To maintain her legendary looks, Cleopatra is said to have bathed daily in milk, a natural lactic acid. Though their ingredients are much more potent, home facial peels aim to provide the same benefits of exfoliation, moisturization and skin rejuvenation.
Over time, a build-up of dead skin cells can block pores, create blemishes and cause the skin to appear dull and uneven. Home facial peels can improve the texture, tone and clarity of skin by reducing lines, spots and roughness, while providing hydration and anti-aging benefits.
"The safe at-home peels can brighten the skin, soften it, and prepare it for peptides or growth factors so better results will be seen from the cosmeceuticals," says dermatologist Dr. Mary Lupo.
Unlike professional-grade peels, which may require a recovery period, home peels are safe to use without a doctor.
"Peels administered in doctor's offices are usually stronger than home peels and can have a higher amount of acid and a lower pH, which can be harmful to skin if not done by a trained physician," says Barbara Green, vice president of technology and clinical evaluations for Exuviance skin care.
When selecting an over-the-counter peel, it is always best to choose a mild product.
"At-home peels need to be gentle," Lupo says.
She recommends products that contain lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) suitable for all skin types, or salicylic acid, an anti-inflammatory that unclogs pores and minimizes discoloration. She urges shoppers to be aware of possible risks and steer clear of products containing trichloroacetic acid (TCA).
"If you use glycolic acid and do not neutralize (your skin after the procedure), or buy TCA online, I have seen people scar themselves," Lupo says. "Patients with darker skin color must be careful. They are at greatest risk of loss of pigment, permanent darkening and keloids."
Although individual results will vary, Green and Lupo agree with continued daily or weekly use, noticeable improvements will occur.
The Microdelivery Peel by Philosophy is a two-step kit that gently resurfaces and revitalizes skin with vitamin C, lactic and salicylic acid, to deliver softness while reducing the appearance of sun damage, hyperpigmentation, pores and wrinkles — $62 at Dr. Mary Lupo Aesthetic & General Dermatology (145 Robert E. Lee Blvd Suite 302, 288-2381; www.drmarylupo.com).
Formulated with lactic and marine acid to replenish pH balance and remove toxins and dead skin cells, Sue Devitt Microquatic Lactic Renewal Facial Peel hydrates skin and improves collagen production and elasticity — $62 at Make Me Up (3426 Magazine St., 891-9688; www.makemeupnola.com).
Created from a blend of alpha hydroxy acids and polyhydroxy acids, Exuviance Performance Peel AP25 can be used on the face and body to exfoliate, encourage cell renewal, diminish lines, refine pores and enhance radiance — $68 at www.exuviance.com.
Hypo-allergenic and suitable for sensitive skin, Boots No7 Advanced Renewal Anti-Aging Glycolic Peel Kit contains 7 percent glycolic acid and neutralizing pads infused with licorice, Icelandic moss, and pro-vitamin B5 to soothe and condition skin — $24.99 at Target (citywide; www.target.com).
Offering two treatments in one box, Olay Regenerist Microdermabrasion & Peel System provides the exfoliation benefits of derma-crystals and a lactic acid serum to boost cell regeneration — $29.99 at Walgreens (citywide; www.walgreens.com).
Free of parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances and dyes, REN Glycolactic Skin Renewal Peel Mask mildly but effectively increases cell turnover of acne-prone and older skin by loosening old cells with lemon, grape, pineapple and passion fruit acids, and digesting them with papaya enzymes — $55 at Sephora (Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 830-4567; www.sephora.com).
Jurlique Fruit Enzyme Exfoliator, a natural fruit-based alternative to synthetic chemical peels, firms and brightens skin with antioxidants and humectants — $45 at Sephora (Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 830-4567; www.sephora.com).