The 10 Best Glycolic Acid Peels (2020 Update)

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Today, I’m going to discuss the best glycolic acid peels available on the market (spoiler: my top pick is Glycolix Elite 20% Glycolic Acid Treatment Pads).

Glycolic acid is the most popular type of chemical peel. It helps you remove the dead skin cells on your skin surface to promote smoother, healthier, and younger-looking skin.

Chemical peels like glycolic acid also help soften skin texture, remove old blemishes and acne scars, fade hyperpigmentation like dark spots and melasma, and smooth out wrinkles and fine lines (source: A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels, 2018).

In other words, glycolic acid peels should be a part of everyone’s skincare regimen! 🤗

ⓘ Let’s help you find the right glycolic acid peel for your skin concern and budget!

RELATED:

What Are The Best Glycolic Acid Peels?

Here are the best glycolic acid peels:

  1. Best Overall Peel: Glycolix Elite Treatment Pads 20%
  2. Best Budget Peel: QRxLabs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads
  3. Best Starter Kit: Platinum Skin Care Glycolic Acid 30-50-70
  4. Best for Melasma: Exuviance Performance Peel AP25
  5. Best for Anti-Aging: Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel
  6. Best for Acne Breakouts: Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads
  7. Best for Brighter Skin: Derma E Vitamin C Instant Radiance Citrus Facial Peel
  8. Best for Smoother Skin: Jack Black Power Peel Multi-Acid Resurfacing Pads
  9. Best for Sensitive Skin: First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads
  10. Best for Relaxing Spa Days: Bliss That’s Incredi-Peel
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1. Best Overall Peel: Glycolix Elite Treatment Pads 20%

Summary: Glycolix Elite is my #1 pick for an effective & affordable glycolic acid peel for brighter, smoother, and more even skin. 🤗

Best For: Dark Spots, Acne Marks

Key Ingredients:
20% Glycolic Acid

Get It @ Amazon

Glycolix Elite Treatment Pads 20%
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Glycolix Elite offers one of the best at home glycolic peels for daily exfoliation and skin renewal.

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 peels 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 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 Treatment Pads 20%
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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 included: 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 simple chemical peel neutralizer.

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

2. Best Budget Peel: QRxLabs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads

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

Best For: Dark Spots, Uneven Tone

Key Ingredients:
20% Glycolic Acid

Get It @ QRxLabs

QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads
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If you want the best value for money, I recommend QRxLabs 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.

QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads
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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.

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.).

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 QRxLabs 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.

Special Coupon: Save more when you shop more at QRxLabs. Use promo code COMBO3 to save 10% on purchases of 3 products and promo code COMBO4 to save 15% on 4 products. 🤑

3. Best Starter Kit: Platinum Skin Care Glycolic Acid 30-50-70

Summary: Platinum Skin Care has put everything you need for a glycolic acid peel in this starter kit.

Best For: Beginners, Convenience (also makes a great gift idea 🎁)

Each Set Contains:
-Your Choice of Glycolic Acid
(30%, 50% or 70%)
-Peel Prep Solution
-Post-Peel Neutralizer
-Fan Brush or Gauze Pads

Get It @ Platinum Skin Care

Platinum Skin Care Glycolic Acid Boxed Kit
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If you’re looking for a more traditional liquid chemical peel (that offers amazing value for money), I’d highly recommend this glycolic acid starter kit by Platinum Skin Care.

Each starter kit includes:

  • 2.0 oz Glycolic Acid Peel (30%, 50%, 70%) – I recommend starting with 30% Glycolic Acid for beginners to chemical peels and 50% for more advanced peelers. The 70% version is strictly for body usage or dilution into lower concentration peels.
  • 2.0 oz Peel Prep Solution – an alcohol-based toner to prepare your skin for a chemical peel. This helps remove any surface oils and debris to allow the glycolic acid to work effectively.
  • 4.5 oz Post-Peel Neutralizer – a baking soda solution with panthenol and tea tree oil. Use the neutralizer after 2-5 minutes to stop the chemical peel from penetrating too deeply.
  • Your choice of Fan Brush or Gauze Pads – my personal preference is gauze pads as I find it’s hard to get an even application using a fan brush.

