If you’re having a hard time finding a chemical peel your reactive skin can tolerate, you’ve come to the right place. Not only does this post reveal the best chemical peels for sensitive skin that shed away dead cells buildup without irritations, but it also gives practical tips that’ll help you counteract sensitivities caused by chemical peels. The chemical peels we found for you work gently to improve texture and tone, diminish wrinkles look, and leave skin looking radiant. And yes, everything without the redness and irritation that sensitive skin often encounters when using peels.
How to use chemical peels if you have sensitive skin
It turns out a gentle peeling solution in the right concentration and used at the right time is the perfect recipe for problematic skin.
Choose a peeling solution that suits your sensitive skin
Sensitive skin benefits the most from gentle peeling agents, such as lactic acid, malic acid, and polyhydroxy acids, which work by exfoliating dead cells delicately without irritating skin. However, among all acids, glycolic acid is the most potent due to the small molecular size that allows it to penetrate the epidermis — the reason it often triggers sensitivities on bothered skin. So, either you steer clear of glycolic acid, or you use it in small concentrations of a maximum of 5%.
Start with baby steps
If you are a chemical peel-virgin is better to start off with a low-concentrated product (less than 10%) with every two weeks applications. Slowly increase the frequency and concentration as your skin builds tolerance. You should also use the chemical peel at night as it increases photosensitivity, but also because the skin recovers most while you sleep.
Remember that although it’s normal to feel a slight tingling sensation while the peel is on your skin, if anything becomes too uncomfortable, rinse off the solution with cold water because water acts as a neutralizer and deactivates the solution.
Use skin-replenishing products
How your sensitive skin responds to chemical peels doesn’t entirely depend on the peeling solution, concentration, and frequency but on your aftercare routine too. What you do and the products you apply after the chemical peel are crucial for reducing the chances of side effects.
Chemical peels work by causing controlled damage to the skin to trigger the skin-renewing process. However, this also results in weakening the protective barrier. The moment skin can’t recover on its own is when you start experiencing dryness, itchiness, and redness. As such, by applying a repairing moisturizer rich in replenishing ingredients (think hyaluronic acid, fatty acids, peptides, ceramides) that aim to consolidate the barrier, you’ll have much more chances to offset irritations. The more you moisturize, the faster your skin recovers. We found these moisturizers to be the best to use after a chemical peel.
Besides, since chemical peels have the instant effect of increasing the skin’s power absorption, avoid harsh actives such as retinol, vitamin C, or other exfoliants after the chemical peel. Instead, opt for soothing products that aim to restore the barrier and strengthen the skin.
The best chemical peels for sensitive skin
Without further ado, these are the best chemical peels for sensitive skin that help you make your way to a glowing and healthy complexion without worrying about irritations.
Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Sensitive
I’ve been recommending Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Sensitive a lot lately, and that’s because I’m honestly in love with its formula. The best part is that it features organic apple juice as a base (hence the name), a rich source of malic acid — the gentlest of alpha-hydroxy acids often recommended as a peel for easily reactive skin. More than that, the peel is made with glycolic and lactic acids to support cell turnover and reveal the radiant complexion of your dreams. And don’t worry. This product is delicate enough for sensitive skin as it’s also packed with softeners, including vitamin E, aloe juice, and glycerin, to calm and hydrate the skin, offsetting possible reactions.
Estée Lauder Perfectionist Pro Peel
Estée Lauder Perfectionist Pro Peel definitely got the right formula for a gentle but still potent chemical peel all skin types can use, including sensitive and acne-prone ones. It combines 9.9% AHAs (glycolic, tartaric, and citric acids) with salicylic acid to eliminate dead cell buildup and accelerate skin renewal. This killer combo is just as good at improving the appearance of uneven skin tone, discolorations, and acne scars. In addition, the peel uses sodium hyaluronate, algae extract, and squalane to hydrate and revitalize the skin, while resveratrol and vitamin E add extra antioxidant protection. This formula actually leaves the skin soft and plump, not irritated and dry, the reason we consider it one of the very best chemical peels for sensitive skin.
