12 Peels For People Who Are Still Scarred By That SATC Episode

Remember Sex and the City? Of course you do. It inspired countless glittery and smokey eye looks. It deftly covered the politics of stashing your beauty essentials in your S.O.’s bathroom. And it kept us busy playing catch up with Carrie’s long-to-lob, curly-to-straight, blonde-to-bronde hair changes. But of all the memorable beauty images that the show churned out, one of the most unshakable is that of that of Samantha, post chemical peel. After getting an impromptu treatment, her skin looks burned to smithereens — or as Carrie put it, “like beef carpaccio.” But that was way back in 2002, and we've come a long way since then.
Sure, in-office peels still use concentrated alpha and beta hydroxy acids, gauged to penetrate the skin at a depth that at-home peels don’t reach in order to eat up dead cells that sit on the surface of the skin, de-gunk and tighten pores, even out skin tone, and stimulate collagen production. But unlike a beloved fictional character’s fictional results, actual outcomes are nothing like the charred faces that many of us have come to fear.
Skin pros have become masters at using a cocktail of acids to resurface the face without the burn. And options abound: Even those with sensitive skin can book an irritation-free peel as part of a HydraFacial, which produces very little tingling, if any, thanks to a wand that delivers the glycolic and salicylic acids to the skin, then lifts the gunk via a vortex-like vacuum that also deposits nutrients like antioxidants and hyaluronic acid at the same time. After an in-office peel done right, skin might be a bit pink, just like with some facials — or show no signs of irritation at all.
The advancements have made the treatment wildly popular as of late. According to a new report released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, chemical peels are nearly 20% more common than they were in 2000 and fell just behind Botox and fillers as the most requested minimally-invasive cosmetic procedure performed last year, with more than 1.36 million completed.
Annie Chiu, MD, a dermatologist based in Manhattan Beach, notes that in-office peels administered by a pro who knows how to control intensity will produce the best results (ie brighter, more evenly-toned skin). But for those looking to maintain those results, or simply try a starter peel, at-home versions offer an easy way to get a healthy glow, particularly in the summertime. “Oil glands in general are more active in warmer weather, and with increased outdoor activity and sweating, this combination can lead to dull appearing skin or clogged pores,” Dr. Chiu says. “At-home peels are a quick and easy way to give yourself a little, glowing pick-me-up.”
Just like with in-office options, at-home peels vary in intensity. Newer formulations range from 25% AHA/BHA overnight masks that can be used up to twice a week (for oily and acne-prone skin) to spray-on liquids that act as a light chemical exfoliating treatment, with zero tingle (a perfect option for sensitive skin). See how to get in on the action at any intensity, ahead. But first, a word to the wise: No matter what option you try, be sure not to slack on sunscreen. Because a peel without SPF is a surefire way to cop Samantha’s beet-red hue.
1 of 13
These exfoliating pads from Kiehl's heiress Jami Morse Heidegger don’t come out until June, but they’re worth the wait — particularly for those with sensitive skin. Unlike some daily peel pads, their texture isn’t at all abrasive and though AHAs are included (via sugar cane, bilberry, lemon, and other extracts), the exfoliating solution doesn’t make skin tingle upon contact.

Retrouvé Skin Brilliance Priming Pads, $65, available June 5 at Retrouvé.
2 of 13
This super gentle, mineral water-based peel contains hyaluronic acid and aloe extract and is like nothing we’ve seen before. Spray it onto skin, then massage. You’ll see dead skin cells ball up and slough away thanks to fruit extracts in the formula — all without tingle, irritation, or having to rinse.

O.R.G Skincare Mineral Peel Face, $44. Available at O.R.G Skincare.
3 of 13
We love the idea of getting a brightening skin treatment that makes skin glow and makeup glide on before big events, but who has the time or the money? This three-step system is our new go-to. After applying individual ampules of an exfoliator, gentle peel (which contains a cocktail of glycolic, citric, tartaric, malic, and lactic acids), and tightening serum, our skin looks bright, smooth, and selfie-ready.

Natura Bisse Diamond Instant Glow, $88, available at Bluemercury.
4 of 13
This traditional rinse-off peel includes a whole roster of fruit extracts (including papaya, cherry, and agave) along with witch hazel and lactic acid to brighten and keep oily skin in check.

Acure Organics Purifying Fruit Peel, $23, available at Acure Organics.
5 of 13
We know the logic doesn’t exactly translate, but on not-so-healthy days, we love the idea of treating our skin to super greens and enzymes. This vegan resurfacing mask uses papaya and pineapple enzymes to clear skin of dead cells and gunk. Meanwhile, kale, aloe, and hyaluronic acid help soothe skin.

Pacifica Kale Juice Cleanse AHA Surface Overhaul Mask, $15, available at Target.
6 of 13
Peels and dry skin used to make horrible bedfellows, but as we said, things have evolved. If you're looking for a side of serious hydration with your exfoliation, swipe this swab soaked with lactice, glycolic, and hyaluronic acid, along with lots of fruit extracts, over your entire face, then smooth the sheet mask on top. Remove after 20 minutes, but don't rinse.

Murad Hydro-Glow Aqua Peel, $48, available at Murad.
7 of 13
Activated charcoal and volcanic sand tag team to deeply clean skin and slough off rough, dry, dead cells. And you can see its brightening action work: After applying the gel, dead cells ball up before your very eyes.

Boscia Charcoal Deep-Pore Exfoliating Peel Gel, $34, available at Sephora.
8 of 13
Don’t want to pony up for an in-office peel? This three-step, at-home system is a riff off the brand’s most popular in-spa treatment. Start by exfoliating skin with the included facial scrub, then apply the lemon facial peel (which contains AHA and BHAs), then finish with a soothing chamomile mask.

Ole Henriksen Power Peel Transforming Facial System, $50, available at Sephora.
9 of 13
Some people hate the scent or texture of a traditional acid peel. And Bel Air-based celebrity facialist Angela Caglia gets that. So she created this glycolic-rich, liquid-gel mask, which is naturally colored with purple sweet potato extract and scented with distilled rose petals, to give clients a way to deeply exfoliate and come out smelling like roses.

Angela Caglia Rose Glycolic Masque, $65, available at Angela Caglia.
10 of 13
This gel-to-peel resurfacer also exfoliates by collecting dead skin cells into balls that are easily brushed away. It boasts stem cells from edelweiss, sea holly, and criste marine, and is excellent for sensitive skin types.

The Body Shop Drops of Youth Liquid Peel, $25, available at The Body Shop.
11 of 13
Diligent with your nighttime beauty routine? Then this overnight peel is for you. The dual-chamber bottle contains two formulas: Phase one, a gentle liquid formula, is designed to be used continually for 14 nights and contains 5% AHAs and phytic acid. Phase two, used during the following two weeks, is a stronger solution with 9.5% glycolic acid and salicylic acid to help slough off dead skin and boost cell turnover.

Lancôme Visionnaire Crescendo Dual-Phase Peel, $75, available at Lancôme.
12 of 13
For those with acne-prone and sensitive skin, daily peel pads can feel too harsh. These pink tinted pads are gentle enough to be used daily (they contain just 1% salicylic acid and raspberry fruit extract to exfoliate) and are witch hazel-based to help control excess oil.

Arcona Raspberry Clarifying Pads, $36, available at Nordstrom.
13 of 13
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!