The 10 Best Chemical Peels for Hyperpigmentation 2020

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If you’re looking for the best chemical peel for hyperpigmentation, you’re in the right place!

Chemical peels have been around for literally thousands of years now. In fact, the ancient Egyptians were known to bathe in sour milk to cleanse their skin and remove unwanted blemishes. 🐄

Today, we know that sour milk contains lactic acid, a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), that helps exfoliate and rejuvenate your skin (Cleopatra was way ahead of the modern beauty industry!).

Among their many uses, chemical peels can be extremely effective for treating hyperpigmentation. This includes dark spots, age spots, melasma, post-acne marks, sun damage, and uneven skin tone.

Now, for the bad news. According to RealSelf, a professional chemical peel may cost an average of $375 per session (depending on the type of peel and your provider).

Even a regular glycolic acid peel can set you back around $100-$150 per session. Yikes!

Fortunately, it’s very easy to apply chemical peels from the convenience of your own home. So the only question is, which product among the thousands available online is right for you?

ⓘ In this post, I’ll help you find the right chemical peel for your needs and budget!

RELATED:

What Are The Best Chemical Peels for Hyperpigmentation?

Here are my top picks for the best at home chemical peel for hyperpigmentation:

  1. Best Overall Peel: Glycolix Elite 20% Glycolic Acid Treatment Pads
  2. Best Professional Grade Peel: CANE+AUSTIN 20% Glycolic Acid Miracle Pad+
  3. Best Peel for Melasma: Exuviance Performance Peel AP25
  4. Best Budget Peel: QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads
  5. Best Peel for Sensitive Skin: Bliss That’s Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads
  6. Best Beginner Peel: QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel
  7. Best Intermediate Peel: QRx Labs Lactic Acid 50% Gel Peel
  8. Best Advanced Peel: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
  9. Most Popular Peel: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel
  10. Best Starter Kit: Planet Eden 30% Glycolic Acid 4-Piece Set

1. Best Overall Peel: Glycolix Elite 20% Glycolic Acid Treatment Pads (60 Count)

Summary: The Glycolix Elite 20% Glycolic Acid Treatment Pads are one of the best daily peels to use for brighter & smoother skin. 😎

Best For: Dark Spots, Acne Marks

Key Ingredients: 20% Glycolic Acid

Get It @ Amazon

Glycolix Elite 20% Treatment Pads Full Size
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Glycolix Elite offers one of the best at home chemical peels for treating pigmentation.

Made by Topix Pharmaceuticals, the Glycolix Elite 20% Glycolic Acid Treatment Pads contain the powerful exfoliating benefits of glycolic acid, along with an antioxidant complex of vitamins A, C, E, green tea, and CoQ10, all at a very reasonable price (which your bank account will appreciate!).

Each jar contains 60 peel pads that are paraben-free, gluten-free, alcohol-free, and fragrance-free. I’m also a big fan of the ingredient list which is super simple (there’s literally only 7 ingredients! 👍).

These peel pads are suitable for mild forms of hyperpigmentation like dark spots and acne marks (a.k.a. post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) which are usually temporary and easier to remove.

In addition, using glycolic acid can also help clear up breakouts by promoting faster cell turnover (which slows down as we get older) and removing keratin plugs to free up clogged pores.

Glycolix Elite 20% Treatment Pads Full Size
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In terms of customer feedback, many users reported fewer breakouts, less noticeable acne scars, brighter and smoother skin, more even tone, and greater skin clarity. 🤗

But don’t just take my word for it: check out some of the customer reviews for yourself.

Common complaints about this product include: no perceived benefits after several months of use, adverse skin reactions, and the lack of a “tingling” sensation.

Finally, as one reviewer helpfully reminds us: make sure to neutralize this peel yourself as it does not include a neutralization pad. You can create a DIY neutralizing solution with 1/4 cup baking soda and 4 cups water or purchase a chemical peel neutralizer.

