Aqua-Peel Hunger Force! 3-Way Comparison of Single-Serving Chemical Exfoliators

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Relatively new on the scene are these single-serving part chemical and part physical exfoliators called 'aqua-peels'.

I first heard about them from the Glow Girls (with all due #girlboss respect) from who discussed them at length on Refinery29 a few months ago.

Simply put, they're travel-ready, ultra-portable acid treatments that involve...

A giant Q-Tip

Soaked in an acid sol'n

With optional mask*

*Some kits go so far as to include an optional serum and mask

Despite being dubbed 'aqua-PEELS' they usually come soaked in a solution that is less potent than the average chemical peel.

We're talking concentrations in the 4%-10% AHA range... (peels usually come in AHA concentrations of 15% - 40%)

Before getting into the comparison, I want to preface by saying, I like these guys. I've seen results from the ones I've tried today that go above and beyond what I see my regular acid exfoliators doing for me on a normal acid night.

I've tried and enjoyed 3 peels so far, and even went so far as to try a DIY cheapie version because... no-buys and low-buys exist, they suck, and maybe there are benefits to be had using the skincare you already own.

The products I'm reviewing today are the:

Primary Raw 2-Step Milk Peeling Kit

Reme+G 3-in-1Aqua Peeler Kit

The DIY version

The last kit I've tried comes from a brand I am planning to carry at my new pet project, a new online K-beauty lemonade stand (it's a small shop). I don't think it's fair to compare something I'm planning to carry against something others are already carrying on this blog.

Primary Raw 2-Step Milk Peeling Kit

WHAT IT IS A multi-acid based treatment that revolves around lactic acid and glycolic acid. There's also a little apple water which is acidic. It's got a concentration of 8% lactic acid, and is pH optimized for exfoliating the skin at a pH of 4. Promising. Promises.
It's front-loaded with humectants and anti-inflammatory extracts, but some fragrant, potentially phototoxic extracts bring up the rear. Not shabby.
As an added bonus, this kit includes a soothing sheet mask with a primo ingredients list... Some standouts are Niacinamide, Sodium Hyaluronate, and Bird's Nest Extract, in a cornucopia of other great things.

WHO IT'S FOR Anyone who wants to benefit from the pore-degunking, pore-minimizing effects of an alpha hydroxy acid treatment. Plus it will light a fire under your collagen synthesizers. Also, anyone who has their sunscreen game on lock because, if you use these peels and go naked under the sun, you will get sun spots and wrinkles... and chlamydia... and die...

TO USE Simply take the Q-tip and swirl around your face using light pressure, making sure you get into all of the nooks and crannies. See me peelin' no hatin' in the little video below by clicking the play button. If it doesn't load, you can see it here. Then use the sheet mask for at least 20 minutes.

AVOID IF You've got sensitivities to any of the ingredients included. For a full list, see below.

A video posted by kinseng (@kinsengnsq) on

AHA Soaked Q-tip
Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Lactic Acid, Sodium Citrate, Butylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Water, Citric Acid, Glycolic Acid, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Illicium Verum (Anise) Fruit Extract, 1,2-Hexanediol, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel) Fruit Extract, Ocimum Basilicum (Basil) Leaf Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Oil, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Houttuyria Cordata Extract, Althaea Officinalis Root Extract, Lavandular Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract
Sheet Mask
Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Propanediol, Niacinamide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Swiftlet Nest Extract, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Panthenol, Allantoin, Glycine Soja (Soybean) oil (200ppm), Centella Asiatica Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract,  Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Chamomilla  Recutita (Matriaria) Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Zanthoxylum Piperitum Fruit Extract, Pulsatilla Koreana Extract, Usnea Barbata (Lichen) Extract, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Adenosine, Carbomer, Tromethamine, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Fragrance, Disodium EDTA

PERFORMANCE / THE PEEL As I swabbed on and swabbed off the AHA with the help of the giant cotton swab (seems to be a requirement that the cotton swab be mighty to cover so much ground) there was a light tingling sensation, a bit stronger than I normally get with my AHA acid treatment due to what I believe is the fact that the swab really gets it in there to all of your pores and crevices. However, it didn't sting my skin, which is dry and not too sensitive, but deals with retinoic acid on an almost nightly basis.

The peel smelled really nice and much to my surprise and delight there was enough AHA solution for me to dip back into the packet and swab the decks once more. I can't recall the scent except the fact that it was not too strong, and hard to put my finger on.

The next morning, I woke up and my pores were GONE. They got gone and stayed off my porch (nose and cheeks) for 2 whole days. My skin was also a bit not drier, but more.... porous like a sponge, as I noticed my makeup absorbed really quickly and almost completely the next two days.

I wasn't impressed the night of, but after seeing those results... I know I want to get these again for special occasions which to me in my life means eating carry-out sushi in landlocked _my_hometown_.