When used regularly (~1x a week), a glycolic acid peel can help with many skin conditions, including hyperpigmentation, dark spots, melasma, inflammatory acne, chronic dry skin, and much more.

Chemical peels also help restore normal skin texture by promoting collagen and elastin growth, which can reduce the appearance of old acne scars as well as wrinkles and fine lines (source: A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels, 2018).

This glycolic acid kit is perfect for beginners and should last you about 4-6 months. The only thing that’s missing is a post-peel recovery cream, and for that, I’d recommend two products:

Also, I should mention this starter kit includes a 2.0 oz bottle of glycolic acid, which is double the usual amount for a chemical peel. For a smaller size (1.0 oz), I recommend this one by Planet Eden which I recently bought for myself and found to be excellent quality as well.

Finally, customer reviews for Platinum Skin Care have been positive, with users commenting about brighter, smoother, and softer skin, with fewer blemishes and dark spots, after multiple sessions.

My Verdict: For beginners to chemical peels, I recommend Platinum Skin Care’s Glycolic Acid Kit which includes a glycolic acid peel (choose 30%), peel prep solution, and post-peel neutralizer.

4. Best for Melasma: Exuviance Performance Peel AP25

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 stubborn hyperpigmentation like 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).

The 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 to help exfoliate and 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 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, AP25 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.

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Many customers reported faded 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. 🤗

5. Best for Anti-Aging: Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel

Summary: The Multi-Acid Peel uses multiple forms of exfoliation to promote brighter, tighter, and glowing skin with fewer wrinkles.

Best For: Wrinkles & Fine Lines

Key Ingredients:
AHA Blend (Glycolic, Lactic, Malic)
BHA (Salicylic Acid)
TXA (Tranexamic Acid)
Holy Basil (Antioxidant)

Get It @ Ulta Beauty, Sephora

Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel
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The age-old question in skincare (pun intended) is, “how can I look younger than my real age?”

While aging is an inevitable process, it is possible to “age gracefully” like a fine wine. 🍷

That’s where Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel comes in. It’s a powerful chemical peel designed to target common signs of aging like dullness, wrinkles & fine lines, and age spots.

It uses multiple acids to promote a wide range of exfoliation in the epidermis and upper dermis to remove dead skin cells and increase cell turnover, resulting in brighter and tighter skin.

It also softens rough skin texture and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

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The key ingredients include:

  • AHA Blend: mainly Glycolic Acid along with Lactic Acid and Malic Acid. AHAs are water-soluble and help remove surface dullness to reveal brighter and smoother skin.
  • BHA: Salicylic Acid, a beta hydroxy acid, is oil-soluble and is incredibly effective at penetrating the oils in our pores to provide deeper exfoliation and open up clogged pores.
  • TXA: Tranexamic Acid is used in dermatology to address skin discoloration such as melasma (source: SkinCeuticals and BioMed Research International, 2018)

Antioxidants such as Holy Basil, Chamomile Extract, Vitamin E, and Turmeric are also included to prevent free radical damage (a process that causes cell damage over time).

Finally, customer reviews have been quite positive, with some saying it helped reduce pore sizes and acne scars, and saw brighter and smoother skin. Others said it left behind an oily film and may even block pores due to the third ingredient on the list (C13-16 Isoparaffin).

My Verdict: Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel combines AHAs, BHA, and TXA to fight signs of aging, like wrinkles, fine lines, and sun damage, so you can “age gracefully” with confidence.

6. Best for Acne Breakouts: Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads

Summary: Peter Thomas Roth offers a soothing solution for acne breakouts with 10% glycolic acid.

