There are very, very few beauty products that I would sell my soul to get a lifetime supply of. Someone recently asked me what my number one, can’t-and-refuse-to-live-without skin-care product is, though, and after some reflection and time gazing into my (very packed) beauty cabinet, I’ve realized that it’s: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel ($88).
I remember the day I received my first box of these peel pads, individually wrapped in the brand’s iconic orange package box. It’s an important date that I’ll celebrate right alongside my birthday and anniversary. Because, once I started swiping the pads over my skin in the morning—first, step one, the “exfoliate and peel,” then step two, the “anti-aging neutralizer”—I started seeing my complexion’s true potential.
I’m not alone. These pads are a permanent staple in half of the Well+Good edit team’s beauty routine. The magic’s in the one-two punch of alpha hydroxy acids or AHAs like lactic, malic, and glycolic and beta hydroxy acids or BHAs like salicylic and willow bark extract, which more thoroughly exfoliate your skin. “They’re topical exfoliants,” explains Shirley Chi, MD, a California-based dermatologist. “Beta hydroxy acids go deeper into the pores and are great for acne, oily skin, and brightening. Alpha hydroxy acids are good for superficial exfoliation. So when they’re used together, you get more exfoliation and brightening than when used alone.” It takes two, ya know?
I know that chemical exfoliants and the word “peels” in general can bring to mind some scary, red-tinged skin, so there are options for the most sensitive skin types all the way up to extra-strength power peel for pros. And while many serums and moisturizers with chemical exfoliants can be harsh on skin, the acid in the peel pads is neutralized by the second step, so you’re really only getting the active ingredient for about two minutes total.
Beauty and fitness director Ali Finney—who has very reactive skin—actually converted me to the peel pad life after she saw her skin dullness completely vanish. “No serums or moisturizers were working. I realized that an army of dead skin cells had built up on my complexion and were keeping all of those effective, (and often pricey!) ingredients like vitamin C, peptides, and hyaluronic acid, from fully sinking in. I started using these peel pads, and ever since I’ve noticed that the dullness is gone, and that my complexion can soak up the goodness I’m giving it, so my pigmentation is reduced, my redness is soothed, and all around my complexion looks healthier.”
The exfoliating pads have gained a following, for good reason (maybe because I’ve told every single person I know about how great they are). Personally, I’ve upgraded from the Universal to the Extra Strength, because I’ve noticed even less hyperpigmentation and acne scars along with an even more intense glow. Now that I’m spreading the word even more, though, I’m just hoping the peel pads don’t reach Beanie Baby status and require waiting in lines at 4 a.m. just to get your hands on a new shipment (…. just me?).
Also a fave beauty product among our editors? The Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, which works on *all* skin types. And these are the best skin-care serums to buy that are basically a laser treatment in a bottle.