SOS: Glycolic Acid Pads


As we age, the texture of our skin can become uneven.  Glycolic acid is the best product for smoothing out wrinkles, acne scars and rough patches.  How does it work?  Glycolic acid removes dead skin cells, which stimulates the skin to generate new cells and collagen.  Both exfoliating the skin and allowing new cells to rise to the surface helps soften the skin and smooth fine lines and unevenness.

You can find glycolic acid and other AHA acids can be found in soaps, scrubs and serums.  My favorite delivery vehicle?  Pads.

Splurge. Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads ($45).  These pads are lightly textured to help with exfoliation, and the formula feels powerful when you use it.  It results in a mild tingle to the skin, but nothing too uncomfortable.  The pads also have a mild medicinal scent but aren’t heavily perfumed.

To use the pads, you swipe on the formula, lightly scrubbing the skin.  You then wait for your skin to absorb the remainder of the glycolic serum on the pads to absorb into the skin.  My issue with these pads is that it takes quite awhile for the liquid to absorb.  Over the two weeks that I used them, I often waited 15-20 minutes until my skin felt like it had absorbed the liquid.

Save. Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Exfoliating Pads ($11).  I picked up these pads while on a vacation.  My skin was suffering in a new climate, and I wanted a quick, inexpensive fix.

The pads are lightly textured and have a pleasant citrus scent.  There is almost no tingling when you swipe them across your skin.  The liquid absorbs quickly, but your skin will feel a bit tacky to the touch after you use the product.

Verdict. Draw.  While the products seem comparable, they’re not.  The PTR pads are 20% glycolic acid, while the Nip + Fab pads are just 4%.  So which pad you buy depends entirely on your needs.  If you are older or have skin that is in need of intervention, then you should go for the pad with more acid.  If you are just looking for a mild product, the Nip + Fab will give you a healthy amount of exfoliation but long-term results will either take longer to achieve or be non-existent.

I like both products, but choose the one that’s best for you based on your needs and your price point.  If you need more power but you can’t afford $45 for two dozen pads, I recommend this Boots No. 7 Advanced Renewal Glycolic Peel Kit ($25).  It has more intensity than the $11 pads, but is an occasional use treatment.



  1. Jennifer says:

    Did you see results from the Peter Thomas Roth pads?

    February 11, 2014/Reply
  2. Mish says:

    I like the Dr. Dennis Gross AHA/BHA peel. It has made a huge difference in my skin. My skin is so much smoother and my acne scars have gotten a lot lighter.

    February 11, 2014/Reply
    • Giggling Gourmand says:

      I also love the Dennis Gross Peel! It’s gentle enough to use regularly but can provide a boost on a blah skin day.

      February 11, 2014/Reply
  3. Belle from OK says:

    Amazon has the PTR pads on sale right now for 19.89 for Prime members.

    February 11, 2014/Reply
  4. amanda says:

    I bought the Peter Thomas Roth pads on Amazon for a lot cheaper (maybe $20?) and I actually cut them in half- I don’t need an entire one.

    February 11, 2014/Reply
  5. Rachel says:

    It’s important to note that some products containing AHAs can make your skin more susceptible to sunburn. I found this out the hard way – I used a lotion that contained two types of AHAs to treat my KP, and, while it was wonderful for evening out my skin, I had serious problems with miliaria and sunburning while using it during the summer, even though I also wear sunscreen religiously. My dermatologist identified the AHAs as the source of the problem, and luckily she directed me toward some AHA-free products that work just as well without the burn.

    Just something to keep in mind, since using something that makes you more susceptible to sun damage defeats the purpose of smoothing out wrinkles. 🙂

    February 11, 2014/Reply
    • AG says:

      Do you mind sharing what these products are? I’d like to start using more anti-aging products, but I’m super pale and there’s been a lot of skin cancer in my family, so I’m hesitant to use products that will increase the likelihood of sunburn.