My Verdict: The Glycolix Elite 20% Glycolic Acid Treatments Pads offer an effective yet affordable solution for treating hyperpigmentation with hundreds of positive customer reviews. 👏

2. Best Professional Grade Peel: CANE+AUSTIN 20% Glycolic Acid Miracle Pad+ (60 Count)

Summary: The CANE+AUSTIN 20% Miracle Pad+ provides similar results to professional in-office peels for a fraction of the cost. 😊

Best For: Anti-Aging, Uneven Tone

Key Ingredients: 20% Glycolic Acid

Get It @ Amazon

CANE+AUSTIN 20% Glycolic Acid Miracle Pad+ Full Size
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Created by dermatologist Dr. Craig Austin, the CANE+AUSTIN 20% Miracle Pad+ is a popular bestseller that claims to provide similar results to professional in-office peels.

According to CANE+AUSTIN, this peel is “gentle enough for daily use but strong enough to produce visible skin-clearing results.”

Miracle Pad+ contains the equivalent of a 20% glycolic acid peel along with lactic acid, salicylic acid (great for clearing up acne), tartaric acid, vitamins A, C, E, and CoQ10. These ingredients help exfoliate dead skin cells and smooth out uneven tone for clearer and more radiant-looking skin.

Each jar includes 60 pre-medicated peel pads that should be applied twice daily (or once daily if you have sensitive skin). However, some people choose to use them every 2-3 days or cut the peel pads in half to get more value out of this product.

In terms of results, Miracle Pad+ has helped many users achieve smoother and brighter skin with significant improvements in tone and texture. It even eliminated decades of acne for one woman.

On the other hand, the most common complaint was that Miracle Pad+ triggered new breakouts.

My Verdict: If you love the idea of getting a professional grade chemical peel in the comfort of your own home, Miracle Pad+ is an excellent alternative to in-office glycolic acid peels. 🤩

3. Best Peel for Melasma: Exuviance Performance Peel AP25 (13 Count)

Summary: The award-winning Performance Peel AP25 provides powerful exfoliation to treat stubborn hyperpigmentation. 💪

Best For: Melasma, Age Spots

Key Ingredients: 25% AHAs & PHAs

Get It @ Exuviance, Ulta Beauty

Exuviance Performance Peel AP25
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For more stubborn hyperpigmentation such as melasma, Exuviance’s award-winning Performance Peel AP25 might be just the solution for you (as seen in Harper’s Bazaar: 150 Beauty Must-Have’s).

These individually wrapped 2-step peel pads are infused with a powerful blend of 25% Glycolic Acid, Mandelic Acid, and Gluconolactone (a gentle acid molecule known as a polyhydroxy acid).

Studies show that one of the best at home chemical peels for melasma is 30-50% glycolic acid which helps fade common symptoms like brown spots & gray patches. (source: Chemical Peels in Melasma: A Review with Consensus Recommendations by Indian Pigmentary Expert Group, 2017)

While Performance Peel AP25 only uses 25% glycolic acid, it’s also boosted by mandelic acid and gluconolactone for additional exfoliation to reduce skin discoloration. 👏

Given the strong concentration of this product, Exuviance recommends using it only twice a week.

Make sure to do a patch test first to ensure no irritation or discomfort occurs within the first 24 hours (this is included in the 13 treatments per box, so you have 12 remaining sets for a total of 6 weeks).

In terms of results, Exuviance cites the following from their 30-day clinical study:

  • 100% of users noticed improvements in fine lines and wrinkles
  • 94% of users noticed more even tone

However, it is worth noting that participants used Performance Peel AP25 in combination with other Exuviance products, which means these statements aren’t necessarily reflective of AP25 on its own.

Having said that, Performance Peel has received outstanding reviews on Exuviance and Ulta Beauty where there’s currently over 600 ratings with an impressive number of 5-stars on both platforms.

Exuviance Performance Peel AP25 Full Size
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Many customers reported reduced signs of melasma, more even skin tone, softer wrinkles & fine lines, smoother skin texture, and smaller pore sizes.