Best For: Acne Breakouts

Key Ingredients:
10% Glycolic Acid
2% Salicylic Acid

Get It @ Ulta Beauty, Amazon

Peter Thomas Roth Acne Correction Pads
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If you’re struggling with constant breakouts (and I’ve been there), I recommend using a product with salicylic acid which can keep your pores clear and reduce inflammatory acne.

The Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads is my top choice with 10% Glycolic Acid, 2% Salicylic Acid, and soothing plant extracts like Aloe Vera, Chamomile, and Green Tea.

(a good budget version is Stridex 2% Salicylic Acid Alcohol Free Pads – just with no glycolic acid)

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These double-sided AHA/BHA peel pads help cleanse your skin, remove dead skin cells, and eliminate blackheads and whiteheads by breaking up keratin plugs (this opens up clogged pores).

Oh, and it’s got a wonderful peach bellini scent, too. 🍹

Finally, customer reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, with many comments of clearer skin, fewer blemishes and breakouts, and smaller pore sizes. The downside is some found it to be drying.

My Verdict: Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads combines 10% glycolic acid and 2% salicylic acid to cleanse your skin and unclog pores to eliminate blackheads and whiteheads.

7. Best for Brighter Skin: Derma-E Vitamin C Instant Radiance Citrus Facial Peel

Summary: Derma E provides a brightening facial peel with glycolic acid and citrus puree.

Best For: Dark Spots, Uneven Tone

Key Ingredients:
Vitamin C Derivative
Glycolic Acid
Lactic Acid
Citrus Fruit Peel Puree

Get It @ Ulta Beauty, Derma-E

Derma E Vitamin C Instant Radiance Citrus Facial Peel
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For skin discoloration issues – dark spots, uneven tone, sun damage – Derma-E has you covered with its Vitamin C Instant Radiance Citrus Facial Peel featuring Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid.

Derma-E is a clean beauty brand from Southern California known for its affordable products.

Unlike traditional chemical peels, this one is more like a “wash-off” mask and has a slushy-like consistency, due to the addition of Citrus Fruit Peel Puree (another source of Vitamin C).

This product should be applied for about 3-5 minutes, during which Glycolic and Lactic Acids work together to exfoliate surface dullness, remove blemishes, and fade dark spots.

Vitamin C (using a derivative called Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate) helps brighten your skin tone by inhibiting melanin production and even boosts collagen growth for smoother wrinkles & fine lines (source: The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health, 2017).

While the concentration of glycolic acid is not disclosed (probably less than 5%), some users said it causes a mild tingling sensation. Others mentioned that it works well on hyperpigmentation, smells “super fresh and natural”, and left their skin looking brighter, smoother, and more firm.

My Verdict: Derma-E Vitamin C Instant Radiance Citrus Facial Peel is a brightening powerhouse with Vitamin C, Glycolic Acid, and Baby Food, I mean, Citrus Fruit Peel Puree.

8. Best for Smoother Skin: Jack Black Power Peel Multi-Acid Resurfacing Pads

Summary: Jack Black Power Peel is formulated with AHA, BHA, and PHA for smoother-looking skin at an affordable price.

Best For: Rough Skin Texture

Key Ingredients:
Glycolic Acid (AHA)
Salicylic Acid (BHA)
Gluconolactone (PHA)
UGL Complex

Get It @ Amazon, Sephora

Jack Black Power Peel Multi-Acid Resurfacing Pads
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Jack Black is a men’s skincare brand that started in the lone star state of Texas. But don’t let the manly packaging fool you – these products offer effective formulations at an affordable price.

(in fact, men’s skincare products are often cheaper – take, for example, the Clinique for Men Dark Spot Corrector which used to be ~$50 vs. the Clinique Dark Spot Corrector which was ~$80-90).

Anyways, the Jack Black Power Peel combines the power of Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid, and Gluconolactone (a polyhydroxy acid) for multi-level marketing, I mean, multi-level exfoliation.