      February 11, 2014/Reply
      • Rachel says:

        Sure! I’ve used a combination of a retinoid cream and a vitamin A cream (both prescription) for when my keratosis pilaris really flares up, though I’m not sure how effective they are for anti-aging. For everyday use, I use a lotion that is high in urea, like Nutraplus, or just 100% pure coconut oil. I think skin care products that contain AHAs are now required to have an FDA warning about sunburn on the package, so you can always check what’s on the shelves near you as well.

        February 11, 2014/Reply
  6. Sari says:

    Have you tried the Philosophy Microdelivery triple acid peel pads? How do you think they compare?

    February 11, 2014/Reply
  7. Andrea says:

    i love all of your beauty posts, belle, but these are my favorite. i take all of your recommendations seriously. thank you so much for all of your hard work!

    February 11, 2014/Reply
  8. Marisa says:

    I’m with Amanda, I cut my PTR pads in half. Doing this not only puts less liquid on your face/decolletage/hands but it makes it faster to absorb and doubles the amount of pads! For those asking, I’ve seen results from PTR pads after 3-4 uses, skin looks more airbrushed; after one use it feels smoother. Added note: with any peel/acids you definitely need to be diligent about sunscreen as noted by Rachel too!

    February 11, 2014/Reply
  9. Jessica says:

    How do these products compare to the First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads you reviewed a few months ago? I use the FAB pads every morning- are either of these products a better alternative?

    February 11, 2014/Reply
    • Lindsey says:

      I would also like to know the answer to this question.

      February 11, 2014/Reply
  10. SJ says:

    Belle, do you (or anyone else here) have experience with Rodan + Fields? I’ve been hearing buzz about it, but I didn’t know if that was just good marketing or of these products were really worth the investment. I’d be curious to hear others’ thoughts before I try it!

    February 11, 2014/Reply
    • Mish says:

      Is that the maker of proactiv? If so, I had zero luck with that line. It just made my skin mad. It didn’t rid me of acne and seemed to increase redness. I prefer a clarisonic with a natural cleanser, a toner (I use kate somerville but there are cheaper ones out there), an occasional peel like the ones Belle listed, and moisturizer every night.

      February 12, 2014/Reply
  11. H says:

    I love the Trish McEvoy versions of these pads – very gentle on my super sensitive but still effective, liquid absorbs quickly, no tacky feeling at all.

    February 11, 2014/Reply
  12. yellowrose says:

    SJ–I love my Macro-E from Rodan and Fields almost as much as my Clarisonic. It’s an at home microderm machine. SUPER easy to use and you can adjust the pressure/intensity to your liking. I don’t know much about the other R and F products but that one is worth every.single.penny.

    February 11, 2014/Reply
  13. B says:

    PTR Peel Pads are a skin care item must have for me. I’ve been using them for about 2 years and have repurchased again and again. I cut mine in half also.

    I just turned 40 (if that helps anyone), and it has completely erased my forehead wrinkles, keeps my skin smooth, and cleans out my pores. What I mean by that last part is that I used to occasionally get break outs from clogged pores and PTR Peel Pads has kept pores free and clear.

    I can’t say how it compares to anything else, because once I find something that works, I just stick with it.

    February 13, 2014/Reply
  14. Brigid says:

    These 20-percent glycolic pads are great and cheap – ~$23 for 60. (I’ve never used the PTR ones so can’t compare, but am very pleased with a variety of Glycolix-brand products. I do find that so many OTC glycolic acid items are 10 percent or under and thus mostly useless. Anything with a 20 percent concentration seems to do the trick very similarly!)

    February 13, 2014/Reply
  15. missphoebe says:

    The PTR peel is meant to be washed off after 3 minutes.

    February 17, 2014/Reply
  16. Allie says:

    Belle – love your blog! After reading this post, I had to share my favorite exfoliating product which you can get from Blue Mercury (a local DC favorite!). Its called the M-61 Power Glow Peel Pads, and let me tell you, they are a miracle in a box. Give them a try – they will give you a free sample at the store!

    February 18, 2014/Reply