Again, don’t just take my word for it: have a look at some of the user feedback.

On the other hand, most of the negative reviews were due to unauthentic products from third-party Amazon sellers (always a risk with popular items). For this reason, I recommend buying AP25 directly from Exuviance or from Ulta Beauty which is an authorized retailer.

My Verdict: For stubborn forms of hyperpigmentation like melasma, the Performance Peel AP25 offers a powerful solution with 25% AHAs & PHAs, strong clinical results, and outstanding reviews. 🤗

4. Best Budget Peel: QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads (50 Count)

Summary: The QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads offer incredible value for money. 🤑

Best For: Dark Spots, Uneven Tone

Key Ingredients: 20% Glycolic Acid

Get It @ QRx Labs

QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads Full Size
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If you want the best value for money, I recommend the QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads which are suitable for dark spots, acne marks, dull skin, uneven tone, and wrinkles & fine lines.

What’s nice is that these peel pads come super saturated with a 20% glycolic acid solution so you’ll get a lot of value out of them before the pads dry out. This product also features a texturized surface for physical exfoliation and a convenient finger notch to hold the pads.

In terms of ingredients, Glycolic Acid is the main (and only) chemical agent in this product to help your skin cells turnover faster and reveal new layers of brighter, more even-looking skin.

Meanwhile, Vitamins C & E provide antioxidant benefits and promote collagen deposition (an important step for repairing textural issues like scars and wrinkles).

Panthenol (Vitamin B5) and Allantoin help your skin retain moisture and accelerate the post-peel healing process while Green Tea and Calendula Flower Extracts reduce stinging and irritation.

QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads
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Reviews so far have been very positive, although some reviewers made claims that sound too good to be true (e.g. “instant results”, “1 week improvements”, etc.). I would caution against forming your opinion based on the most positive reviews as these tend to overstate the actual results.

The most common complaints include: the product leaves behind a sticky residue and some people experienced breakouts or rashes after using this product.

My Verdict: Featuring 20% glycolic acid, the QRx Labs Resurfacing Pads strike a perfect balance between effectiveness and affordability. Add these peel pads to your daily routine for brighter, smoother, and healthier-looking skin.

Bonus Tip: Save more when you buy more – use promo code COMBO3 to save 10% on purchases of 3 products and COMBO4 to save 15% on purchases of 4 products. 💰

5. Best Peel for Sensitive Skin: Bliss That’s Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads (15 Count)

Summary: Bliss That’s Incredi-Peel is an incredibly gentle peel with soothing botanical extracts. 🌿

Best For: Sensitive Skin

Key Ingredients: 10% Glycolic Acid

Get It @ Ulta Beauty, Bliss World

Bliss That's Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads Full Size
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Bliss, a spa-powered skin wellness brand, takes their knowledge and experience from the spa to your home with their individually wrapped That’s Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads.

If you have sensitive skin, you’ll be glad to know that all Bliss products are free of parabens, phthalates, SLS, SLES, petrolatum, and mineral oil and are 100% cruelty-free.

This 10% glycolic acid peel targets discolorations and imperfections by breaking down the cellular glue that holds dead skin cells together and releasing trapped oils and pollutants in your skin.

Over time, it helps improve your skin’s natural cell turnover and repair cycle to reveal smoother, healthier, and more even-looking skin. It may also reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

Bliss also added soothing botanical ingredients to reduce skin irritation and inflammation, including Witch Hazel, Licorice Root Extract, and Calendula Flower Extract. Meanwhile, Vitamin E and Glycerin help prevent environmental damage and increase skin hydration, respectively.

With 500+ reviews, many users commented that these peel pads kept their pores squeaky clean, lightened sun damage, and improved their overall complexion.

The most common complaints include: some experienced skin sensitivity or irritation while others didn’t experience any noticeable improvements in their scars or dark spots.

