Why chemical peels are the secret to clear and healthy skin

Alyssa Tria
Shopping Editor

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Good skin is easier to achieve than you may think. Beneath all the acne, the dark spots and annoying fine lines are layers of healthy skin that are just waiting to come to surface. The fastest way to get there is with a chemical peel — a classic treatment at any dermatologist’s office.

“[Chemical peels] generally address a deficiency that's noticed — for example, acne or marks left over from acne/ pigmentary concerns that are superficial.  Sometimes it can address very superficial textural changes as well,” says Renée A. Beach, a dermatologist in Toronto.

The best news is that you don’t need to splurge to get your peel. There are now endless options for getting smoother, brighter and clearer skin with the plethora of at-home facial peel kits available at local shops. The combination of AHA (glycolic and lactic acid), BHAs (salicylic acid which is the gold standard for acne) and gentle exfoliants like fruit enzymes is designed to dissolve dead skin cells to reveal younger-looking skin overnight or in as little as a few minutes.

That being said, Beach warns that at-home peels aren’t for everyone.

“Certain peels can be widely used across a variety of skin types (for example, glycolic acid-containing peels), but some can be too strong for sensitive skin or put deeper skin tones at risk of inflammation that can ultimately lead to darker marks or dyspigmentation,” she explains.

We’ve rounded up the best at-home chemical peels on the market to help cater to your skincare needs and concerns.

Goop GOOPGLOW 5% Glycolic Acid Overnight Glow Peel Light

Goop GOOPGLOW 5% Glycolic Acid Overnight Glow Peel Light

A gentle overnight acid peel that delivers an effective five per cent of glycolic acid (the gold standard in chemical exfoliation to remove dead skin and support cell turnover) to help improve the look and feel of skin while you sleep.

SHOP IT: Sephora, $175

Caudalie Glycolic Peel

Caudalie Glycolic Peel

This gentle peel, a 10-minute instant facial at home, buffs away dull, dead skin cells and brightens dark spots to reveal a glowing, smooth complexion. Made with natural, time-release glycolic,  papaya enzymes and Caudalie’s signature Viniferine, a brightening complex that is clinically proven to lighten dark spots 62 times more than vitamin C, this treatment supports collagen production for healthier-looking skin. 

SHOP IT: Sephora, $51 

Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads Extreme 

Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads Extreme 

The potent version of the skincare label’s bestselling glycolic fix pads, these extreme night pads contain a higher level of glycolic acid (5 per cent) and have been further enhanced with the addition of salicylic acid, making these the ultimate affordable night treatment to refine pores, brighten the complexion and de-congest the skin through the improvement of the skin’s natural exfoliation process.  

SHOP IT: Nip + Fab, $25 ($19 USD)

Beautycounter Counter + Overnight Resurfacing Peel 

Beautycounter Counter + Overnight Resurfacing Peel 

Formulated with a proprietary multi-acid complex, this bestselling leave-on AHA/BHA peel improves skin texture and boosts clarity and radiance without irritation or over-drying. With glycolic, malic, and botanically derived lactic acid, the formula clears away dull surface cells, while arginine and essential fatty acids help soothe and nourish to reveal a brighter complexion. After just one week of use, 87 per of users said skin felt smoother and softer. 

SHOP IT: Beautycounter, $80

LASPA Intensive Anti-Aging Glycolic Peel 

LASPA Intensive Anti-Aging Glycolic Peel 

This overnight treatment kit is powered with a unique blend of 100 per cent natural glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid for gentle and safe exfoliation with a boost of moisture. With daily use every two weeks, this ageing peel increases skin turnover to reveal plump skin,  clear pores and reduced appearance of dark spots, fine lines and wrinkles. 

SHOP IT: LASPA Naturals, $130 

Boscia Exfoliating Peel Gel 

Boscia Exfoliating Peel Gel 

Rather than using it as a leave-on treatment, this lightweight gel peel works in three ways: As a physical peel to remove the outer layer of dead skin, as a chemical peel for in-depth exfoliation, and as a treatment to help skin appear firmer and brighter for a healthy-looking complexion. Made with exfoliating molecules, fruit AHAs and enzymes, it removes debris and excess skin as you massage the solution onto the face in a circular motion. The results are gross and oddly satisfying. 

SHOP IT: Sephora, $45

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant 

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant 

The brand’s top product worldwide,. This fan-favourite leave-on solution is made with salicylic acid to quickly exfoliate dead skin cells while clearing pores for a more even, radiant tone. It also visibly reduces fine lines and wrinkles to reveal remarkably smoother, and younger-looking skin. This exfoliant has an optimal pH range of 3.2–3.8 — perfect for those with cystic acne.  

Shop it: Paula’s Choice, $24 ($32 USD)  (originally $30 ($40 USD))

Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Amino Acid Exfoliating Peel Pads 


Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Amino Acid Exfoliating Peel Pads 

Each tube comes with 60 peel pads packed with peptide-building amino acids that help reduce the look of pores, uneven tone, texture, fine lines and wrinkles. The Peptide 21 pads are formulated with a 20 per cent exfoliating complex of phytic acid, salicylic acid and sodium lactate, which help to reveal beautiful, healthier, younger-looking skin. Vitamins A and E designed to deliver antioxidant benefits while chamomile and green tea help calm and smooth skin's appearance.

SHOP IT: Nordstrom, $72 

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel


Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel

A patented two-step anti-aging AHA/BHA peel pad pre-dosed with five acids, including glycolic, salicylic, and lactic, visibly reduces dullness and uneven texture, pores, and dark spots. For best results, apply step one to thoroughly clean the skin, and follow with step two to maximize anti-aging benefits and skin protection. Use once a day either in the morning or at night. 

SHOP IT: Sephora, $115

Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask 

Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask 

Suitable for most skin types, this natural BHA- and enzyme-powered mask restores skin's glow and refines pores to banish dullness for even, healthy-looking radiant skin. The award-winning beta-hydroxy mask with 100 per cent natural ingredients works like a traditional peel to provide an instant solution for dull skin — without causing downtime or irritation.

SHOP IT: Nordstrom, $206 

Eve Lom Rescue Peel Pads




Eve Lom Rescue Peel Pads

Resurface skin with a luxurious, potent, yet non-stripping, combination of naturally derived AHA, PHA, and BHA acids. Powered with a Multi-Fruit Acid Complex, the skin is left glowing, smoother, and hydrated for up to 12 hours.

SHOP IT: beautyBOUTIQUE, $75

OMOROVICZA Copper Peel

OMOROVICZA Copper Peel

This foaming, two-phase peel combines a turquoise copper paste and lactic acid activator to instantly brighten and smooth the skin’s appearance. It visibly refines and smooths the complexion and reduces the appearance of large pores for a brighter, more even skin tone. It’s an at-home beauty treatment that feels like an in-spa treatment.

SHOP IT: Sephora, $210


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