welcome to SKINCARMA!

These are the musings of a skincare junkie + writer + brand guru with 25+ years of product wisdom put into action to demystify skin care. 

You can change your skin’s destiny.™


In my blog two weeks ago, I promised that when I moved to Brooklyn the first thing I was going to do was find the best pizza near my new place. There are literally two pizzerias right next door — and they’re nearly next door to one another. That’s Brooklyn for ya.

The first Friday in the new Sky Pad | BK was epic.

My two test pies — one from Luv-n-Oven (left), one from Pipitone’s (right).

My two test pies — one from Luv-n-Oven (left), one from Pipitone’s (right).

This is going to sound as crazy as it was, but I needed to do a side-by-side comparison. Friday night pizza in the Sky Pad is too important to play around with.

That means I had to order two pies — one from each pizzeria — within seconds of each other. I needed to know who would get it here first and how hot the pie would be. There’s nothing like the steam that comes off a piping hot pizza as you draw open the lid on the box. So, I ordered identical pizzas — half pepperoni, half just cheese — from the pizzeria rivals Luv-n-Oven and Pipitone’s.

The Pipitone’s pie, pictured on the right in the image above, arrived first. While I have been joking that their tagline should be Pipin Hot Pipitone’s™, it was indeed piping hot. (And I should charge them for that tagline! Maybe pay me in pizza? #willworkforpizza )

The slice from Pipitone’s with its cheap cheese.

The slice from Pipitone’s with its cheap cheese.

I took one bite of a pepperoni slice and I knew instantly what I suspected to be true — it’s not a great pizza pie. Why?

They use cheap cheese!

You can tell by how runny it looks. I also thought the crust was too thick and lacked flavor. It wasn’t awful, but it certainly wasn't gonna cut it for Friday nights in the Sky Pad!

Not five minutes went by before the concierge called again to say that he was sending up another food delivery. Seriously, he had to be wondering what was going on! As you can see from the side-by-side comparison, the Luv-n-Oven pie on the left looks quite different than the one from Pipitone’s. Any self-respecting Italian can tell it’s a more authentic pie just by looking at it. And, one bite told me that it was. It was far more flavorful and the cheese wasn’t cheap! Again, there was something about the crust that I didn’t love (I think they both need more olive oil and salt), but at least what was on top of this one was flavorful — and worth the calories.

It kind of bums me out to admit that neither pizza was as good as what I ordered from my beloved Krispy-with-a-K — downstairs from my last place.

So, here I am. I know firsthand which pizzeria is superior — but I’m not there yet. The hunt for the right neighborhood pizza that can live up to my Friday night expectations continues…

Excuse me. This is a blog about skin care, isn’t it?

Well, yes it is! So let’s get to it. One of the most common requests I get for product recommendations is for an AHA serum. I’ve written blog articles about favorite Vitamin C serums (read it here), fave Retinol treatments (that’s here) and even Hyaluronic Acid serums — which I talk about extensively in my article about my AM regimen here.

But Alpha Hydroxy Acid products are popular, perhaps the most misunderstood — and certainly the most misused. I try a lot of skin care and while I always read the instructions for use, I rarely follow them. Apply two to three drops of Hyaluronic Acid? No way! You gotta use an entire pipette, or dropper full. You don’t want to skimp on HA. It’s not a free, direct acid like Glycolic, Salicylic or Retinoic — and others that can irritate, even burn the skin. Sure, you do need to be somewhat cautious with a Retinol product, but that really matters most in how your skin reacts to a specific treatment over time. With an AHA treatment, though, application is everything. I have a friend who got carried away using an AHA serum and burned his face so bad that it peeled for weeks and left lasting scars. Follow the directions on all AHA treatments!

I definitely use the Dr. Dennis Gross Resurfacing Liquid Peel as directed!

I definitely use the Dr. Dennis Gross Resurfacing Liquid Peel as directed!

As always, when recommending multiple products in a category like this, I try to give a range of products — taking into account cost and potency. All of them are effective AHA treatments that I’ve used and would continue to use on my own skin. Are these the best AHA facial products available? They’re certainly four of the best! But, this obviously isn’t a comprehensive list of the best AHA treatments out there. I could have easily included Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum. There are likely dozens of AHA treatments that I could review, test and recommend. And I’m happy to hear your faves! (Drop them in the blog comments below.)

So, here are what I consider four top AHA treatments — ranging from new $7 “clean beauty” AHA fruit acid pads to a serious, at-home dermatologist office treatment.

Amperna 10% Pro+ Resurfacing Lotion


I first discovered Amperna’s incredible probiotic skincare collection about a year ago. I’ve collaborated with the brand’s founder and first customer, Kiri, through my Skincarma IG page several times since — and am a true believer in the formulas. Probiotics in skin care are one of the best solutions for rebalancing skin — especially irritated, reactive, and acne-prone skin. You can read my full review of the Amperna brand here as well as my recommendation for a probiotic acne regimen here.

