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How Salicylic Acid Peels Work + Top 5 Picks

Women with oily and acne-prone skin, rejoice! Salicylic acid peels are your new best friend. While not technically magic (but cleverly close), the bread and butter of these nourishing peels lies in the active ingredient: salicylic acid. This beta hydroxy acid, which prompts the skin to rejuvenate itself, helps to remove oil and dead skin cells from the skin’s surface.

Your options are at-home salicylic acid peels and in-office treatments. You can do both—but there are pros and cons worth considering. Brian A. Pinsky, MD, of Long Island Plastic Surgical Group, explains that the difference is the percentage of this key ingredient.

An at-home peel has 20 percent salicylic acid concentration or less whereas intermediate and deep in-office treatments have 30 to 50 percent. Dr. Pinsky breaks it down based on your skin concerns:

  • Superficial at-home peels: Little to no downtime. Best for skin tone and texture, pigment issues, acne.
  • Intermediate peels: Causes flaking and redness, and can be repeated every six to twelve weeks. Best for fine lines, skin pigment, elasticity issues.
  • Deep peels: Can cause severe peeling and requires seven to ten days for healing, and can be repeated quarterly. Best for wrinkles, acne scarring, skin laxity issues.

Whether at home or in-office, Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, recommends using “a bland moisturizer and a gentle skin cleanser to prevent skin irritation and to help enhance skin healing.”

Top 5 At-Home Salicylic Acid Peels

If you wish to start with the worry-free wonder of at-home salicylic acid peels, below we have listed our top five picks so you can peel away your skin woes and reveal a brilliant you.

  1. 1. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare - Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel
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    1. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare - Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel

    Users exclaim that it evens their skin tone and multiple users mentioned how friends and family notice their beautiful skin. One user says that her “large pores have shrunk in size, cystic acne bumps have decreased in size, and most importantly, those dark spots on cheek and other areas have diminished.”

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  2. 2. HydroPeptide - 5X Power Peel
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    2. HydroPeptide - 5X Power Peel

    These towelettes have a blend of ingredients like fruit acids and retinoic-like peptides great for all skin types. One user loves the soft and clean feeling while another remarks, “I have sensitive skin so that’s a big plus for me.”

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  3. 3. Kerstin Florian - Correcting At-Home Professional Peel

    This exfoliating salicylic acid peel with peptides can be used two to three times per week for smooth, radiant skin. One user, rating this product with five stars, loves the convenience of the professional-grade pads saying that it is “quicker and easier to apply” and that all you need is “2 to 3 minutes” for skin that is soft and clean.

  4. 4. Bakel - Pure Peel

    “I like the entire Bakel line,” says one user, expanding on the Pure Peel which she says “works quickly and effectively. It feels pure on the skin and after just five minutes the skin glows.” The Pure Peel has citric, phytic and mandelic acids alongside salicylic acids and comes with 20 applications for weekly use.

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  5. 5. Drunk Elephant - T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial

    This product is technically a mask but it gives your skin 25 percent more TLC: that’s glycolic + (T) tartaric, (L) lactic, (C) citric acids. And of course, some salicylic acid for an anti-aging once-a-week skin rescue mask that one user calls “a treat” and another user calls an at-home facial. “My skin is super soft, oil and breakout free,” one user exclaims. “I’ve been going makeup free since starting this regimen and frequently get compliments about my skin.”

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Freelance Writer

Kaleena Stroud

Kaleena is a freelance content writer based out of Los Angeles. She is crazy about books and travel. If you can't find her unearthing used novels at a thrift store or typing away at a coffee shop, she is probably out of the country. Kaleena graduated from California State University, Long Beach where she began her career as a technical writer but now specializes in SEO content and web copy. She also enjoys improv shows and trying out new recipes.

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