Acids. They sound terrifying. And just about the last thing you’d want near your face. But believe it or not, when used to exfoliate, these potent powerhouses are like a reset button for your skin.

What are acids exactly and how do they make you glow? With the change of seasons in full swing, there is no time like the present to exfoliate. That means shedding that top layer of dead skin, making way for your baby fresh skin underneath that’s just waiting to absorb all the healthy goodness in your serums, oils and moisturizers. Used daily, gentle acid exfoliation balances, hydrates and brightens your skin like nobody’s business.

It’s fall and it’s time to get glowing.


Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Peel Original Formula Acid Exfoliation for SkinThis 2-step, at-home peel will transform your dull, lifeless, sensitive skin into glowing, bright and luminous, practically overnight—with zero recovery time. Glow pads take 2.5 minutes out of your day and the results are so worth it. This exceptional treatment combines five alpha and beta hydroxy acids with retinol, ubigquinone, resveratrol and a host of other antioxidants and soothing botanicals to transform your skin. For visible anti-aging results, the peel works overtime to smooth fine lines, tighten pores, brighten and hydrate skin tone while obliterating acne. Recommended for even the most sensitive skins, the Alpha Beta Peel calms redness and irritation and clears imperfections. Get ready to see a healthy, glowing complexion. Simply wipe the face with a Step 1 pad, wait two minutes, then repeat with Step 2. Glow Pads are gentle enough for daily use (morning or night) on all skin types or just use as often as you like to get your glow on.  Available in original or extra strength at Sephora.  $110/30 uses.

Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner Acid Exfoliation for SkinThis not-your-average toner is your second step after cleansing, applied using a cotton pad (Shiseido facial cotton is my absolute fave) and followed with your usual products. Ideal for the acid shy, it’s a gentle and refreshing exfoliating lotion, formulated with small amounts of glycolic, salicylic and tartaric acid to eliminate dullness and leave skin looking smooth and bright. Because there’s no stinging or dryness upon application, you’ll find this product just right for those days when you need a gentle touch. A win-win solution for all skin types.  Available at Sephora, Shoppers Drug Mart, The Bay, or anywhere Clarins is sold.  $35/125 mL bottle.

Radical Skincare Age-Defying Exfoliating Pads A quick sAcid Exfoliation for Skinwipe of these AHA and BHA multi-fruit acid-based pads exfoliate, promote cell turnover, and brighten and tighten your skin. Each Radical pad is packed with the deep pore-cleansing power of glycolic acid, the soothing touch of chamomile and the resurfacing prowess of fruit acids to smooth wrinkles, reduce pore size and even skin tone while improving skin firmness, texture and elasticity. Leaves skin hydrated, calm and refreshed. Apply one pre-moistened, single-use pad over face, neck and décolleté after cleansing. I even use this around my eye area because it’s clinically proven to reduce crows feet by 5 per cent in two weeks! Follow with your regular treatment products. Ideal for all skin types, especially sensitive.  Available at Sephora online.  $90/60 pads.  

Skinceuticals Blemish + Age Defense Acid Exfoliation for SkinThe perfect choice for those who are starting to notice the effects of aging and still battling annoying breakouts. This targeted oil-free serum combines a harmonious blend of acids designed to prevent the formation of acne, minimize existing blemishes, even skin tone and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, all in one fell swoop. I apply this serum at night, after cleansing and drying my face really well. I use 4-5 drops and press into my face and neck. This serum is active so you may want to start by using it every other night until you get used to it. Best suited for oily or combination skins prone to breakouts.  Available at Gee Beauty for $90.  

Sunday Riley Good Genes Acid Exfoliation for SkinThis stuff is magic. Once you start using it, you won’t be able to stop. Read a full post dedicated to this game changing chemical exfoliant here.  Available at Gee Beauty for $105.

What do you need to keep in mind when you exfoliate?

The 4 Golden Rules of Chemical Exfoliation

1. Daily sun protection is a must. Well-exfoliated skin is more vulnerable to sun damage. Always protect yourself with SPF 30 or higher!

2. Listen to your skin. If you are feeling irritated and sensitive one day, skip the exfoliating stage and baby your skin instead.

3. Mix it up. Begin to think of your acid toners as a wardrobe and pick and choose what you think your skin needs that day. For example, if I’m feeling really oily, I might use the Blemish + Age as my nighttime treatment but my super sensitive skin responds well to the Alpha Beta Glow Pads on other occasions.

4. Always follow your exfoliant with a layer of serum/oil and moisturizer/sunblock on top.

Got questions? I’ve got answers. Feel free to comment below! 

About the author

Holly Bellman

Holly Bellman is the Executive Director of The Gerry & Nancy Pencer Brain Trust ( and a beauty addict. She blogs about the products she loves and hopes to inspire others with new beauty findings and old favorites at

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