My Verdict: Featuring 10% glycolic acid, the Bliss That’s Incredi-Peel Peel Pads (try saying that again!) are an affordable way to experience soothing spa-quality formulas that fight hyperpigmentation.

6. Best Beginner Peel: QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel

Summary: QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel is a great starting point for your first liquid peel. 👍

Best For: Uneven Tone, Acne Scars

Key Ingredients: 30% Glycolic Acid

Get It @ QRx Labs

QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel Full SIze
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For beginners, 30% glycolic acid is generally considered the best starting point as it provides a mild level of exfoliation but still delivers noticeable results for your skin (for more sensitive skin, a good alternative is 10% mandelic acid or 10% lactic acid).

Decades of clinical research has shown that “the most popular and time-tested superficial peeling agent is glycolic acid…” (source: A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels, 2018)

30% glycolic acid is usually strong enough to significantly improve mild-to-moderate cases of hyperpigmentation, including dark spots, acne marks, and sun damage.

Glycolic acid also helps smooth out uneven skin texture such as wrinkles, fine lines, and acne scars.

There are hundreds of brands that offer glycolic acid peels. From my (many hours of) research, I’ve found that the following ones provide the highest quality:

  1. Perfect Image: 1,000’s of reviews, peels cost between $25-$30 a bottle
  2. QRx Labs: 100’s of reviews, peels are a bit cheaper at $20 a bottle
  3. Planet Eden: 100’s of reviews, peels start at $15.50 a bottle and include a free fan brush
QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel
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Perfect Image has the most number of ratings for its Glycolic 30% Gel Peel but is more expensive than QRx Labs and the shipping is sometimes not included.

However, I really like that they’ve created a categorization system using Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 that helps beginners determine which peel is most suitable for them.

QRx Labs is my top recommendation right now as they offer excellent value for money.

The QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel is (as the name says) a gel, rather than a liquid, which makes the peel easier to work with and prevents it from dripping into your eyes or mouth. It also contains Green Tea and Chamomile Extracts to reduce skin irritation. 🌿

Planet Eden is another great choice and also includes a free fan brush. However, shipping may take a few days longer as they do it themselves instead of using Amazon’s warehouses. I also highly recommend their starter kits which include an additional cleanser and recovery cream.

My Verdict: 30% glycolic acid is the best starting point for beginners and has been shown to be clinically effective for mild-to-moderate cases of hyperpigmentation. Perfect Image, QRx Labs, and Planet Eden all offer excellent versions of this popular peel for a fraction of the professional cost.

⚠️ Important Note: You should always neutralize glycolic acid peels to prevent excessive peeling! Try this at-home baking soda solution or pick up a chemical peel neutralizer.

7. Best Intermediate Peel: QRx Labs Lactic Acid 50% Gel Peel

Summary: QRx Labs Lactic Acid 50% Gel Peel is a suitable “step-up” peel for experienced users. 🙌

Best For: Uneven Tone, Sun Spots

Key Ingredients: 50% Lactic Acid

Get It @ QRx Labs

QRx Labs Lactic Acid 50% Gel Peel Full Size
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Once you’re ready to step up your peel game, consider trying a 50% lactic acid peel.

This alpha hydroxy acid is structurally similar to its glycolic acid cousin but with fewer side effects and faster recovery times (source: A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels, 2018).

Lactic acid has demonstrated comparable results to glycolic acid in clinical studies for the treatment of hyperpigmentation, wrinkles & fine lines, and sun damage. However, be prepared for up to 2 weeks of recovery time while your skin repairs itself after a 50% lactic acid peel.

The two brands that I currently recommend are:

QRx Labs Lactic Acid 50% Gel Peel
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Both are gel peels that reduce the risk of chemicals dripping into your eyes or mouth. Both also include skin lightening agents like Kojic Acid and Bearberry Extract to help fade your dark spots even faster by inhibiting melanin synthesis (QRx Labs also includes Licorice Root Extract).

