At-Home Chemical Peels That Give Professional-Grade Results

Real deal peels.

collage of some of the best at home chemical peels including Dr Dennis Gross and Lancer
(Image credit: Brittany Holloway-Brown/Future)

Some treatments are best left to the pros—and an intense chemical peel with glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acid is most definitely one of them. Don’t test your fate (or face) with at-home experiments. But, that’s not to say that chemical face exfoliators won’t give you the same glow-boosting, skin-evening benefits via a safer medium. The best at-home chemical peels are going to be *much* gentler, won’t require downtime, and will typically be delivered through peel pad, serum-like liquid, or wash-off formula. Granted, it may take a bit longer to notice a smoother texture or faded dark spots, but believe us when we say that incorporating one into your routine is 100 percent worth it in the long run. At-home 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. 

To get the answers to all of your chemical peel questions and shop for the safest at-home options, keep scrolling. (If you’re interested in more professional-grade at-home treatments, check out our favorite LED masks, keratin treatments, and dermaplaning tools. )

What to Look for in a Chemical Peel

  • Type of Acid

When choosing a DIY peel, it's smart to consider your skin type, says Dr. Engelman. "Look at the acids in the peel, and make sure they target the issue you are trying to remedy." For example, someone with acne-prone skin might want to seek out a salicylic acid peel, while someone with sensitive skin looking to target hyperpigmentation is better suited with glycolic acid.

  • Strength of Acid 

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. As for salicylic acid? The maximum concentration in over-the-counter products is two percent.

  • Medium

You're going to notice that the chemical peels on this list range from peel pads to overnight treatments. While the medium you choose is in large part personal preference, it's worth noting that short-term, wash-off products are *typically* going to have less of an impact than leave-on formulas that can work overnight. However, that doesn't mean that the latter is necessarily better. Wash-off products are generally ideal for more sensitive or dry skin types. 

Is an At-Home Chemical Peel Safe?

Let us preface this by saying that using a professional-grade product at home is unsafe—those high intensity acids should *only* be used by doctors.

“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," says Dr. Dennis Gross, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare. "Higher concentrations of acid must be administered by a licensed professional; they can damage skin if they're not neutralized properly." That said, using a peel pad, mask, or serum that is specifically designed for at-home use is a-OK

The Best At-Home Chemical Peels

At-Home Chemical Peel vs. Professional Chemical Peel

At-home chemical peels formulas have lower concentrations of acids (read: glycolic, lactic, salicylic), making them safer for at-home use. "In-office peels have stronger concentrations of acids, meaning greater immediate results," says Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "These need to be administered by a licensed practitioner, because of the potential to burn or irritate the skin," she says. 

How Often Should I Use an At-Home Chemical Peel?

"The biggest challenge is to not overwork the skin," says Dr. 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."

As a rule of thumb, start slow. Use an at-home chemical peel once a week or once every other week to see how your skin tolerates it. Some products are super gentle and safe for every other day use, while others should only be used once every few weeks. (Editor's note: If you decide to use an at-home chemical peel, it’s even more important to use one of the best sunscreen products, as they can make skin extra sensitive to the sun.) 

Meet the Dermatologists

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Dr. Dendy Engelman

Dr. Dendy Engelman is a board certified dermatologic surgeon at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue. Dr. Engelman attended Wofford College in South Carolina and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and graduated summa cum laude with honors with a double major in psychology and French. She also played on Wofford's varsity volleyball team. Dr. Engelman earned the Presidential Scholar award while a medical student at the Medical University of South Carolina. She was also awarded the Humanism in Medicine Scholarship primarily for establishing and running a free medical care clinic in Charleston and in Haiti where she continues to serve on an annual mission with her family. Following medical school, Dr. Engelman completed her internship in Internal Medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan. In addition to a dermatology residency at the Medical University of South Carolina, Dr. Engelman completed a one-year fellowship in Mohs and dermatologic surgery, lasers, liposuction and vein treatments. She also has extensive training and experience in cosmetic dermatology - including neurotoxins, injectable fillers, and chemical peels. Most recently, Dr. Engelman was appointed Director of Dermatologic Surgery at New York Medical College where she oversees the training of future Mohs surgeons and dermatologists. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatologic Surgery and American College of Mohs Surgery.

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Dr. Dennis Gross

Dr. Dennis Gross is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon. Dr. Dennis Gross has been in practice for 25 years and is the founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Dermatology, an exclusive dermatology practice on 5th Avenue across from Central Park in Manhattan. A top-rated dermatologist, Dr. Dennis Gross is well known and has been featured as one of New York Magazine’s Best Doctors for his expertise in skin health as well as his approach to creating and maintaining the most natural-looking skin utilizing the very latest state-of-the-art cosmetic treatments and dermatologic technology. Dr. Dennis Gross is a regular invited guest on shows including Dr. OZ, The Today Show, The Doctors, CBS: The Early Show, and on CNN. Dr. Dennis Gross is also the founder of the award-winning and innovative skincare line Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare™, which is inspired by patients at the practice and is a bestseller at Sephora, Nordstrom, QVC and around the world. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare™ has been lauded for its innovative approach to skincare and home peeling treatments by every major magazine, including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and The New York Times Magazine. Dr. Gross published his first consumer book “Your Future Face: The Customized Plan to Look Younger at Any Age in 2004.