This is particularly helpful for diminishing common signs of aging like wrinkles and fine lines, and keeping your skin looking smoother and firmer. It also reduces discoloration like age spots.

UGL Complex is also included to increase skin firmness and reduce signs of aging (source: ProTec).

And the good news is… it’s only $38 right now for 40 peel pads, which is reasonably priced for a midrange skincare line (an even better deal would be Peter Thomas Roth’s soon-to-be-discontinued Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads at $45 for 60 peel pads – get ’em before they’re gone!).

Finally, customer reviews for Jack Black Power Peel have been positive, with comments about more even skin tone, improvements in acne scars, and overall smoother skin. However, some found the product left behind a sticky film or said their peel pads were dried out on arrival.

My Verdict: Jack Black Power Peel Multi-Acid Resurfacing Pads are excellent for fighting common signs of aging like wrinkles, fine lines, and discoloration, all at an affordable price.

9. Best for Sensitive Skin: First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads

Summary: First Aid Beauty’s popular Facial Radiance Pads are super gentle on sensitive skin with no alcohol or fragrances.

Best For: Sensitive Skin

Key Ingredients:
Glycolic Acid
Lactic Acid
Lemon Peel
Indian Gooseberry
FAB Antioxidant Boosters

Get It @ Ulta Beauty, Sephora

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads
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If you experience reactions to most skincare products (like excessive burning, stinging, or redness), you’re probably very careful about ingredient lists and what you put on your face.

When it comes to glycolic peels, the high concentration of free acids might not be suitable for those with sensitive skin and many products also contain drying ingredients like alcohol.

Fortunately, First Aid Beauty offers a super gentle daily peel for cleansing and exfoliating your skin without overdrying it and causing adverse reactions. The bestselling Facial Radiance Pads feature Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid with no alcohols or fragrances and are gluten-free and vegan.

These peel pads are best suited for daily use and help keep your skin clear of blemishes, dark spots, and uneven tone. When used regularly, it increases your skin’s natural rate of cell turnover to diminish the appearance of acne scars and promote a brighter-looking complexion.

Lemon Peel and Indian Gooseberry Extract help reduce hyperpigmentation by inhibiting melanin.

In addition, First Aid Beauty included their signature FAB Antioxidant Boosters, including:

  • Licorice Root Extract: studies show that licorice root contains two extracts: i) Glabridin, which was 16x more powerful than hydroquinone at skin brightening in one study and ii) Liquiritin, which can help reduce uneven tone by distributing melanin more evenly (sources: Pigment Cell Research, 1998 and The Journal of Clinical & Aesthetic Dermatology, 2018).
  • Feverfew Extract: a traditional herb used to treat fevers, migraines, and stomach aches. It has anti-inflammatory properties that may help calm sensitive and irritated skin (source: Pharmacognosy Review, 2011)
  • White Tea Extract: the least processed type of tea that retains more antioxidant potency to protect your skin from free radical damage and maintain collagen & elastin levels (source: DermaDoctor)

Finally, customer reviews of Facial Radiance Pads have been stellar, with 2K+ ratings on Sephora and many comments of clearer skin, less congestion, fewer pimples, and no skin sensitivity.

My Verdict: Pick up a pack of First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads for gentle exfoliation that can help reduce breakouts, clear up congested skin, fade dark spots, and keep your skin feeling smooth.

10. Best for Relaxing Spa Days: Bliss That’s Incredi-Peel

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

Best For: Spa-Quality Peels

Key Ingredients:
10% Glycolic Acid

Get It @ Ulta Beauty, Bliss World

Bliss That's Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads
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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.

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 on Bliss World, customers found that these peel pads kept their pores squeaky clean, lightened sun damage, and improved their overall complexion.

The most common complaints were that 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, Bliss That’s Incredi-Peel Peel Pads (try saying that again!) are an affordable way to experience soothing spa-quality formulas for healthier skin.

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