Because the Amperna 10% Pro+ Resurfacing Lotion is formulated with the brand’s signature probiotic complex, this particular treatment is the mildest — and most tolerable for all skin types. Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with Glycolic Acid. I love the results it delivers — powerful chemical exfoliation you can’t get from very many ingredients. But my skin doesn’t tolerate it well, especially at high results-driven levels like 10%. Often, if I’m not super careful, I’ll get a slight rash or tiny red bumps on my face, particularly on my forehead.

The 10% Pro+ Resurfacing Lotion is a gentle, lightweight exfoliating treatment formulated with a high-level 10% Glycolic Acid, antioxidants, and probiotics to help calm redness and improve skin’s texture. It literally balances out the after-effects of the glycolic. Suddenly, even I can use a 10% glycolic treatment worry free — all the benefits, none of the redness.


Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel

What makes Dr. Gross’ skin care products stand apart is that they’re conceived and formulated by a dermatologist who knows what skin needs — and how to deliver that effectively. Dr. Gross’ new Clinical Grade range elevates the formula potency to more closely mimic the kinds of treatments that you’d expect to get at the derm. The Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel is a powerful, dual-phase liquid exfoliating treatment that features a hearty concoction of AHAs that effectively resurface the top layer of the skin.


In fact, a close look at the ingredient lists of the two distinct serum products in the RLP treatment tells me this is one of the most powerful resurfacing peels on the market. As I recall, there are six AHAs used in skin care — and all six are included in the phase one serum at high levels. They are Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Mandelic Acid, Malic Acid, and Tartaric Acid. Dr. Gross didn’t stop there. In addition to these tried-and-true resurfacing AHAs, there are a slew of other acids, many of which I’m familiar with, many I’m not all that hip to — including Salicylic Acid, Phytic Acid, Pyruvic Acid, Gallic Acid, Ellagic Acid, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, and Linoleic Acid.

This is an acid powerhouse!

So, how do you manage the new RLP system without burning your face off? Hey, that’s a very real possibility with these serious at-home treatments. As I said earlier, I always follow the directions with all AHA resurfacing products — and often leave them on for less than the recommended amount of time at first.

With the Resurfacing Liquid Peel, Dr. Gross recommends applying step one, the peeling serum, with a cotton pad and leaving on for two minutes. I closely monitored my skin’s reaction — as you can see in my YouTube video here. There was quite a bit of, let’s say, warmth — especially on my forehead. That’s the most sensitive part of my face and the area I was most concerned about. I had shaven barely an hour earlier so I avoided the lower part of my face this time. But, I did swipe the serum over my neck. My biggest skincare regret is not taking better care of my neck all these years. Don’t make the same mistake I did. You’ll pay for it later!

The 2-step Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel is serious stuff!

The 2-step Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel is serious stuff!

After two minutes, I was ready to deactivate the acids. Doing so is as simple as dispensing the serum in step two on a fresh cotton pad and swiping over all the same areas. The step two formula contains a slew of common irritation soothers including Centella Asiatica Extract, Colloidal Oatmeal, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract (Green Tea), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E) and Glycerin. It really did the trick. The relief was nearly instantaneous.

How effective is the new Dr. Gross Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel? Put it this way, it took all of five minutes for me to smooth out and ignite my complexion! It’s the priciest of my four AHA recommendations at $95 at Sephora or on the Dennis Gross Skincare website. Is it worthy it?

Well, the product clinicals speak for themselves:

Clinical Results: In a clinical study after just 2 weeks: 
- 100% of subjects showed improvement in skin radiance 
- 95% of subjects showed improvement in skin texture 
- 83% of subjects showed improvement in the appearance of pores

Watch my full video review of the Dr. Gross Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel:

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

I’ve reviewed this product previously on my IGTV— but no blog article about top AHA treatments would be legit without it. I literally get requests a few times a month about this one. So, what is it about the iconic AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution from The Ordinary that makes it so popular? Well, first, it feels like it’s right out of a high end spa. No joke, it’s the most potent AHA peel I’ve used on my own and it’s kinda scary stuff.

If you only listen to one thing I say, make it this: read the directions before using this product!

I know I’m not alone in my fears of the TO AHA 30% — I have the DMs to prove it. It’s scary because it looks like a bottle of blood right out of HBO’s True Blood series — and because it burns. Like it’s supposed to, of course. What makes it so strong? Well, it’s got a 30% complex of four Alpha Hydroxy Acids — Glycolic, Lactic, Tartaric and Citric. In addition, there is the max level of 2% Beta Hydroxy Acid aka Salicylic Acid, which is the ideal ingredient for clearing acne blemishes.

Knowing that people would be using this at home and unaided by a professional, Deciem took some important precautions.

First is the red alert:

“Note: This formula contains a very high concentration of free acids. We recommend use only if you are an experienced user of acid exfoliation and your skin is not sensitive.”

