actually absorbs some of the heat, and can worsen pigmentation issues,” she explains.

Don’t Combine Peels with Physical Exfoliators

Going overboard on exfoliation can irritate skin and lead to eczema, redness, dryness, inflammation and acne breakouts. When using a chemical exfoliant like a peel, “Hold off on any scrubs made from granular particles,” says Whitney Bowe, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “I also recommend avoiding loofah or Buf-Pufs, and anything else abrasive on the skin.”

Do Incorporate Days of Repair

“People who exfoliate every day run into issues with their skin barrier, so I recommend spacing out your peels by four nights,” says Dr. Bowe. (If you have very sensitive skin, Dr. Marchbein recommends using a peel only once a week.) On off days, Dr. Bowe advises you use products with ingredients that restore the skin barrier, such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, jojoba oil, sunflower seed oil and squalane.

The Best Peel for Your Skin Concern

Looking for a chemical peel to target a specific concern? Here are our top picks.

  1. Best Peel for Wrinkles
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    Best Peel for Wrinkles

    NeoStrata Retinol 0.3% Overnight Peel
    If your main concern is reducing the appearance of deep wrinkles, the 0.3% pure stabilized retinol concentration coupled with 10% NeoCitriate in this weekly peel (a Dermstore exclusive) not only helps exfoliate and reveal fresh skin, but also promotes collagen synthesis.

    Buy now with free delivery
  2. Best Peel for Acne
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    Best Peel for Acne

    Jan Marini Multi-Acid Resurfacing Pads
    Salicylic acid helps unclog oil-blocked pores, while glycolic acid sinks deep down and resurfaces skin, making this peel a great option for clearing acne and targeting discoloration.

    Buy now with free delivery
  3. Best Peel for Hyperpigmentation
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    Best Peel for Hyperpigmentation

    Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel

    The best peels targeting hyperpigmentation feature a cocktail of alpha and beta hydroxy acids. These pre-soaked pads combine salicylic, mandelic, malic, citric, lactic and glycolic acids to improve skin’s tone and texture, plus anti-aging boosters like retinol and vitamin C.
    Try it as part of our Problem Solution: The Essential Set for aging and discolored skin.

    Buy now with free delivery
  4. Best Peel for Brightening Dull Skin
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    Best Peel for Brightening Dull Skin

    Naturopathica Sweet Cherry Brightening Enzyme Peel
    Natural skin care lovers can opt for this peel which helps brighten and smooth sun-damaged skin with the help of vitamin-rich, anti-inflammatory sweet cherry puree, lactic and salicylic acids and resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant.

    Buy now with free delivery
  5. Best Peel for Sensitive Skin
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    Best Peel for Sensitive Skin

    First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads
    If this is your first foray into acids, or you have sensitive skin, these daily treatment pads contain a lowered concentration of lactic and glycolic acids to safely brighten, tone and exfoliate your skin without causing irritation.

    Buy now with free delivery
  6. Best Peel for Smoothing Rough Skin
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    Best Peel for Smoothing Rough Skin

    Elemis Dynamic Resurfacing Facial Pads
    If you’re in search of a radiant and luminous complexion, look no further. This resurfacing treatment combines probiotics and lactic acid with Elemis’ patented tri-enzyme formula (papain, protease, and Subtilisin) to break up peptide bonds and encourage the skin’s surface cell renewal.

    Buy now with free delivery


Beauty Editor

Mellanie Perez

Mellanie Perez is a freelance lifestyle, beauty and wellness writer and editor based in Houston, Texas and—occasionally—Puerto Rico. She has been on staff at Modern Luxury and Sunday Riley, where she mastered the art of clean copy and tight deadlines. When not preoccupied with getting through the 10 books on her nightstand or getting in her daily workout, she can be found writing essays and poetry, and learning trending dances on Tik Tok. You can see more of her work at mellanieperez.com or follow her on Instagram.