Acid-based exfoliating pads sound scary thanks to words such as “resurfacing”, “peel” and, well, “acid”, but used correctly, they are an excellent addition to your skincare routine. Exfoliating pads are soaked in similar alpha and beta hydroxy acids to your usual exfoliating toner, but at a higher percentage for the maximum glow-getting effect. 

Depending on your skin type and whether you have used acids before, you may find some are best used daily, while others once or twice a week as part of a more indulgent, mini-facial routine. If in doubt, it is better to start with little and build up use, as you work out what your skin tolerates and what gives the best results for your complexion. All of the below delivered visible smoothing, brightening results within two weeks of testing.

1. Pixi Glow Peel Pads: £24, Asos  

These are the pad pals of the much-loved Pixi Glow Tonic, with all the brightening, anti-ageing effects of the toner, but with four times the glycolic acid content, at 20 per cent. Used twice a week, these pads gave the best results for the money of everything we tested.

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2. Zelens PHA+ Bio Peel Resurfacing Facial Pads: £65, Look Fantastic 

You can always rely on skin aging expert Zelens for visible results, and these pads are no different. They give a post-facial-esque glow, using four acids (polyhydroxy, lactic, citric and salicylic) to sweep away dead cell build-up, resurface skin and reduce scarring and pigmentation. They've got a slightly eye-watering smell, so less seasoned users may want avoid breathing in while doing the nose area.

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3. Rodial Super Acids X-treme Pore-Shrinking Cleansing Pads: £38, Rodial 

We’re immediately suspicious of anything that claims to be pore-shrinking, but we love these gentle and effective pads from Rodial, who sells high performance skincare products. Unlike most others we tested, they use a blend of apple amino acid and salyclic acid to exfoliate, without stripping moisture and they also contain olive oil for deep cleaning. Our tester has sensitive skin but found these were fine for everyday use.

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4. Elizabeth Arden Skin Illuminating Retexturizing Pads: £35, Elizabeth Arden  

These differ from the other pads we tested as they have a slightly gritty texture, which more sensitive skins may find irritating. Our tester, however, found that the glycolic acid content left skin glowing and smooth, without stripping moisture, thanks to the amino acids in the formula. They’re best used three times a week as part of a more indulgent skincare routine. 

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5. Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beat Peel Extra Strength: £70, Cult Beauty 

Dr Dennis Gross's formula is unusual in that it is a two-step formula. The first pad contains five acids - glycolic, lactic, malic, citric and salicyclis - and the second contains retinol, along with all its anti-ageing benefits. Despite all that, they are not harsh at all and are suitable for daily use. For those who can face the extra faff, they deliver excellent results on older skin.

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6. Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Exfoliating Facial Pads: £6.49, Boots

These are the cheapest pads on our list and the price does show a little in that they leave slight residue – combat this by rinsing your face ten minutes after use. But they are gentle, smoothing and excellent on hormonal or teenage skin, as the inclusion of witch hazel is great for tackling breakouts. If you are on a limited budget or want to try out exfoliating pads, without investing a lot, these are a great place to start.

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The Verdict: Exfoliating pads

Zelens' PHA+ Bio Peel pads are in a league of their own in terms of immediate results, but for value for money, Pixi's Glow Peel Pads are unbeatable.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.