Though I enjoy a good exfoliating serum, toner, or lotion, the ease of swiping a cotton pad that’s pre-saturated with ingredients is not lost on me when the nine-step routine is crunching into my beauty sleep. There’s something so simplistic about the things!
Pads have gotten me through many breakouts over the years, but today, peel pads are better than ever. Now, instead of simply nuking your face with alcohol and BHAs, you get variety of ingredients that do everything from moisturize to add an artificial tan. The world of prepackaged peel pads is growing and expanding, so let’s figure out which ones are worth your time and cash.
Price: $4.50 for 90 pads
Price per pad: $0.05
Active ingredient(s): salicylic acid
Perks: These pads are cheap as heck, available everywhere, and very reliable. Though I have used them in the past and still grab them for extreme backne issues that pop up from time to time, overall I find them too harsh for my face. This is probably due to the menthol and citric acid, which are a little bit irritating.
I wouldn’t write them off completely, though, as they do treat acne, but you need to counteract with a heavy-duty moisturizer to level the playing field. They are billed as safe for daily use but I would limit it to two-to-three times per week, especially if you are using any other salicylic acid products in your routine.
Price: $56 for 50 pads
Price per pad: $1.12
Active ingredients: glycolic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C
Perks: For surface exfoliation that targets more than just acne, Elizabeth Arden is giving you a luxurious and brightening jar of pads that are safe for periodic use.
I chatted with Dr. Dendy Engleman about when to use AHAs like glycolic acid versus when to use retinols, and she advised that getting at least two doses of AHA from products like this one is important for weekly skin maintenance. Scrubbing away (metaphorically—we’re talking chemical exfoliants here) the surface of dead and discolored cells, as well as helping to minimize wrinkles over time, these babies launch in December at department stores everywhere.
Price: $35 for 20 pads
Price per pad: $1.75
Active ingredients: glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, retinyl palmitate, vitamin D
Perks: Aside from the obvious pleasure I derive from self-tanners, these pads, though expensive, work beautifully. The ingredients all work together to treat acne, exfoliate on multiple levels, prevent wrinkles, and add a subtle glow. The tan lasts a few days, as does the softness you get from exfoliation. I love them mostly because the ingredient cocktail helps multiple concerns.
Price: $62 for 30 pads
Price per pad: $2.06
Active ingredients: glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, vitamin K
Perks: Terribly expensive, but considering it’s a two-month supply if used two times per week, it's still a good amount of product. I really enjoy the combo of vitamin K with AHA/BHA because it’s perfect for legs, which sounds loco, I know.
The reason for this is vitamin K’s purported varicose vein treatment capacity, paired with the ingrown-hair-busting capability of an AHA/BHA combination. I already use face wash and monolaurin gel on my legs after shaving, but these really have more to offer for body than for face, including the size of the wipe itself. (I don’t have irritation issues with chamomile, but anyone with a ragweed allergy will want to avoid using this product.)
Ranging from spare change to a cool two George Washingtons, it’s important to know what precisely you are paying per pad. Instead of reaching for the first one you see, you can pinpoint the perfect one for you based on frequency of use, price and actives.
- Anyone else prefer using pads to exfoliate?
- Where in your routine do you use exfoliants?
Photos: Maria Penaloza