At-home peel pads are having a moment—and for good reason. Deliver skin-care actives to the skin with a single swipe? Sign us up.
But, even if the instructions say, “use morning and night,” celebrity aesthetician Nerida Joy has a specific before-sleep recommendation for this particular type of product: “If I were to recommend peel pads for at-home use, I would suggest using in the evening,” she says, adding that, with so many different types of peel pads on the market, there may be an exception, but this stands as her general advice.
“I do think the morning would be safe if we knew the user was using a great sunblock and applying a sufficient amount before stepping outside—but the evening makes more sense to me for many reasons like that extra cleanse/exfoliant, less chance of a chemical reaction that can happen with a sunblock application, and no direct contact with the sun light,” she explains.
“Plus, the skin will rest, which is always a good thing.”
Campbell, CA dermatologist Amelia K. Hausauer, MD, who is a big fan of AlphaRet peel pads by skinbetter science ($110), stresses that all types of peel pads should be used sparingly and, typically, no more than three times per week.
“I suggest that they are used at night, especially because this specific kind has a retinoid in them, which is inactivated by sunlight. Overuse can contribute to barrier compromise and sensitivity,” she warns.
“Of course, it very much depends on the acids that are included in a peel pad or any type of peel since some are much gentler than others. Additionally, I recommend combining retinoids and acids under the guidance of a dermatologist as this can also over stress the skin if not done properly for your needs.”
Saddle Brook, NJ dermatologist Dr. Frederic Haberman also offers the guidance of not overdoing it.
“I definitely do not recommend doing at home peels of any kind more than once a day. Chemical peels vary in strength and ingredients, but most aim to deeply exfoliate the skin to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, improve brightness, and lift away unwanted discoloration and brown spots. At-home chemical peels formulas have lower concentrations of the same acids, making them ideal for at-home use.”
Plus, he stresses, just because you don’t peel, doesn’t mean it isn’t working: “Don’t underestimate the strength of any chemical peel, even if you feel it didn’t do much.”
Likewise, New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD says nighttime is the only time she would recommend using a peel, as they make you more sensitive to the sun and “since our skin regenerates during the night, it just makes sense.”
She also reiterates the importance of always wearing sunscreen the next day after a peel and warns that “twice a day is too harsh on the skin,” as it can create irritation and break down the skin barrier.
“Keep in mind that the function of the skin is to be a protective barrier,” Dr. Russak explains. “Most peels break down or dissolve the top layer of the skin, therefore compromising that barrier and therefore peels should not be done too frequently. The skin has to have time to repair itself and regenerate, otherwise the skin will get too inflamed, red, dry, and sensitive.”
In addition to the above, West Palm Beach, FL dermatologist Kenneth Beer, MD recommends first determining the type of peel (his favorite are the ones he developed for ScientificRx), as well as the concentration before making any moves.
“The stronger the chemical and the longer the time applied to the skin, the less frequently you will need to peel,” he advises. “Another consideration is how thick the skin is and how oily it is. Thick, oily skin can be peeled twice a day and have no issue. However, thin, light skin can be done every other day and typically needs a break for a day or two. Finally, the destination also decides what regimen to use. If I am treating acne, I recommend peeling twice a day, however, when I am treating fine lines or pigment such as melasma, I like to peel once every day or so, giving the skin time to repair.”
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