The Best At-Home Peels and Exfoliants, According to Skincare Experts

A woman receiving a facial treatment from an aesthetician
Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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There’s no better time than December to rid yourself of things that don’t serve you—especially your dry skin. Around this time of year, the changing temperatures, dry indoor heating, and outdoor frost are bound to take even the most flawless skin down a path of “meh.” A complexion that isn’t properly exfoliated makes fine lines, dark spots, and uneven texture more visible. What you can and should be doing to combat these skin concerns is giving yourself a proper, high-grade, at-home peel or exfoliant. It’s a more spend-thrift, less time-consuming option that allows you to control how often you resurface your skin in the comfort of your own boudoir. “Peels are best suited for the winter months because you are more likely to remain indoors and out of the sun’s harmful rays,” says Cynthia Franco, the L.A.-based facialist providing decadent skincare treatments to stars like Salma Hayek and The Weeknd. “It is also a great time to use a peel because skin tends to be drier in the colder months.”

So what kind of peel should you administer? Chemical? Enzyme? Or simply a physical exfoliant to give your complexion some much-needed vibrance every few days? The truth is, it’s a personal choice that you can only determine. But we’re here to help. There’s an abundance of products on the market—so we turned to top beauty experts to recommend their favorites, all of which are sure to deliver outstanding results.

Chemical Peels

Several decades ago, this prominent European brand began developing at-home peels when no one even dared to think of an acid (however gentle) promoting skin luminosity. Do not let the word “extreme” in this product title scare you off—this is a gentle peel, with no burning or redness. This product is a favorite red carpet skin prep treatment for celebrity aesthetician Allison Rayden, who says Natura Bissé’s peel “readies the skin for better absorption of products like serums and hydrating creams. It leaves the perfect canvas for getting red-carpet ready. I use it often for clients to give visible results.”

The chieftain powerhouse of peel pads, Gross’s longtime cult favorite exfoliating wipes call for a two-step process. Step one infuses seven types of AHAs and BHAs, while step two is the neutralizer—with added green tea to reduce inflammation and hyaluronic acid to keep skin plump. Mally Roncal, the veteran celebrity MUA, uses them as a go-to skin enhancer, especially during the colder months. “They are a staple in my makeup prep bag,” she tells W. “Especially in frigid seasons, skin can get dry and develop texture problems. Trying to apply makeup over flaking skin is just never a good idea. The Alpha Beta Peels gently exfoliate and smooth the skin so makeup application is seamless. They also help your other skincare products penetrate better. They are an all-around win.”

This is the closest you can get to a professional, medical-grade peel at home. Aesthetician Madalaina Conti is a longtime fan, in addition to being a trusted resource (she’s spent her career revitalizing the faces of Bella Hadid and all the models at Brandon Maxwell’s latest show), proclaims this peel as one of her absolute favorites. “I love the brightening peel because it has no downtime,” she says. “The combination of 34 percent glycolic acid, tranexamic acid, phytic acid, and vitamin C are among some of the most-studied ingredients that effectively lift and prevent pigmentation. It’s a gorgeous formula.” Just as a word of caution, we recommend you keep out of the sun for a few days after using this product, to avoid any irritation.

One of our favorite Sunday night skin indulgences consists of using these peel pads—and the results are impressive and instant. Award-winning facialist Anastasia Achilleos, who works with Jodi Comer and Demi Moore, sings its praises whenever she gets a chance. “As a longtime fan of Goop’s skin-transformative innovations, I was blown away by the potency of the Overnight Glow Peel,” she says. “Used regularly or as an intensive course a few times a year, this packs a powerful punch of brightening, smoothing ingredients—AHAs, Australian Kakadu plum, and three different sizes of hyaluronic acid. This treatment is always in my pro kit for instantly brightening, hydrating, and smoothing any skin before I create my signature Fascia Sculpt and lymphatic boost. It’s also perfect for gifting, to treat someone who is new to the power of glycolic or peels within the Goop family of innovations.”