PERFORMANCE / THE MASK Well, the main event of this product is the acid treatment, so the mask didn't have to be good for me to want to buy this again. But it was.

It's made out of microfiber which is that thick white sheet that you get often when the mask is carrying a creamy or milky type serum/essence. I really like these kinds of masks because I have dry skin and I'm in the tundra. Chicago rarely escapes a yearly Snowzilla or Snowmageddon, but this year it's just really dry and sad and withered.

Anyways, back to the mask, the mask was really gentle and calming on the skin and moisturized like I was force-feeding my skin cream. It held on for 45 minutes and I would buy this mask on its own based on its own merits.

I got this mask at Cupidrop for 15% off $6 using the code KATEFAVS (am not affiliated with Cupidrop, in case you're wondering). Glow Recipe also has it for $6. If you haven't broken your GlowRecipe seal you can use this link for $5 off your first $50+ purchase. You can also get it on Amazon for $28.89 for a pack of 5 here.

REME+G 3-in-1 Aqua Peeler Kit

WHAT IT IS ALSO, a multi-acid based treatment that revolves around lactic acid and glycolic acid (plus apple water). It's got a lesser concentration of 6% lactic acid, and is ALSO pH optimized for exfoliating the skin at a pH of 4. This one has alcohol in it, just a warning. Also, while it also contains humectants and anti-inflammatories and natural sources of antioxidants, they're kind of interspersed with fragrant, potentially phototoxic botanicals. So sensitive skin foks watch out, despite the lower concentration of acid.
This kit has TWO bonuses. A brightening serum and a sheet mask. The brightening serum formula is pretty plush.... It contains a lot of great potent antioxidants and anti-aging ingredients, and is very moisturizing. Please ch-ch-check it out on CosDNA or any other beauty-cyclopedia to see if the ingredients agree with you and your skin.
The sheet mask also contains alcohol, which I haven't been abstaining from for awhile now... I think if you've been following along you know in the beginning, I was afraid of alcohol in my products like jungle juice concocted in a garbage can... The mask also looks fairly 'safe' (going to be an ass and leave that unqualified, but let it be known it looked safe for my own skin).

WHO IT'S FOR Anyone who wants to be brilliant. And shine, and lift hyperpigmentation, and literally check out how they'd look as a ghost. It's not a joke when it comes to brightening. Also, like before, anyone who wants to benefit from the pore-degunking, pore-minimizing effects of an alpha hydroxy acid treatment. Plus AHA's have the potential to boost collagen synthesis. Also, anyone who religiously applies sunscreen as AHA's make skin more sensitive to the sun.

TO USE Same as before, to use, take the Q-tip and swirl around your face using light pressure, making sure you get into all of the nooks and crannies. Here's another little video, just click the play button on the photo below. Next, apply the brightening serum, pat it into the skin, and follow-up with the sheet mask.

AVOID IF You've got sensitivities to any of the ingredients included, particularly the alcohol. For a full list, see below.

A video posted by kinseng (@kinsengnsq) on

AHA Peeling Swab
Water, Alcohol, Lactic Acid, Tromethamine, Dipropylene Glycol Glycerin, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Glycolic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract (Water Butylene Glycol Ethyl Hexanediol 1,2-Hexanediol), Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract (Water Butylene Glycol, Ethyl Hexanediol 1,2-Hexanediol) Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Fruit Extract (Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Water, Phenoxyethanol), Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract (Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Morus Alba Bark Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Water Butylene Glycol, Ethyl Hexanediol, 1,2-Hexanediol), Erythritol, Allantoin, Trehalose, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Methylpropanediol, Glycereth-26, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor oil, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance
Brightening Serum
Water, Butylene Glycol,, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Dipropylene Glycol Glycereth-26, Methylpropanediol, Niacinamide, (Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Pyridoxine HCl, Maltodextrin, Sodium Starch Octenylsuccinate, Silica), Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract (Punica Granatum Fruit Extract, Opuntia Coccinellifera Flower Extract, Honey Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Cordyceps Sinensis Extract, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Water, Butylene Glycol, Ethyl Hexanediol, 1,2-Hexanediol), Sodium Hyaluronate, Trehalose, Erythritol, Allantoin, PEG/PPG-17-6 Copolymer, Sodium Polyacrylate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Xanthan Gum, Glycerin (Water, Phenoxyethanol, Glyceryl Acrylate/Acrylic Acid Copolymer), Carbomer,, Triethanolamine, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Extract, Dextrin, Panthenol, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance
Sheet Mask
Water, Glycerin, Niacinamine Alcohol Sodium Hyaluronate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract (Water, Butylene Glycol, Ethyl Hexanediol, Phenoxyethanol), Malva Sylvestris (Mallow) Extract (Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract, Primula Veris Extract, Alchemilla Vulgaris Extract, Veronica Officinalis Extract, Melissa Officinalis Leaf Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Water, Glycerin), Trehalose, Allantoin, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance

PERFORMANCE / THE PEEL The cotton swab was large enough to make the peel easy to use again. I think this one was a bit bigger. This time around, I noticed that there wasn't excess solution in the packaging. It didn't really matter as the cotton 'bong' (oh did I forget to mention cotton swab in Korean is bong?) was so fully saturated that I could go over my face thrice to take that video I mentioned above.

