Exclusive: This Genius New Product Simultaneously Exfoliates and Gives You a Faux Glow

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One of the easiest ways to brighten, resurface and retexture the surface of the skin is through the use of peel pads, which are essentially cotton rounds that have been soaked in an exfoliating solution of safe-for-skin acid (think glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acid). Not only do these prep our skin for better absorption of serums and moisturizers, but they also slough away dead skin and debris from the surface, which provides the perfect canvas for a smooth and even application of sunless tanner.

Now imagine you didn't have to exfoliate and then tan your face in separate steps. Instead, picture a single do-it-all product that would exfoliate (and brighten, and smooth) the skin, while also adding a natural-looking golden glow. That's the purpose of Bluemercury's newest launch. Today, the brand expanded its proprietary skincare line, M-61, with the unveiling of an innovative new product that exfoliates and tans the skin all at once. It's called the PowerGlow Peel Gradual Tan, and we got to test it out exclusively ahead of its launch.

M-61 PowerGlow Peel Gradual Tan $32

The new PowerGlow Peel Gradual Tan Pads come on the heels of the original PowerGlow Peel Pads ($30), which were just that: peel pads. They didn't offer any sunless tanning benefits. Instead, their purpose was to exfoliate, clarify, and brighten the skin through a combination of glycolic and salicylic acid, antioxidants, and vitamin K. Their glow-giving results made them quickly rise to cult status.

The new Gradual Tan version combines the original version's exfoliating acids with 7% dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is the active ingredient in sunless tanners (it reacts with the amino acids in the top layer of the skin to make it darker in appearance. Read more about the science behind DHA, here). Combining acids with DHA means exfoliation and tanning happens in the same step; there's no wait or extra products required.

"I noticed our customers becoming more conscious of sun exposure, but still wanting to achieve that ‘just back from vacation glow’," explains Marla Beck, Bluemercury's co-founder. "We took the core formula of our cult-favorite M-61 PowerGlow Peel pads and added DHA to create the ultimate in facial sunless tanners—PowerGlow Peel Gradual Tan pads. I have spent the last seven years developing M-61 as a pioneer in this revolutionary single-use pad delivery system with vegan and gluten-free formulas; the result is delivering a pure dose of active, dermatologist-loved ingredients to the skin in just one simple swipe."

Self Tanner


"The PowerGlow Peel Gradual Tan pads’ formula contains 5% glycolic acid as well as salicylic acid, which helps improve skin’s tone and texture while eliminating the extra step of exfoliating prior to applying self-tanner. Vitamin K helps to reduce the appearance of spider veins and combats dry, rosacea-like patches. Other powerful natural ingredients include lavender and chamomile which assist in calming and soothing irritation. Like our other M-61 formulas, this also had to be vegan and gluten-free."

We love the idea of saving time and money through combining two separate products (and steps). However, it's not just the idea that has to work—the products does, too. Byrdie's editorial director Faith Xue was able to test it ahead of its launch. "I loved how easy it was to use," she said. "I wiped the pad over my face after cleansing, let it dry, washed my hands to get rid of the faint smell of DHA, then applied a light moisturizer. My skin felt softer in the morning, and I definitely saw a hint of a glow after just one use."

Senior editor Lindsey Metrus was equally as impressed: "I'm a die-hard fan of peel pads and sunless tanner, so testing a product that combines two of my favorite products into one was a no-brainer. First, I love how large the pad itself is—it covers a lot of surface area so I can tan not only my face, but my neck, shoulders, and chest too. It's also quite gentle—as someone who's redness-prone, I felt only the slightest tingle and didn't experience any negative side effects. I will say that the "tan" is very subtle, but it seems as though it can be built upon with continued use (which is especially good for those who are concerned about too stark of a contrast). As far as its exfoliating prowess, the little areas of congestion I once had were diminished and my skin texture felt and looked much smoother.

These pads can be used on all skin tones. Beck recommends starting by using them three times a week, building up to every other day or until your desired level of tan is reached. They're available for purchase now, on the brand's website, in 10-day and 30-day treatment packs.

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