This $7 Exfoliating Mask Gave Me the Glowiest Skin of My Life

Among the depths of Reddit and TikTok, there is a new horror: people spilling scarlet liquid from a glass vial dropper across their face. It’s The Ordinary Peeling Solution, the skin-care world’s latest obsession.

It looks like fresh placenta, tingles like mint chapstick, and costs less than a Frappuccino. It looks like the terrifying “vampire facial” that’s popular with Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow, but it’s blissfully not made out of your own blood. And it’s going viral, with claims that it gives you the brightest, clearest, most glowing skin of your life.

I tried the product—a $7 at-home chemical peel—for several weeks. Here’s what I found: If you use The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution correctly, your skin will glow as if lit from within by a vintage chandelier. If you use it incorrectly, your skin will be raw, red, and possibly even damaged.

Here’s how to do it right.

How to Use The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

If you’ve ever vigorously rubbed your face with a washcloth, or massaged your face with a textured scrub, congratulations—you’ve used a physical exfoliant. And now I am coming to your house to do a socially distanced intervention, because this is not the most sophisticated technique science can offer, and I want better for you and your precious face. Chemical exfoliation sounds like an Enlightenment-era torture invention, but it is actually a gentler, more effective way to shed old skin cells and reveal brighter, clearer skin. So! Bring out the acids!

There’s never been a skin-care line quite like The Ordinary. Obsessed with clinical results and pure ingredients, allergic to seductive branding and fake promises, the company is a rare case of All the Hype Is Deserved (truly, just read our extensive reviews of all the best The Ordinary products). The line gives luxury ingredients at fast-food prices—if you’re willing to brush up on your high school science knowledge. A full skin-care routine from The Ordinary could set you back less than the cost of drinks and apps, and last much longer. But navigating The Ordinary’s site feels like reading the periodic table of the elements. Products are sorted into categories like Molecules and Peptides and have names like EUK 134 0.1%.

The right tiny glass bottles, which will make your bathroom look like a chic apothecary, can transform your face better than almost anything, short of a visit to the dermatologist. But the strength of The Ordinary’s formulations also means that you need to know what you’re doing—even if what you appear to be doing is pouring fake blood on your face. What is an AHA+BHA solution, and why should you (carefully) put it on your face?

The Ordinary Peeling Solution is distinguished from the brand’s other exfoliators because it is a wash-off mask, unlike, for example, the Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, which you swipe on with a cotton pad, or the Salicylic Acid 2% Solution, which you use as a spot treatment. The peeling solution is also distinct because it combines multiple types of exfoliants. It includes AHAs, or alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric) and beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid) at a very high concentration. This means the mask will essentially obliterate dead skin cells and debris that cause clogged pores, getting you three steps closer to glorious, celebrity-caliber skin. It also means that if you use it too often or leave it on too long, or if your skin is just too sensitive, your face will freak out.