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Brightening Peels: How They Work and What Ingredients to Look For

Brightening Peels | Dermstore Blog

You know those pesky dark spots that make your skin tone look all uneven? They’re more than mere freckles; they’re mostly caused by sun exposure and damage over time. “The sun and elevated hormone levels cause melasma and patchy brown areas, often involving the forehead, lateral cheeks and upper lip,” explains Heather Rogers, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Modern Dermatology in Seattle. 

The good news is that you no longer have to head to your local esthetician or dermatologist’s office and splurge on an expensive treatment to lighten these dark spots and even out your skin tone. There are a myriad of at-home peels that do the hard work of sloughing off dead skin cells to reveal younger, brighter skin cells, with some being everyday pads versus weekly treatments, says Dr. Rogers. “Most options include a combination of alpha (AHA) and beta (BHA) hydroxy acids, antioxidants and retinols.”

For those with sensitive skin, who may be even more afraid to peel away, start out with an AHA like glycolic acid, which may be more gentle than other AHAs and BHAs. “Glycolic acid is very safe and effective at lightening brown spots through gentle chemical exfoliation,” says Dr. Rogers. “With repeated use any burning sensation usually improves, but if it gets too stingy, you can neutralize with water and then follow with a bland moisturizer.”

When using at-home brightening peels, pay close attention to the recommended usage. Dr. Rogers even suggests using it less often than directed to make sure you don’t overdo it. “Once your skin is irritated, the raw skin will take even longer to recover.” She recommends using an at-home peel at night so your skin has enough time to recover before being hit with the sun’s rays.

In the next several days post-peel, make sure you protect that newly exposed skin with a thick, hydrating moisturizer. “If you have ‘tough’ skin and want to experiment a bit, apply an antioxidant serum to bump up its absorption,” Dr. Roger suggests. Just remember—a peel should take the place of your exfoliant for the time being, since it plays the same role. Over-exfoliation will only lead to severely dry skin that’s more sensitive and susceptible to signs of aging.

Ready to take the next step towards brighter, lighter and healthier skin? Here are six of the most effective and worthwhile brightening peels on the market today.

  1. 1. Erno Laszlo Luminous Dual Phase Vitamin C Peel

  2. 2. Glycolix Treatment Pads 20%
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    2. Glycolix Treatment Pads 20%

    Glycolix Treatment Pads 20% allows you to say goodbye to wrinkles and large pores and hello to smooth, clean and young-looking skin. Glycolic acid treatment pads, which have a pH level of 4, gently exfoliate, moisturize and assist in the removal of oils and residue. These convenient and easy-to-use treatment pads contain witch hazel, delivering skin-toning and astringent benefits, as well as vitamins A, C, E and Coenzyme
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  3. 3. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel - Packettes
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    3. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel - Packettes

    Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel - Packettes refines and rejuvenates the skin to give your complexion a healthy and radiant appearance without fine lines, large pores, dark spots and breakouts. Enriched with mandelic acid, derived from bitter almond, these face pads remove dead skin cells to improve the tone and texture of the skin. Willow bark extract acts as a natural astringent to tighten and reduce
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  4. 4. Jan Marini Skin Zyme
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    4. Jan Marini Skin Zyme

    Skin Zyme (formally Skin Zyme Papaya Mask) is a highly effective mask made from papaya enzymes. Jan Marini designed this product for supplemental home care exfoliation, with its ability to thoroughly digest dead epidermal cells without harming
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  5. 5. Aquareveal Satin Bright Soft Water Peel for Face

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  6. 6. First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads
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    6. First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads

    First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads brighten your skin with non-irritating botanical extracts for a clear and youthful appearance. Lemon peel and licorice root extracts target hyperpigmentation while lactic and glycolic acids reduce wrinkles for a glowing complexion. Cucumber and Indian gooseberry extracts calm inflammation while hyaluronic acid and white tea extract hydrate and protect your
    Buy now with free delivery

Beauty Reporter

Jenn Sinrich

Jenn Sinrich is a freelance writer, editor and content strategist in NYC. Her work can be found in Women’s Health, SELF, Reader's Digest, Health, PureWow and more. When she's not putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), she can be found traveling the world and discovering more about the big apple of a city she's always dreamed of calling home. Follow her on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.