Philosophy The Microdelivery Dream Peel
This light, fresh-scented, leave-on peel is the perfect balance between exfoliation and replenishing. It works overnight to reduce dark spots and wrinkles look, refine texture, and shrink large pores by fueling your skin with a 6% blend of alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids. And since it’s infused with plenty of restorative ingredients such as niacinamide, sodium hyaluronate, Centella asiatica, and hyaluronic acid, it’s unlikely to disturb the skin.
The Inkey List 10% Lactic Acid
One of the best chemical peels for sensitive skin comes from The Inkey List, powered by 10% lactic acid to deliver an intense yet delicate exfoliation without irritation. In fact, lactic acid is often touted as the gold-standard peel for problematic, sensitive skin because it both exfoliates and hydrates, so it won’t dry out nor burn your complexion. If this isn’t enough, this peel also contains hyaluronic acid and glycerin for extra hydration and fewer irritation risks.
Dr. Dennis Gross Ultra Gentle Daily Peel
This fast-acting two-step chemical peel was formulated with sensitive skin in mind. The pads in the first step are soaked in an ultra-gentle solution of lactic and mandelic acids mixed with soothing ingredients such as green tea and copper peptide to leave behind smooth, glowing skin without causing damage. On the other hand, the second step delivers anti-aging benefits while acting as a neutralizer for the peel. The calming effects are given by sodium hyaluronate, Centella asiatica, adenosine, and colloidal oatmeal, which are real goodies for irritated, inflamed, or eczema-prone skin. Softly swiping it across your complexion and letting it dry for about two minutes will result in more radiant, perfectly even, and smooth skin with less visible wrinkles and fine lines.
Isdinceutics Night Peel
Even though this formula contains potent acids to fight dullness and aging marks, it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin. That’s thanks to the plant-derived complex containing saccharide Isomerate, a natural moisturizer that works as a humectant (water-binding agent) and skin replenisher, sucrose, and urea. Shake it, open it and apply it before sleep to start on your path to clearer, robust and rejuvenated skin.
Perricone MD No:Rinse Exfoliating Peel
Consider Perricone MD No Rinse Peel if your skin is super sensitive or can’t tolerate other exfoliants. It’s a leave-on daily peel, non-irritating, that gently exfoliates the skin, smooths texture, and enhances radiance thanks to gluconolactone. If you are not familiar with it, gluconolactone is a polyhydroxy acid (PHA) known as the next-generation of acids that deliver both exfoliating and moisturizing benefits. There’s also plenty of hyaluronic acid, urea, and aloe vera in this peel, all great for hydrating the skin and counteracting irritations.
Lancer Gentle Exfoliating Peel Pads
Imagine Lancer Gentle Exfoliating Peel Pads as a cell turnover booster on steroids that’s acting gently on the skin. Though these pads are soft thanks to betaine, niacinamide, and oatmeal, they’re soaked with a 7% lactic acid solution to wipe out all dead cells from the skin’s surface. Moreover, the peel is packed with papaya fruit extract to support lactic acid in promoting cell turnover and bakuchiol (a natural retinol alternative) to minimize the look of fine lines and wrinkles. Exfoliators, hydrators, anti-irritants, it has them all — no wonder it’s one of the best chemical peels for sensitive skin.
Peter Thomas Roth PRO Strength 10% PHA Exfoliating Liquid
Combining 10% gluconolactone (the PHA I mentioned earlier) with 5% glycolic acid and 0.5% salicylic acid, Peter Thomas Roth PRO Strength promises to leave the skin smooth, refined, and pores unclogged. Although this formula may intimidate people with problematic skin, it is actually non-irritating and works gently to promote a clear-looking complexion while slowly making acne disappear.