Discover the best chemical peels for hyperpigmentation, why I recommend them, skincare routines to treat hyperpigmentation, and much more in this article!
(Overall, my top recommendation is Platinum Skin Care TCA Peel 13%)
Did you know that chemical peels have been around for literally thousands of years?
Early adopters like Cleopatra and the ancient Egyptians were famous for bathing in sour milk (which contains lactic acid) to cleanse their skin and remove imperfections.
Among their many uses, chemical peels are very effective for treating hyperpigmentation, including melasma, dark spots, and uneven skin tone. 🤗
In addition, regular use can soften wrinkles, smooth fine lines, and correct acne scars as well.
In this post, I've hand-picked the best at home chemical peels for hyperpigmentation, based on peeling agent, active ingredients, customer reviews, price/value, and my personal experience.
I only recommend skincare products that I'd use myself (every product here passes this test), so you can feel confident that you're getting a high-quality chemical peel for your skin. 👍
Overall, the best chemical peel for hyperpigmentation is Platinum Skin Care TCA Peel 13%. Here's my full list of recommendations based on skin type, skin condition, and budget:
If I had to choose one chemical peel for the rest of my life, I'd pick a trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peel.
That's because TCA is the ultimate Swiss army knife - effective yet versatile - that addresses many skin concerns like hyperpigmentation, signs of aging, and scarring.
But what makes a TCA peel unique? 🤔
For starters, TCA is a medium-depth peel that penetrates beyond the epidermis into the papillary (upper) dermis. This allows it to remove more layers of dead skin cells than a superficial peel like glycolic acid to help your body rebuild healthy and younger looking skin.
Next, TCA has a very predictable penetration depth that's controlled by the number of layers, which makes it suitable for both beginners (using 1-3 layers of 13%) and advanced users (using 3-5 layers of 13% or 1 layer of 20%).
For an effective and affordable TCA peel at home, I recommend Platinum Skin Care.
With over 1,300 reviews, Platinum Skin Care is the best TCA peel on the market. 🏆
This certified chemical peel is often used by professionals like dermatologists and estheticians and comes in 4 concentrations:
In addition, all TCA peels (except the 30%) include "Cool-Action" menthol to soothe stinging and reduce irritation for a more comfortable peel experience. 👍
If you have mild hyperpigmentation, such as dark spots, brown spots, or post-acne marks, start with a 13% TCA peel (single layer) every 2 weeks for a total of 6-8 treatments.
Over time, you can gradually increase the number of layers to 3 (with 5 minutes in between).
By the end of this treatment plan, you should see visible improvements in hyperpigmentation, smoother skin texture, and brighter skin tone, as well as fewer blemishes and dark spots.
If you have severe hyperpigmentation, however, such as age spots, sun spots, or melasma, you should still complete a beginner TCA peel series (unless you've already completed one), but consider adding a peel enhancer like Platinum Skin Care Luminosity Serum (0.5% Retinol) at the end of each TCA peel to promote further cell turnover and skin regeneration.
Editor's Note: a 6mL Luminosity Serum is available as an add-on with any purchase.
As before, you can (and should) gradually increase the number of layers to 3-5 to remove more damaged skin tissue, including the problematic skin cells with excess melanin pigments that are responsible for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and melasma.
In both cases, make sure to follow all pre-peel and post-peel instructions for the best results, including pretreatment with a melanin inhibitor like Fade Bright or Meladerm for darker skin, and of course, a broad spectrum sunscreen like my personal favorite, Josie Maran SPF 47.Shop Now
Are you looking for a simple yet powerful solution for your hyperpigmentation?
Exuviance Performance Peel AP25 is an award-winning professional chemical peel (as seen in Harper's Bazaar) that has helped thousands transform their skin.
But what makes Performance Peel AP25 so effective?
As always, it comes down to the ingredients: a 25% blend of glycolic acid, mandelic acid, and gluconolactone.
Glycolic acid, the smallest alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), helps remove dead skin cells and stimulate collagen growth, while mandelic acid brightens your skin tone and reduces the appearance of blemishes and redness.
Meanwhile, gluconolactone, a polyhydroxy acid (PHA), resurfaces texture and restores hydration.
In addition, Performance Peel AP25 is very suitable for sensitive skin as mandelic acid and gluconolactone are two of the most gentle acids due to their large molecular size. 🤗
So what can you expect in terms of results?
Well, Exuviance conducted a 30-day study where participants used a PHA skincare regimen along with Performance Peel AP25 twice a week. By the end of this study:
Finally, check out these before/after photos after 5 weeks of treatment:
In this example, this woman experienced a significant reduction in hyperpigmentation, particularly the brown spots (most likely sun damage) along her cheeks and temples.
Of course, keep in mind that everyone is different and your mileage may vary (YMMV).
For mild hyperpigmentation, I recommend using Performance Peel AP25 twice a week until you complete the 6-week treatment plan (reduce in frequency if you experience side effects).
For severe hyperpigmentation, however, I wouldn't recommend Performance Peel AP25 because it only uses superficial AHAs and PHAs that don't penetrate beyond the epidermis to address deeper skin conditions like age spots and dermal melasma.Shop Now
Looking for an affordable at home chemical peel? 🤑
Glycolix Elite is one of the best deals on the market: a 20% glycolic acid peel with 60 peel pads for under $30!
(previously known as Glycolix Elite Treatment Pads)
With over 1,300 reviews on Amazon, Glycolix Elite is a popular product for fading dark spots and acne marks, while helping you fight blackheads, whiteheads, and clogged pores as well (it's great for acne-prone skin).
