How to Give Yourself a Chemical Peel at Home

I used to go to the dermatologist for chemical peels, but I stopped when I realized I can get similar results at home with AHA products. Chemical peels can be used to deeply exfoliate the skin and reduce discolouration, acne scarring, fine lines, and wrinkles. The strong concentration of acids at the dermalogist’s office does get better results, but they must be administered by licensed professionals, who tailor the peel to your skin to prevent burning or irritation.

For anyone new to peels, I should clarify that the product does not dry into a mask that peels off. The chemical solution is applied and removed, you go on your merry way, and in the following days your skin might start peeling or flaking off as part of the intense exfoliating process. Sometimes it doesn’t peel, especially when your skin has gotten used to them. Either way, sunscreen is greatly recommended during this time.

Sometimes I do find the professional chemical peels to be too much, and when they’re particularly strong (they can vary in strength due to ingredients), you would need up to two weeks to heal. At-home products have lower concentrations of AHAs and are gentler on the skin, so no downtime is needed, making it the more convenient choice for me.

Now that we’re social distancing, I thought I’d share what I use at home. I don’t get facials, so this, plus my nontoxic daily skincare routine, is it. If you think these products are expensive, don’t ask me how much a chemical peel is at a top-rated skincare clinic.

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I’ve tried two at-home peels so far. The GoopGlow 5% Glycolic Acid Overnight Glow Peel Light is made for sensitive skin so it should be gentle enough for most people to use. Each single-use pad is soaked with product that you simply smooth onto clean skin. There should be enough product left over for the chest and back too. You only need to use this once a week. I have not tried their 15% glycolic acid version because it’s not available in Canada yet.

The other peel I tried is the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel. I got the Extra Strength version because my skin is so used to peels, but for those who are not, start with the regular version, which is also extremely popular. (If you’re wondering why all these products are in single-use packets, it’s because they would dry out otherwise.)

This is a two-step system. Step 2 is a neutralizer that’s used to balance the pH of your skin from the acid. Neutralizers are used in professional peels. The Dr. Dennis Gross peels can be used daily. I didn’t because I use other AHA products, but if you want to get faster results, using the pads daily would be more effective.

Neither of the two peels irritated my skin, and while the results were mild, it kept my skin fresh. Out of the two, I’m continuing with the GoopGlow Peels. I’m lazy and it’s only one step. Plus, I only need to use it once a week. I tend to use other exfoliating products, so I don’t need daily peels. Goop uses cleaner ingredients, so I tend to trust their products more.

This is the complete collection of AHA products in my bathroom. You definitely don’t need all of them. I’m just a skincare junkie who likes to try different products and ended up hoarding a little.

I’ve written about the Farmacy Honeymoon Glow Serum, and I still really like it. I use a few times a week, alternating with a retinol serum.

The main difference between the GoopGlow Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliator and the Goop Exfoliating Instant Facial is that the former has a grainer texture that’s better for exfoliating the skin. I prefer the latter, but it’s being discontinued, sadly.

The last product in my arsenal is The Ordinary 7% Glycolic Acid Toning Solution. If you’re planning on using it on the face, be sure to patch test. I only use this on chest and back post-workouts to prevent clogged pores. Deciem products are known to be really potent, and they have given some people chemical burns, so be careful.

I also want to emphasize not overusing acids on the skin. You don’t want to weaken skin-barrier function and trigger inflammation. If your skin feels burning sensations all the time, scale back. Use sunscreen daily, which you should using all-year-round anyway.

This is what works for me to maintain fresh, dewy skin:

1x week Goop Glow 5% Glycolic Acid Overnight Glow Peel Light

1x week GoopGlow Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliator 

2x to 3x week Farmacy Honeymoon Glow

While my skin doesn’t react at all (redness, burning sensation, irritation) to these products anymore, I prefer not to do more than this. This routine keeps my skin exfoliated without having to drop the big bucks for in-office peels. Again, if you’re new to this, start with the milder product and patch test first whenever possible.

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