A different kind of peeling

Published July 14, 2020, 12:16 PM

by Dr. Kaycee Reyes

Do peeling gels work?


Since K-beauty dominated the skincare industry not too long ago, we have been all too familiar with serums, ampoules, double cleansing, multi-step routines, and face masks. But have you heard of peeling gels, a gentler yet effective alternative to exfoliating pads and scrubs? Long been a part of Asian beauty, peeling gels are a favorite by many Koreans and Japanese and have been a beauty staple ever since. 

Peeling gels 101

Never heard of a peeling gel? A peeling gel isn’t as harsh as it sounds, however, it does have a “peeling” effect. Peeling gels are physical exfoliants that mainly contain the ingredients cellulose or carbomer and bind with the skin’s oils to help remove dead skin when you rub or massage against it. As the gel sits on top your skin and friction is applied, the gel dries and forms tiny lumps of the product—and don’t worry, it’s not your skin coming off! These lumps are usually the effect of the product that act like regular scrubs to exfoliate your skin, but gentler and less irritating. Don’t confuse peeling gels with chemical peels, however, such as glycolic peels, AHA’s, or salicylic acid, that have enzymes and acids do the job. Also, compared to chemical peels that for some may leave their skin stinging or sensitive, peeling gels do not leave the skin that way, unless of course the product is massaged or rubbed on too much.


How do you use a peeling gel? On clean, dry skin, apply the gel on your face. You will notice that the gel will change its texture and turn into a creamy or milky consistency. Gently massage it on your skin until it dries and forms tiny beads of the product (either cellulose or carbomer) as it also lifts the dead skin along with it. When the beads stop forming, you may rinse your face with water and continue with the rest of your regimen. Since this is gentle enough for a lot of skin types, it may be used several times per week, depending on your skin’s sensitivity and tolerance.

For your skin care roster

Will peeling gels suit your skin? Since peeling gels are gentler than other physical exfoliants, you may try testing it on a small area of your face and see if your skin can tolerate it. If so, you can begin by exfoliating once or twice a week and work upwards to thrice a week or more. If you are not sure whether a physical peel will suit your skin, or maybe a chemical peel will be better for you, consult with your dermatologist for proper analysis and recommendation. 

A peeling gel may work wonders for some, but for others, another type of exfoliation may do the trick. Like other skin care products, it is a trial-and-error process. For those with sensitive, acne-prone, or with other skin care problems such as psoriasis and eczema, please talk to your physician before trying any skin care product.