This chemical peel features 20% crystalline glycolic acid, which is the highest purity and medical grade form, plus witch hazel to refine pores, green tea to soothe skin, and vitamin A, C, E and CoQ10 for antioxidant protection.
Overall, it's an excellent ingredient list that rivals even premium chemical peels like CANE+AUSTIN Miracle Pad+.
Glycolix Elite recommends using this product 1-2x daily, but that's a bit too much for a 20% glycolic peel.
Instead, I recommend starting with 2-3 times a week and working your way up to every day or every other day.
In terms of results, hundreds of customers claim Glycolix Elite helped clear up their breakouts, promote smooth skin, and fade dark spots and acne marks.
However, I noticed that most of the top reviews on Amazon are a bit outdated (2016-2018).
Regardless, Glycolix Elite provides unbeatable value for under $30 and should last you at least 4-6 months (if you use them 3x a week) which works out to only $0.50 per treatment. 👏
Finally, as one helpful reviewer points out: make sure to neutralize this chemical peel after 1-5 minutes and rinse with cold water as it does not include a neutralization pad.
You can easily create a neutralizing solution with 1/4 cup baking soda and 4 cups water or purchase a professional chemical peel neutralizer.Shop Now
With over 8,000 reviews (yes, you read that right! 😮), QRxLabs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads has basically won the Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys combined. 🏆
Editor's Note: I've connected with the founder before and he's always busy handling all those orders!
Overall, this chemical peel is very similar to Glycolix Elite:
Once again, glycolic acid helps transform your skin by removing dead skin cells, increasing collagen production, shrinking enlarged pores, and evening out skin tone.
Meanwhile, allantoin (comfrey extract) and panthenol (vitamin B5) provide much-needed hydration and stimulate tissue regeneration while vitamin C and E form an antioxidant network to fight free radical damage.
Finally, calendula flower and green tea extract soothe stinging and reduce skin irritation during the peel.
Each pad is made from highly durable rayon/polypropylene material with a waffle pattern textured surface for easy application and convenient finger notches as well.
In terms of results, there's literally thousands of positive reviews that you can read on Amazon (a new entertainment source in case you've exhausted Netflix, YouTube, and Tik-Tok 🤣).
Overall, I'm pretty impressed with how this chemical peel has maintained a very high rating even after 8,000+ reviews (over 83% of customers gave it 4- or 5-stars ⭐).Shop Now
"You have a bright future ahead..."
Said almost every fortune cookie ever 🤣.
With Perfect Image Hydro-Glo Peel Pads 40%, however, your skin has a very bright future indeed!
This professional strength skin brightening peel features a 40% blend of lactic acid and mandelic acid, along with powerful brightening agents like kojic acid, licorice root, and bearberry (arbutin) extract.
Meanwhile, natural enzymes from papaya (papain) and pineapple (bromelain) help dissolve dead skin cells and polish uneven skin texture to get your skin glowing!
Finally, glutathione and select botanical extracts provide antioxidant protection and reduce skin irritation.
This at home chemical peel is perfect for dark spots, correcting uneven tone, re-energizing dull skin, and reducing the appearance of skin discoloration.
In other words, you'll be on your way to glowing skin!
Perfect Image Coupon: My readers get an extra 20% off with promo code DERM20 and free shipping after $20! 👍
Studies have shown that 30-50% glycolic acid is an effective treatment for melasma that helps reduce common symptoms like brown spots and gray patches.
An easy way to incorporate a 30% glycolic peel into your skincare routine is CANE+AUSTIN 30% Miracle Pad+.
Created by dermatologist Dr. Craig Austin, Miracle Pad+ claims to be comparable to professional in-office peels.
With the equivalent of 30% glycolic acid, plus lactic acid, salicylic acid, and tartaric acid, this chemical peel can produce significant improvements for your skin.
Meanwhile, vitamin A, C, E, and CoQ10 (ubiquinone) provide anti-inflammatory properties while cucumber and chamomile extracts nourish and refresh your skin.
The company recommends using Miracle Pad+ daily but I'd start with twice a week and go from there.
Editor's Note: CANE+AUSTIN is relatively expensive but you can save 20% by signing up for their email list and buying Miracle Pad+ directly from their online store.
Alternatively, an excellent budget option is Glycolix Elite.
Last but not least, we're right back where we started with Platinum Skin Care.
This time, we have a mandelic acid peel that's perfect for sensitive skin and darker skin tones (Fitzpatrick IV-VI, including Asian, Indian, Hispanic, and Black skin, which are generally more prone to developing PIH).
As I mentioned earlier, mandelic acid is like a gentle giant - it provides great results without any skin irritation.
That's because this AHA has a larger molecular size that makes it more difficult to pass through your skin.
Platinum Skin Care provides two options:
Both are suitable for sensitive skin but I'd start with 40% unless you have extremely sensitive skin.
Overall, you should expect more subtle improvements than deeper chemical peels like glycolic acid and TCA.
If you've never done a chemical peel at home before, this is a helpful tutorial by Dr. Davin Lim:
You'll also need a few tools to perform a safe chemical peel:
Immediately after a chemical peel, it's a good idea to apply a cream, moisturizer, or sheet mask to keep your skin hydrated and help it rebuild its moisture barrier. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, panthenol, allantoin, and copper peptides to accelerate the healing process.
In the following days, it's extremely important to wear sunscreen and avoid direct sun exposure as your skin is more sensitive to UV photodamage (which may result in hyperpigmentation!).