This peel was a little bit stingier, but not painful. And my skin looked blushed but not full on pink. This is why I think that it's something to use with care if you have sensitive skin. In case you're sensitive to scents, this one smelled like fruit candy.

The next morning with this one, my pores weren't erased completely but the sebaceous filaments were all gone. The pores still looked a bit smaller. The skin was again a bit more ready to soak in the nutrients in my morning skincare routine than usual but not as much as with the Primary Raw peel.

PERFORMANCE / THE SERUM + MASK SANDWICH To me what stood out about this kit was the serum and mask. The peel was good, definitely doable again, but the serum and mask were responsible for some intense brightening.

They don't give you a lot of serum, only a quarter-size amount of a thick ampoule / all-in-one Korean bomb ampoule (consistency is almost a gel but not quite as solid) that is amber in color.

The scent was not too strong - it was overshadowed by the fruity scent from the step before... With that said, this step didn't really stand out to me until I saw the results.

I went ahead and patted it in because patting is almost ingrained into my muscle memory now, but eventually remembered that I had in my posession, the REME+G sheet mask that would do the patting and make the serum absorb for me... Laziness is a sheet mask. Precious Moments.

The mask is a cotton one, with a very Cremorlab shape, material, and scent. I think many may have tried that brand by now. It's soft and cotton, with a light 'cosmetic' scent. The mask seemed well-suited for oily to normal to dry skin as the essence was thin and very hydrating. It was also pretty thick for an essence that contains alcohol in the formula and left a tacky finish (a good thing for dry-skinned me). I got a bit impatient and took it off after about 25 minutes but it could have hung on for 35-40 minutes.

On my phone, in my notes app, it just says "Really white!"

This serum and mask lifted my skin tone and spots and I looked tres pale for 2 days.

PURCHASE? Yup, for fun, when I want to shine.

I got this mask for being a valued customer at Glow Recipe... not as blogger or press sample service, customer service.

I will most definitely pick it up when I'm bored and want to marvel at these kinds of results again.

You used to be able to get a pack of 10 of these at Singapore-based HKCPlaza for very little but it seems like they are sold out right now. What can ya do... Asian skincare hounds caught the scent of a 60% off sale. But Glow Recipe has it for $6. Again, if you are a first time Glow Recipe purchaser, you can use this link for $5 off your first $50+ purchase.

DIY - Do It Yourself with your favorite acid and a Q-tip

WHAT IT IS Take your favorite acid treatment, and soak a q-tip in it. Follow up with the rest of your skincare routine and/or a sheet mask.

WHO IT'S FOR Anyone who wants to save some cash and doesn't necessarily want to 'try a trend'.

TO USE Take the Q-tip and swirl around your face using light pressure, making sure you get into all of the nooks and crannies. Lose all feeling in both arms as you try to cover your face which is bigger than you think. Give up after doing your nose, cheeks, and chin. Think about the forehead and weep. Give up. Then go and take a cotton pad, soak it in your favorite acid... Try to pretend it's the same thing, but realize you've just gone through the motions of a regular acid night.

AVOID IF You want more pronounced results than what you see on a regular acid night.

PERFORMANCE / THE PEEL To be honest, I went into this thinking, oh since the acid concentrations are fairly low in the Primary Raw and REME+G products... Maybe it's the physical act of cotton bonging my face that's giving me the more pronounced results! But no, there's also got to be a formula-based element to the results I just shared with you.

Also, it takes a long time to saturate a q-tip.

Also, q-tips are small. (Though you could buy giant q-tips if you're in Asia right now, if you try it, give me a shout!)

Also, it's just not the same, but if you're satisfied with how your skin looks the day after your regular acid treatment, you might not want to splash out for a bunch of these aqua-peels.

But after a regular acid night, my pores usually look smaller and my face brighter. Jus' sayin.

So in summary:

Thank you for reading.
Have you tried these types of peels? How did your experience go?
If you haven't, what do you think about this new class of product?

Disclosure: This post contains a customer service gift from This post contains an affiliate link. Purchasing through an affiliate link is one way you can choose to support this blog at no personal cost to you.  If you are curious about my policy on press samples, affiliate links, and sponsors, please see my disclaimer and policies.

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