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is just $7 but equivalent to an in-office treatment!

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is just $7 but equivalent to an in-office treatment!

Okay, see? But they also included several ingredients to help ameliorate the irritating effects of the four powerful acids, including a Hyaluronic Acid crosspolymer, Vitamin B5, and Tasmanian Pepperberry — where the blood red color comes from. Watch my IGTV video for a quick how-to. But take my advice — use it in moderation the first time and see how your skin reacts. No more than 5 minutes. Bump up to 7 minutes a week later. Then, only then, consider going the distance at a full 10 minutes. It’s good stuff. Really effective. But you have to use it with care. Oh, and it’s only $7.20 at!

After you’re done watching my IGTV videos, you should watch True Blood:

Sephora Collection Glow Peel Pads


I literally just got my hands on the new Sephora Collection Glow Peel Pads this week and have been crash testing them, using them every day on my nose — and in my armpits. What? If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I stopped using conventional deodorant almost a year ago. No, I don’t just pretend nobody notices that I don’t use deodorant. I use Glycolic Acid in place of a deodorant. You can read about it on my blog here. Yes, it works — and the best products for this hack are either a straight-up, watery glycolic toner or Glycolic Acid soaked pads like these Glow Peel Pads!

The Glow Peel Pads are made with “96% ingredients from natural origin” and are one of twelve new Sephora Collection products that are classified as clean beauty. I recently reviewed a few of these super accessible, effective skin care treatments on my blog article, Skincarma Approved : Sephora Collection Clean Affordable Skincare. The 60 heavy cotton, textured pads are soaked in a good-for-skin, non-toxic blend of fruit acids derived from several common extracts — including Sugar Cane Extract, Orange Fruit Extract, Lemon Fruit Extract, and Sugar Maple Extract. Interestingly, the second ingredient in the INCI is one that I’m seeing quite a lot lately, Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit Extract or Bilberry Extract. Has there been some sort of bilberry explosion?

Sephora really stepped up their eco-friendly game with these:

“Eighty-eight percent of the plastic in this jar is made from sugar cane residuals. The outer packaging is made from cardboard from sustainably managed forests and printed with vegetable ink.”

These are a great option for a mild, inexpensive AHA treatment.


I hope this was helpful in your search for the perfect AHA treatment. Whatever you do, find one that works for your skin and stick to it. Consistency is essential. And always, always, always read, and follow, the directions.

Back to my search for great Brooklyn pizza. In pizza we trust.




Use code SKINCARMA10 to receive 10% off the Amperna Pro+ Vitamin C Hyaluronic Serum! Follow the link below to the Amperna site and use my exclusive code on all Amperna purchases.

Oh hey, Brooklyn!

Oh hey, Brooklyn!

The Ingredient List of the Amperna 10% Pro+ Resurfacing Lotion:

Aqua, Glycolic Acid, Lactococcus Ferment Lysate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Butylene Glycol, Glycerine, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Sodium-L-Lactate, Glycyrrhiza Uralensis (Liquorice) Root Extract, Olive Squalane, Sorbitan Stearate, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Menthyl Lactate, Allantoin, Urea, Magnesium Aluminium Silicate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclohexasiloxane, Titanium Dioxide, Xanthan Gum, DMDM Hydantoin, Sodium Hydroxide, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.

The Ingredient List of the Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel, Step One:

Water, Alcohol Denat., Glycolic Acid, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Salicylic Acid, Bromelain, Mandelic Acid, Malic Acid, Phytic Acid, Pyruvic Acid, Rehmannia Glutinosa Root Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Tartaric Acid, Gallic Acid, Ellagic Acid, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Hexanoyl Dipeptide-3 Norleucine Acetate, Hexylresorcinol, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Soy Isoflavones, Copper PCA, Zinc PCA, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Glycerin, Lecithin, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Citrate, Polysorbate 20, Menthyl Lactate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Flower/Leaf Extract, Eugenia Caryophyllus (Clove) Flower Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate.

The Ingredient List of the Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel, Step Two:

Water, Polysorbate 20, Methyl Gluceth-20, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Centella Asiatica Extract, Soy Isoflavones, Colloidal Oatmeal, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Ubiquinone, Resveratrol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Copper PCA, Sodium PCA, Zinc PCA, Octoxynol-9, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate.

The Ingredient List of the Sephora Collection Glow Peel Pads:

Water, Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit Extract, Glycerin, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract, Butylene Glycol, Levulinic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Perfume (Fragrance), Sodium Levulinate, Sodium Hydroxide, Acer Saccharum (Sugar Maple) Extract, Citric Acid, Chlorella Vulgaris Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder, Potassium Sorbate.

The Ingredient List of The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution:

Glycolic Acid, Aqua (Water), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Daucus Carota Sativa Extract, Propanediol, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Potassium Citrate, Lactic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Xanthan gum, Polysorbate 20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.