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Skin-care secret weapon: a smart new peel that doesn’t sting

Exhale Spa Smart Peel FacialYou might think your skin needs a serious facial. (And maybe it does.) But a new, nourishing Smart Peel offered at Exhale Spas is your skin’s secret weapon against acne and giant pores, sun damage and hyperpigmentation (spots), plus fine lines and wrinkles. Does that cover your bases?

The 30-minute treatment is $65 (an affordable luxury in our book) and summons an instantly glowing complexion—without stripping your skin raw. That’s a notable difference from dermatologist-dispensed peels that promote cell turnover more radically, requiring you to sequester yourself for days until your skin sloughs and heals.

Exhale Spa Caitlin Conn
Exhale's Caitlin Conn

These aren’t your mother’s house-arrest peels, confirms Caitlin Conn, skin care director for Exhale Spas, who developed the Smart Peel using Sircuit Cosmeceuticals. The Los Angeles–based line is known for being both hyper-scientific and all-natural. (In addition to being paraben-free, the products are made in small batches every two weeks.) “A lot of peels just aggressively exfoliate the skin,” says Conn, “which can kick-start a free-radical cascade. This peel is filled with antioxidant ingredients that replenish and restore skin.”

There are actually three Smart Peels—but your facialist picks the right one for you, as it should be unless you studied cosmetic chemistry:

  • Mature or super oily skin can handle the Cocktail, the most intense peel that has salicylic acid and retinol to slough off dead skin and tighten pores.
  • The Mocha Loca uses moisturizing lactic acid to safely dissolve dull cells. Cocoa and caffeine add tons of antioxidants. One warning: it smells potently of dessert.
  • Best for combination skin (mine), is Youth Accelerator, pumpkin enzyme peel that’s “equivalent to a derm-strength 30 percent glycolic acid,” says Conn, only without any side effects.

Each peel tingles as it softens and resurfaces. But post-peel, my skin was only slightly flushed, like I’d taken the stairs and not the elevator, and noticeably brighter. What’s more, my skin was prepped to drink in all the pricey beauty products in my medicine cabinet. So I got a lot back for my $65 investment.

Exhale Spas (3 locations in New York and nationwide),; peel, $65, or $50 when added to a facial