This Peel Has All The Right Ingredients… So Why Doesn’t It Work?

by Gio

peter thomas roth un-wrinkle peel pads 01

FYI, just because a skincare product has all the right ingredients, it doesn’t mean it works.

Case in point: Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads. These pads are loaded with glycolic acid, Vitamin A and antioxidants to exfoliate your skin and get rid of wrinkles BUT there are a couple of issue that make them a waste of your money.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Key Ingredients In Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads

Alpha & Beta Acids

Alpha & Beta Hydroxy Acids are two families of exfoliants. They all do the same thing, i.e., dissolve the “glue” that holds skin cells together on the surface of your skin. But, each family has one or two more tricks up its sleeves:

Together they make skin softer and smoother, fade away wrinkles and dark spots and get rid of blackheads and pimples.

Or, they would… at the right pH.

Beautypedia reports that Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads have a pH of 6.  That’s too high for these acids to work their magic.

Glycolic acid, for example, works best at a pH of around 3.5-3.8. The higher you go, the less glycolic acid remains effective to exfoliate your skin.

Now, these pads have A LOT of glycolic acid. It’s the second ingredient on the list, so it’s likely that there’s still a little of it around to do the exfoliating job.

But why settle for less? This is a case where I’d rather pay more for something like Drunk Elephant Framboos Glycolic Night Serum. It has both types of acids at a pH that maximises their effectiveness. That’s what I call getting the most bang for my buck.

Related: AHAs VS BHA: Which One Should You Choose?

peter thomas roth un-wrinkle peel pads 02

Vitamin A & Antioxidants

You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t use AHAs and Vitamin A (retinoids) together. I totally agree. I use them both – on alternate nights.

Here’s the deal: vitamin A is irritating. It fights free radicals, boosts collagen production and speeds up the skin’s natural exfoliating process BUT it can leave your skin as dry as sandpaper.

So how can Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads use them together without turning your skin into a dry, flaky, irritated mess?

It’s kind of cheating… Here’s what I mean:

  1. The high pH leaves only a tiny amount of AHAs around to exfoliate skin and interfere with Vitamin A
  2. The pads use retinyl palmitate, the gentlest (and LEAST effective) form of retinoids available OTC.

In this case, the combo of AHAs and Vitamin A is gentler than you think. This means it’s not likely to cause irritation (unless your skin is super, super sensitive) but it also won’t make a dent on your wrinkles.

That’s not even the worst of it. Retinyl palmitate is an antioxidant. And just like the other antioxidants here – Vitamin C, green tea and chamomile, to name a few – it loses its effectiveness when exposed to light and air.

You know where this is leading… The jar packaging was SO NOT a good idea.

Related: What Form Of Vitamin A Is Right For You?

Citrus Extracts

How are these not banned yet?!

Don’t get me wrong. I ADORE citrusy perfumes and don’t want to see them disappear anytime soon. But in skincare? Citrus extracts have no place here.

Studies show that citrus extracts are irritating and make skin more photosensitive, i.e. susceptible to sun damage. That’s not something you want in a moisturiser, let alone in a peel that already makes your skin more sensitive (that’s what happens when you remove dead skin cells).

Unfortunately, Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads have more than their fair share of citrus extracts. Lime, lemon, orange, tangerine… This stuff is loaded with them. 🙁

Related: 7 Natural Ingredients That Can Irritate Your Skin

Let’s Put It To The Test: Personal Use & Opinion

My skin’s used to high concentrations of glycolic acid, but the first time I used Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads, I did experience a little tingling.

Tingling’s nothing to worry about. When it comes to exfoliation, it usually means it’s working. It’s when the tingling turns to stinging and burning that you need to wash it off your face, pronto.

Related: Should Skincare Products Tingle?

I left it on for a couple of minutes and then rinsed it off with cool water. When I looked in the mirror, I did see a difference. My skin was a little softer and smoother and had a lovely glow. With a few more uses, the large pores on my nose looked less visible too.

As I said, just because the pH is a little higher, it doesn’t mean no exfoliation happens. But when you also factor in the jar packaging and the load of citrusy extracts, I’m not convinced this is the best way to exfoliate your skin.

Sorry Peter Thomas Roth, this time it’s a miss for me.

Available at: $45.00 at Beauty Bay and Sephora


Ingredients: Water, Glycolic Acid, Ethoxydiglycol, Sodium Lactate, PPG-5 Ceteth-20, Rosa Centifolia Flower Water, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Butylene Glycol, Arginine, Salicylic Acid, Alanine, Aminobutyric Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Retinyl Palmitate, Chamomila Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Symphytum Official Leaf Extract, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Extract, PEG-8 Dimethicone, Sodium Propoxyhydroxypropyl Thiosulfate Silica, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Peel Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Tangerina (Tangerine) Peel Extract, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Octyldodecanol, Citric Acid, Silica, Sodium Hydroxide, Benzoic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol.

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Kelley September 22, 2018 - 2:15 am

I’ve used these off and on for a while, and have noticed that they don’t seem to work as well anymore. This could be why. What do you recommend that would do what these are supposed to do?

Gio September 27, 2018 - 1:56 pm

Kelley, have you tried Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos Glycolic Night Serum? It has the same exfoliating ingredients. Or are you looking for pads?

Anna January 6, 2020 - 1:24 am

What do you recommend for pads, with both glycolic and salicylic? (for oily skin, which can tolerate 5% glycolic pads twice a day)
Excellent site, by the way. Stumbled upon it and have been learning a lot.

Gio January 17, 2020 - 1:18 pm

Anna, unfortunately it’s hard to come across well-formulated pads with both acids. You can try ClarityRX Pick Me Up Booster Pads or Jack Black Power Peel Multi-Acid Resurfacing Pads. But they have more than 5% salicylic acid, so use them less often.

Or you can just opt for a salicylic acid exfoliant. If you have oily skin, you don’t really need glycolic acid. If you’re using it for its anti-aging properties, you’re wasting your money as you need 10% or higher to boost collagen.

Shannon merrill January 12, 2020 - 7:48 am

I like your approach to evaluating skin care products…most of the time I’m reading a review and it’s sounds like a paid glowing response but you have a reason behind everything you say and I appreciate that.

Gio January 16, 2020 - 4:47 pm

Shannon, thank you! This made my day.

I have ads on this blog and do consultations because I don’t like to do brand sponsorships. Reviews should be 100% genuine and unbiased. 🙂


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