Overall, both lactic acid peels have excellent customer reviews with comments of brighter skin tone, reduced signs of aging, and smoother skin texture.

My Verdict: If beginner peels aren’t cutting it anymore for your skin, consider stepping up to an intermediate peel like the 50% Lactic Acid Peel to counter signs of aging and hyperpigmentation. Perfect Image and QRx Labs both offer excellent products with bonus skin lightening ingredients.

⚠️ Important Note: As this is a professional grade and unbuffered chemical peel, please make sure you have successfully completed a beginner peel first (such as 30% glycolic acid). The high acid concentration can seriously damage your skin if you do not take adequate precautions.

8. Best Advanced Peel: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

Summary: The Ordinary’s AHA 30% plus BHA 2% Peeling Solution has quietly amassed a cult following of skin peel enthusiasts. 🙏

Best For: Uneven Tone, Aging Skin

Key Ingredients: 30% AHA, 2% BHA

Get It @ Ulta Beauty, Sephora

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution Full Size
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If you’re looking for a powerful chemical peel (that’s also super affordable), I highly recommend The Ordinary’s AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution.

A word of caution, though: this product contains a high concentration of free acids and should only be used by more experienced peelers.

According to The Ordinary’s website, the AHAs and BHAs in this formula include:

  • Glycolic Acid (AHA)
  • Lactic Acid (AHA)
  • Tartaric Acid (AHA)
  • Citric Acid (AHA)
  • Salicylic Acid (BHA)

The AHAs help increase cell turnover for brighter and smoother skin while the BHA penetrates deep into oily skin to remove excess oils and open up clogged pores.

The Ordinary AHA 30% BHA 2% Peeling Solution
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Panthenol (Vitamin B5) and Hyaluronic Acid are both included to restore skin hydration while Tasmanian Pepperberry (the source of the red color) reduces skin irritation.

The Ordinary has a reputation for well-formulated skincare products and this one is no exception. The pH of 3.6 matches the pKa of glycolic acid, ensuring “ideal balance between salt and acidity” to maximize the formula’s effectiveness while minimizing any side effects. 👏

My Verdict: The AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is an outstanding alternative to expensive professional treatments and has amassed a cult following of peel enthusiasts. Use this advanced peel 1-2x weekly to fade brown spots, even out skin tone, and reduce premature signs of aging.

9. Most Popular Peel: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel (30 Count)

Summary: The classic Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel is one of the all-time bestsellers. 🏆

Best For: Dark Spots, Age Spots

Key Ingredients: 7 AHAs and BHAs

Get It @ Sephora, Amazon

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel 20th Anniversary Limited Edition Full Size
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The bestselling Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta daily peels are individually wrapped 2-step peel pads that actually come in three versions (Ultra Gentle, Universal, and Extra Strength).

With regular use, these peel pads can help lift away dead skin and remove excess oils & impurities for brighter-looking and more even skin tone (bye bye, dark spots!). They also help smooth out the texture of your skin to improve the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and old acne scars.

Each daily treatment includes two steps: a peel pad (Step 1) and a neutralization pad (Step 2).

Step 1 is packed with the 7 Alpha Beta acids, including both AHAs and BHAs, for powerful exfoliation:

  1. Glycolic Acid (AHA)
  2. Salicylic Acid (BHA)
  3. Lactic Acid (AHA)
  4. Mandelic Acid (AHA)
  5. Malic Acid (AHA)
  6. Citric Acid (AHA)
  7. Willow Bark Extract (a natural source of salicylic acid)

The AHAs help promote faster cell turnover to brighten dull and uneven skin tone while the BHAs penetrate oily and acne-prone skin to release trapped oils and unclog blocked pores. 🤗

In addition, Green Tea and Chamomile Extracts reduce skin irritation with their anti-inflammatory properties while Copper and Zinc help restore skin elasticity and boost recovery results.