“These ‘no-peel’ peel pads will warrant the results of a chemical peel over time without the downtime,” notes Candace Marino, the aesthetician who works with the likes of Grimes, Miranda Kerr, and Mandy Moore. “The resurfacing pads contain 4 powerful AHAS: glycolic, salicylic, mandelic, and lactic acid, alongside soothing and conditioning ingredients such as chamomile, green tea, and aloe vera that keep your skin balanced during the process. I notice they immediately boost the skin’s radiance while working on skin conditions like acne, wrinkles, pigment long-term, and even refining texture. I recommend them one to three times a week, depending on your skin type and condition.”

“Another one I really love is the iS Clinical Active Peel Pads—they are fabulous,” Marino adds. She praises the simplicity and efficacy further, saying: “They just launched, and I feel they’re an elevated version of any other pad on the market. The second pad is a neutralizing and soothing pad that leaves your skin with conditioning ingredients, so most people can do their nighttime cleanse followed by the peel pads and not need any additional serums or creams (if they want to be a minimalist). I, of course, layer on more—but it’s great for people who hate a lot of steps.”

Potent and healing at the same time, Burki’s dual acid peel combines glycolic and hyaluronic acids to exfoliate the skin while delivering ample hydration. Additionally, the infusion includes cold-pressed olive oil to provide nourishment to freshly exfoliated skin. LA-based aesthetician Celeste Rodrigues, who has prepped the faces of Normani and Jada Pinkett Smith, touts this as one of her favorite exfoliant peels. “I love this peel because there is little to no irritation, and you can use it weekly,” she says. “You’ll instantly see a difference in the skin.”

Enzyme Peels

One of our top choices to gently yet visibly even out a pesky, uneven skin tone, minimize dark spots, and keep your skin barrier intact. “I love this Tri-Acid peel because it doesn’t compromise the skin barrier while increasing the barrier’s own lipids that reside on the outer layers of the skin,” says Ivan Pol, the Beauty Sandwich founder and one of the most in-demand aestheticians today. “Plus, the three acid components in different sizes mean the molecules absorb in different increments, which gives outstanding results.”

A one-minute, powder-to-cream, pre-mask step that ensures your biweekly face masks deliver at an optimal level. Makeup artist Lisa Aharon recommends using the mask regularly at night for pre-mask prep. “This mask is fantastic for gentle exfoliation without drying the skin,” Aharon adds. “It leaves you with a more even complexion and preps it perfectly for your skincare and makeup products that follow. Personally, I like to use it at night (before the Black Rose Mask that I like to sleep in), so I wake up glowing.”

Georgia Louise, the bicoastal aesthetician with the chicest ateliers that have delivered care to the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Linda Evangelista, relies on La Mer’s The Micro Peel. “I’m a big fan of gentle micro peels and this one from La Mer is one of my favorites,” she says. “It’s probably one of the easiest ways to peel at home without any sensitivity or downtime, and it goes on like a serum. Calming, not irritating, the refining ferment exfoliates and soothes, and is so gentle it can be used nightly. It’s great for anyone who loves their skin feeling refined and smooth without stripping the pH.”

“While exfoliation is an important part of maintaining great skin, it doesn’t have to cause pain and redness to work,” says Joanna Czech, one of the most in-demand aestheticians who’s known for her work with Kim Kardashian. “I believe in exfoliators that respect and support skin—[and one of my] favorites include the Environ Tri-Botanical Revival Mask because it is a great acidic mask. It is quite powerful, so it is best for skin that’s used to vitamin A. Regularly incorporate it into your regimen.”

Amy Oresman, a master of iconic makeup looks, knows a thing or two about flawless skin. A true artist with her work—often prepping the complexions of Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristen Bell, Ellen Pompeo, and Eiza Gonzalez—she relies often on Dr. Harold Lancer’s Caviar and Lime Acid Peel to bring sublime glow and texture to the skin before makeup application. “The Dr. Lancer Caviar Lime Acid Peel is fantastic for delicate skin that needs a little bounce,” Oresman says. “The Pineapple and Papaya enzymes mixed with 10 percent Glycolic Acid leave the skin looking younger and smoother in just a few minutes. It’s my red carpet go-to.”

This carefully considered concoction gently peels away dead skin with the power of pineapple and papaya enzymes, skin-plumping konjac root, and hyaluronic acid. Lead Odacité aesthetician Taylor Lewin regularly bets on this peel to deliver outstanding results. “It creates soft, baby-smooth skin that is never dry,” Lewin says. “Whether you are using it as a 10-minute mask on the entire face or a gommage to roll off dead skin along the lips, this is the ultimate resurfacing multitasker.”

