26 At-Home Chemical Peels That Deliver Professional Results

Real deal peels.

woman after getting chemical peel
(Image credit: Getty Images/Klaus Vedfelt)

There's no question about it: Everyone needs a good dermatologist. Not just for the life-saving skin checks, but for the instant glow of their in-office products and treatments that can be tough to capture at home. One of the most popular of these transformative treatments: the chemical peel. They're strong, so real chemical peels are only available from the pros—but there are at-home chemical peels that capture the same effects on a smaller, safer scale.

How do chemical peels work?

Chemical peels vary in strength and ingredients, but most aim to deeply exfoliate the skin to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, improve brightness, and lift away unwanted discoloration and brown spots. 

When choosing a DIY peel, it's smart to consider your skin type, says NYC-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman. "Look at the acids in the peel, and make sure they target the issue you are trying to remedy."

How are at-home chemical peels different from in-office treatments?

At-home chemical peels formulas have lower concentrations of the same acids, making them ideal for slathering them on yourself. "In-office peels have stronger concentrations of acids, meaning greater immediate results," says Engelman. "These need to be administered by a licensed practitioner, because of the potential to burn or irritate the skin," she says. At-home peels are safer and milder. 

Are there risks to at-home chemical peels?

It's critical to follow the directions on over-the-counter chemical peel products. Warns dermatologist Dennis Gross, who pioneered the at-home chemical peel: "Due to a wave of how-to YouTube videos and consumer accessibility to professional products through vendors like Amazon, I am seeing more and more instances of serious damage done to skin—all in a patient's own bathroom," He notes: "But higher concentrations of acid must be administered by a licensed professional; they can damage skin if they're not neutralized properly."

So what concentration of acid is safe? Well, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel recommends that companies use glycolic and lactic alpha-hydroxy acids in concentrations of 10 percent or less, in solutions with a pH of 3.5 or greater, when formulating consumer products. That said, many products feature higher doses.

"The biggest challenge is to not overwork the skin," says Engelman." Excessive exfoliation will expose skin, weaken skin-barrier function and trigger inflammation. If the barrier function is damaged, skin becomes vulnerable to infection from microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungus, and leads to sensitivity and irritation."

During our reporting on at-home skincare treatments, we noted that two chemical peel products labeled with the same acid concentration won't necessarily affect your complexion in the same way. The benefits, effects, and risks of each product comes down to a range of factors, including the ingredients; whether the acid is buffered with an ingredient to increase the pH level; and how long he product remains on the skin. It should go without saying, but leave the chemical peels that are formulated for salons and spas to the professionals. Also, bear in mind that chemical peels will make your skin more sensitive to sun damage, so make sure to slather on the SPF.

Taylore Glynn is the Beauty and Health Editor at Marie Claire, covering skincare, makeup, fragrance, wellness, and more. If you need her, she’s probably roasting a chicken, flying solo at the movies, or drinking a bad Negroni at JFK.