On the other hand, I don’t like that SD Alcohol 40-B is listed as the second ingredient after water. According to Paula’s Choice, this alcohol “degreases the skin and provides a quick-drying finish”, but may cause skin dryness and damage your skin’s protective barrier with long-term use.

Step 2 is a neutralization pad (sodium bicarbonate or baking soda) with additional antioxidants and anti-aging ingredients for optimal post-peel recovery:

  1. Resveratrol (Antioxidant)
  2. Retinol & Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A)
  3. Ascorbic Acid & Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C)
  4. Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E)

Do not skip Step 2 as it neutralizes the acids (particularly the AHAs) to prevent excessive peeling.

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel 20th Anniversary Limited Edition Full Size
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In terms of results, most customers praised the Alpha Beta Daily Peel’s effectiveness for clearing up acne, dark spots, uneven tone, and generally producing more radiant and youthful-looking skin.

The most common complaint was the high price point of this product. However, some felt it’s worth the money compared to professional treatments like microneedling or laser therapy. 💲

My Verdict: The Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel packs a powerful punch to hyperpigmentation like dark spots with its unique formula of 7 Alpha Beta acids (AHAs and BHAs). However, the high alcohol content in these peel pads may contribute to increased skin dryness.

10. Best Starter Kit: Planet Eden 30% Glycolic Acid 4-Piece Set

Summary: This 4-Piece Set by Planet Eden has almost everything you need for a chemical peel. 😊

Best For: Dark Spots, Uneven Tone

Key Ingredients: 30% Glycolic Acid

Get It @ Amazon

Planet Eden 30% Glycolic Acid Starter Set Full Size
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For beginners to chemical peels, I highly recommend the Planet Eden 30% Glycolic Acid 4-Piece Set.

This starter kit includes:

  • A 1.0 oz bottle of 30% glycolic acid (the perfect concentration for beginners)
  • A 3.0 oz bottle of glycolic cleanser (which smells wonderful thanks to organic fruit extracts)
  • A 1.0 oz tub of recovery cream (loaded with healthy oils & antioxidants to accelerate the healing process and smells like heavenly vanilla)
  • A small fan brush with soft bristles (not the most useful, as I’ll explain later)

Overall, this set provides you almost everything you need to get started. You’ll still want to pick up a neutralizing solution (Planet Eden makes one as well) or mix your own with baking soda and water.

I bought this starter set recently and have been using it once a week for my acne scars, dark spots, and uneven skin tone. Here are my thoughts so far:

  • After 8+ treatments, my skin looks noticeably smoother and feels much less congested, especially my forehead which used to have lots of tiny blemishes. My skin tone is also slightly brighter and some of the redness from 10+ years of acne has subsided (yay!).
  • However, I haven’t noticed any major improvements in my acne scars yet.
  • The glycolic acid itself is very good. It causes a mild stinging sensation and I can really feel the peel working on my skin (visually, I imagine PacMan eating up my dead skin cells haha 😂).
  • I really love the pre-peel cleanser (it smells amazing and my skin feels smoother afterwards) and I use it everyday now in my skincare routine.
  • The fan brush is not the greatest because the bristles stick together when applying the peel. You can still use it by pressing the bristles against a bowl to spread them out, but it’s actually much easier to use gauze strips or your fingers instead.
  • Finally, the recovery cream is also quite good. It has a long ingredient list full of organic oils, butters, and extracts like coconut oil, organic beeswax, and chamomile extract. You can also just use a regular moisturizer or recovery balm like La-Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5.

My Verdict: The Planet Eden 30% Glycolic Acid 4-Piece Set is the perfect way to get started with regular, affordable at-home chemical peels for smoother, brighter, and more even-looking skin.

Chemical Peel Safety Tips!

If you’ve never done a chemical peel at home before, definitely watch this tutorial video.

Following any chemical peel, it’s very important to apply sunscreen and avoid sun exposure as your skin will be more sensitive to sun damage (which will result in more hyperpigmentation!). 

You’ll also need a few tools to perform a safe chemical peel: 

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