This stellar peel is fast become a favorite among beauty experts including Katrina Klein—the makeup virtuoso responsible for Kate Beckinsale’s and Jessica Biel’s glam looks. “It's my absolute personal alternative to a chemical peel that is gentle enough to use daily and it leaves my skin glowing,” Klein says. “Not only does it make dark spots less visible over time but it’s the perfect prep for skin before applying makeup.”

When you prefer the exfoliating powers of glycolic acid, there’s nothing more superb than Environ’s toner. This products delivers mild exfoliation and a smooth complexion, says aesthetician Sarah Akram, who often works with Mindy Kaling, Lili Reinhart, and Angela Bassett. “Environ’s Alpha Hydroxy Toner is such a wonderful product to help refine skin texture through mild exfoliation,” Akram says. “It contains a high concentration of an alpha hydroxy acid, as well as other active ingredients that result in a smoother, more even complexion while plumping fine lines.”

Physical Exfoliants

Not only does this product produce immediate results, it’s an esthetician favorite; an oft-repeated medical professional favorite; and, of course, a celebrity favorite. Veteran makeup artist Joanna Simkin (Nia Long, Marsai Martin, Issa Rae) incorporates it into her own skincare routine. “My hands-down favorite exfoliator is The Method: Polish from Lancer Skincare,” she says. “It has a warming effect that feels as though it’s melting the scrub into the skin, and the texture of beads feels effective yet gentle. It’s a perfect first step for smooth makeup application.”

“Whether it’s a red carpet event for my clients or just simple makeup for myself, this is my favorite for smooth and even skin,” says celebrity makeup artist Mia Jones (her rolodex includes Ashley Benson, Riley Keough, and Amy Schumer). “The fine jojoba beads gently remove dead skin and give a flawless, polished complexion.”

“I really like this because it’s a versatile manual exfoliator,” says Lena Bratschi, aesthetician and founder of Carasoin spa (a skin haven frequented by Michelle Williams, Elizabeth Debicki, and Kate and Mara Rooney). “You can use it neat for a Microderm-esque intense exfoliation, or by diluting it and adding it to your cleanser. It’s also gentle enough to be used as part of your daily at-home regimen. Another tip is that your exfoliating routine—especially during the winter months—shouldn’t just focus on your face. You should also treat chest, décolleté, and hands. As with all exfoliations, remember to at least use a nourishing moisturizer afterwards to encourage healthy new cell growth.”

“A buildup of dead skin cells can make product absorption more difficult, so it’s imperative to keep skin hydrated, especially during the winter months,” New York-based aesthetician Cynthia Rivas says. “During cooler months, I like to recommend a physical scrub more often than the use of a chemical exfoliator, because they are less drying. And I prefer Chanel’s Sublimage Les Grains De Vanille exfoliating scrub for a variety of reasons: Jojoba is a great hydrating oil. Harungana is a plant [that] has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes and is a great ingredient for reducing inflammation and rejuvenating the skin. Use it one time in the morning, so it doesn’t interfere with the use of any AHA, BHA, retinols, or other active ingredients that should only be used at night.”

Jill Powell, celebrity makeup artist to Sabrina Carpenter, Demi Lovato, and Ciara, depends often on Renée Rouleau’s Triple Berry Smoothing Peel to smooth skin and provide a glow. “I love using Triple Berry Peel on my clients before special events, red carpets, or appearances because it smooths the skin texture, brightens the skin, and makes the skin glow,” she tells W. “It’s an easy-to-use, gentle, at-home peel that packs a punch when it comes to results.”

“I try a lot of products, and this one genuinely made me gasp,” says makeup artist Suzy Gerstein, who has worked with Leighton Meister, Maude Apatow, and Cynthia Nixon. She loves the softening and exfoliating benefits that cater especially to sensitive skin. “It’s a lush formula that’s infused with a delicate blend of AHAs that moisturize while gently exfoliating—revealing the smoothest skin underneath. I have sensitive skin and find that it doesn’t sting or irritate whatsoever.”