Ah, the pursuit of smooth, luminous skin.
It can be a journey. But while many of us are acquainted with the collagen-boosting effects of retinoids and the brightening properties of vitamin C, home face peels represent less familiar territory. In-clinic peels are often (and unfairly) associated with the “beef carpaccio” skin Samantha Jones was left with in that infamous Sex and the City episode, but the home versions are even safer, and deliver excellent results at affordable prices. Looking to get your glow on?
What do face peels do – and do they work?
When applied to the skin, face peels (which come as a liquid) essentially help exfoliate the skin and utilise a variety of different active ingredients – most often, acids – to help improve both the appearance and the health of skin. “Broadly speaking, they resurface the skin via exfoliation which decreases cellular turnover time and reveals youthful-looking healthy skin,” explains aesthetic doctor Dr Amiee Vyas. “They stimulate collagen and elastin production and increase skin thickness as well as building volume, which makes them a great non-invasive option to treat or slow down the signs of ageing. They can also be used to treat specific concerns, including hyperpigmentation, acne and uneven texture.”
While mild in-clinic chemical peels sometimes (but not always) result in skin shedding, stronger iterations can come with more downtime. The beauty of the home version is that one can enjoy similar ingredients to the peels deployed in-clinic but at lower concentrations, which don’t penetrate the skin so deeply. In fact, Dr Vyas says they are an excellent first port of call before having treatments in clinic, as they help the skin acclimatise to active ingredients, while gradually improving the skin over time.
Some of the best home face peel ingredients are below, which can also be combined for different effects:
Glycolic acid: “This is best for glow. It delivers effective exfoliation, promotes a stronger, thicker skin barrier, plumps the skin by increasing glycosaminoglycans like hyaluronic acid, evens out the skin tone and helps to control oil,” says Dr Vyas.
Citric acid: “It does a similar job to glycolic but citric acid also has added antioxidant effects to fight environmental and sun damage,” explains Dr Vyas.
Salicylic acid: “It can help reduce pore size and breakouts,” says Dr Jonquille Chantrey, aesthetics doctor at Selfridges.
Mandelic acid: “Great for oily and acne-prone skins, mandelic acid has antibacterial properties. It is ideal for darker skin types as it is less likely to irritate the skin,” explains Dr Vyas.
Retinol or vitamin A derivatives: “An all-round winner. Great for hyperpigmentation, acne, pigmented acne scarring, texture concerns and for preventing and treating lines and sagging,” says Dr Vyas.
Are home peels safe?
Yes, but it’s all about using them in the correct way. The consensus among experts is that less is more, because active ingredients are easy to overdo. Dr Vyas recommends following the instructions on your peel of choice and, ideally, consulting with a professional to ensure your unique skin type (and tone) is properly looked after. You can expect to feel some tingling but more drastic reactions – whether heat or redness – are a no-no. “If you notice the skin is becoming very dry or irritated, pull back on the peels and other actives too,” she adds. “Recondition your barrier with hydration, ceramides and antioxidants and only reintroduce a peel once the skin is stronger.”
Can you see results after one peel?
You can certainly expect more luminous skin after one use of a good quality peel. However, depending on your skin concern, it will likely take longer to see real improvement to the overall quality of the skin. “If you are using home peels to treat an active skin concern like acne or hyperpigmentation, don’t expect results overnight,” warns Dr Vyas. “The same goes for a single peel in a clinic.”
Those that have sensitive skin should err on the side of caution and work on improving its health before advancing to home peels (and then in-clinic ones after that). Of utmost importance is ensuring the skin is comfortable and able to tolerate the peel or – unfortunately – you’ll face the consequences of angry, red skin.
How to incorporate a face peel into your skincare regime
When considering how to slot an effective home face peel into your skincare regime, it’s important to decipher your skin concern and the results you’re after. Formulation of your home face peel really is everything and understanding what’s inside it makes the difference between an effective product and one that simply doesn’t do the trick.
Stronger, medical-grade formulas are best started on a weekly basis – a Sunday evening can be a good time, to start the week with a fresh face. There are other peels that are recommended for more regular use, even daily, and these can be used as instructed, but it’s a good idea to keep tabs on how skin looks and feels to ensure you don’t unwittingly go overboard – sometimes, even if it says “daily” it can be too much for the skin. Also ensure your skincare regime is full of protective ingredients. “Always make sure you use a broad spectrum SPF of minimum 30, along with an antioxidant serum, to protect the skin from environmental damage post-peel,” says Dr Chantrey.
What is the best home face peel?
Medical grade products are an excellent choice for those who want a reliable formula that gets to work quickly: “They have been formulated to penetrate the skin and work at the exact depth where they need to be to exert effects; they work better than less sophisticated options that simply work on the dead skin layer, the stratum corneum,” Dr Vyas says. That said, gentler home peels can be excellent first ports of call for those who have never tried them before, and ensure the surface of the skin is clear of dead skin cells, while helping to control oil, for example.
Neostrata Smooth Surface Daily Peels
Bliss That’s Incredi-Peel Glycolic Acid Pads
Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Professional Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial
Kiehl’s Nightly Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate
Murad Intensive C Radiance Peel
Dr David Jack Face Paints Blue
Lixirskin Peel Express
Ren Glycol Lactic Radiance Mask
Starface Exfoliating Night Water
This article originally appeared on VOGUE UK | Author Hannah Coates