While a visit to the dermatologist or a day spa for an acid peel or a facial usually delivers day-of results, an at-home facial treatment remains the quickest and easiest way to rejuvenate and refresh your complexion. And though some women may get a kick out of blending their own face masks (avocado, egg whites, and mayonnaise are popular ingredients for DIY brews), there are much more effective alternatives. Cloth and mud masks that you wear for 10 to 20 minutes are evergreen favorites, but even that can seem like an eternity sometimes. Like before work. Or before a date. Or anytime you’re feeling lazy. Enter the peel pad, a genius skin fixer-upper infused with potent active ingredients that work in the time it takes to floss your teeth. Yes, that fast, says New York dermatologist Debra Jaliman, the author of Skin Rules, who adds that the word “peel” is a misnomer. You’re not actually peeling anything off, you’re just wiping a pad over your skin. “What we’re talking about is exfoliation,” Jaliman says. “No matter what your age, you need to exfoliate. If you’re 50, you need to do it for antiaging, and if you’re 20, you need to do it to get all the makeup and gunk out of your pores.” And no, that gravel-textured scrub you’ve been using since 10th grade is not doing the job properly. So here’s the drill: No matter what your skin issue is, you can use most peel pads every day for quick and easy results and long-term improvement. And you can use a mask once or twice a week for a turbo boost. Caveat: If you’re prone to redness, eczema, or rosacea, consult your dermatologist first. Now read on for the best buys.
BANISH BREAKOUTS If you have acne, it’s especially important to incorporate a peel pad daily to keep pores clean and to remove bacteria, helping to prevent future breakouts, explains Jaliman. Choose pads that contain salicylic acid, which “really does unclog your pores.” Glycolic acid works well too. Try:Dr. Dennis Gross Extra Strength Alpha Beta Face Peel ($78) and Aveda Outer Peace Acne Relief Pads($33). For your mask, select a detoxifying mud formula to absorb excess oil and remove dead skin cells. If you’ve got active acne, she adds, “zinc is a great anti-inflammatory ingredient.” Try: GlamGlow Super-Mud Clearing Treatment ($69) and Wei Golden Root Purifying Mud Mask ($42). Our tester loved the mask from Wei: “The brush applicator made it so easy to apply. It tingled a lot, but my skin wasn’t irritated at all. My face was still less oily the morning after.”
REDUCE WRINKLES AND BOOST SOFTNESS Wrinkles are (sadly) a sign that your skin is not as strong as it once was, so the best strategy is to treat it gently—healthy, nonirritated skin always appears younger. “Look for pads with antioxidants like green tea and vitamin C,” says Jaliman. “You get amazing antiaging benefits, but they won’t dry you out.” Antioxidants also help balance the irritating effects of wrinkle-busting glycolic acid, a key ingredient in many antiaging pads. Essential fatty acids (look for omega oils) are beneficial too, as they strengthen skin. Try: Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads ($45) and
LaseResults High Fluence Antioxidant Peel System ($75). Our tester raved about the LaseResults pads: “Afterward I looked in the mirror, and it really did look like a new layer of skin on my face. My skin was velvet soft and glowing.” For maximum hydration, use a mask packed with hyaluronic acid (the same ingredient in injectable wrinkle fillers like Juvéderm and Restylane) or sodium hyaluronate. “They instantly boost the moisture in your skin. And I like aloe; it’s very smoothing and soothing,” Jaliman says. Try:
Ahava Hydration Cream Mask ($30) and
SK-II Facial Treatment Mask ($90 for six).
GO FOR THE GLOW Jaliman suggests using peel pads that contain vitamin C, niacinamide, kojic acid, arbutin, and bearberry and licorice extracts—all “extremely effective at lightening dark spots.” Glycolic acid also improves skin tone almost immediately by stimulating cell renewal. Try: Origins Brighter by Nature High Potency Brightening Peel ($37.50) and RéVive Glycolic Renewal Peel($295). Our tester is a convert to the RéVive peel: “I noticed a big difference after just one use. My skin is definitely brighter and smoother. It’s amazing.” A weekly mask should contain similar active ingredients, and/or brown algae or seaweed, each of which has been proven to brighten spots and prevent others from forming. Try: Shiseido White Lucent Power Brightening Mask ($68 for six) and Giorgio Armani Luminessence Bright Infusion Biocellulose Mask($175 for six). For lasting results, remember to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every morning, advises Jaliman, because even a little bit of sun can increase pigment production if you’ve used a skin brightener.