(UPDATED!) Exfoliation Sensation: Prelab Toning Peeling Tap Review + Bonus Tip

Update 8/6/16: I’ve now gone through several jars of this product and have found a way to get much more use out of the pods than I was my first time around. Scroll down to the new “Prelab Toning Peeling Tap Tip” section to check it out!

As much as I preach the benefits of being flexible with skincare, and as much as I try to adjust my routine to address the changing needs of my skin, even I sometimes carry on a habit long past the point where it’s stopped being beneficial. Like chemical exfoliation. Last year, COSRX’s AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid and BHA Blackhead Power Liquid changed my life, but now that I’ve gotten serious with Curology prescription tretinoin, my skin can’t really handle standard chemical exfoliation anymore. Luckily for my face, I’ve found a gentler way to keep my skin smooth and clear. 

The product featured in this post was provided by Memebox. Affiliate and referral links are marked with an asterisk(*).

Review: Prelab Toning Peeling Tap

Papa Recipe’s PeelingBong showed me the light; Prelab Toning Peeling Tap took my hand and led me out of the darkness of the tunnel of overexfoliation.

Prelab Toning Peeling Tap came to my face through sheer luck. I’m a Memebox Ambassador and found a tub of these oddly named, oddly shaped things in my Ambassador shipment last month.

Prelab Peeling Toning Tap
My reaction after digging this out of the signature crinkly pink Memebox packing confetti: Vacant-eyed befuddlement.

Once upon a time, I would have glanced at the ingredients, done a pH test, and dismissed this product without a second thought. It would have gone straight into my spares, empties, and rejected press samples drawer and ended up keeping my eternally rejected Tonymoly Tomatox Magic Massage Pack (also an Ambassador item) company. But my exceptionally positive experience with the Papa Recipe 2 Step Skin Cleaning Solution had me primed to give the product at least a chance.

Purpose: Prelab Toning Peeling Tap claims to remove dead skin cells without irritation while also purifying and moisturizing skin.

Best suited for: All skin types, but especially skin that can’t tolerate standard chemical exfoliants.

Do not use if: You are sensitive to papain, plant extracts, citrus, or anything else in the ingredients list.

When and how to use: After cleansing and any low-pH actives in your routine, such as L-ascorbic acid vitamin C serum, take out one Peeling Tap. Dispense product by squeezing the essence packet while wiggling it back and forth until essence appears on the soft applicator. Rub applicator in circular motions over skin, squeezing out more essence as necessary. Let dry, then follow with your normal skincare routine.

Prelab Toning Peeling Tap essence ingredients:  Water, methylpropanediol, glycerin, glycereth-26, dipropylene glycol, butylene glycol, bromelain, maltodextrin, papain, sodium metabisulfite, sodium hyaluronate, melissa officinalis leaf extract, nelumbo nucifera flower extract, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, betaine, melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) leaf extract, citrus limon (lemon) fruit extract, actinidia chinensis (kiwi) fruit extract, origanum vulgare leaf extract, chamaecyparis obtusa leaf extract, salix alba (willow) bark extract, lactobacillus/soybean ferment extract, portulaca oleracea extract, cinnamomum cassia bark extract, scutellaria baicalensis root extract, pyrus malus (apple) fruit water, tuber magnatum extract, Bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, allantoin, carbomer, tromethamine, sodium benzoate, citric acid, hydroxyethyl urea, disodium EDTA, ethylhexylglycerin, caprylyl glycol, pentylene glycol, 1,2-hexanediol, ethyl hexanediol, phenoxyethanol, fragrance

CosDNA analysis

pH: 5

pH test for Prelab Peeling Toning Tap
I tested the essence pH several times while the Dalek looked on, chanting in its robotic British accent: “EXFOLIATE! EXFOLIATE!”

Notable ingredients and pH discussion: K-beauty brands seem fond of using the word “peel” to denote chemical exfoliation, but don’t confuse the Toning Peeling Tap with the kind of peels strong enough to actually make your skin peel. Don’t even equate it with other K-beauty “peeling” products, like Mizon’s AHA 8% Peeling Serum. Prelab Toning Peeling Tap is a far milder exfoliating product that exfoliates using a fruit salad of natural extracts instead of a disclosed percentage of isolated alpha and/or beta hydroxy acid(s). The pineapple extract bromelain and the papaya extract papain use enzyme activity to remove dead skin cells, while lemon and kiwi extracts and apple water contribute weak natural AHA action, boosted a little by maltodextrin.

The pH level of the essence would be a dealbreaker in a standard AHA product, since it’s beyond the upper limit for effective exfoliation using most common AHAs. It’s a good thing here, though. The pH level will keep the exfoliating effects of any AHAs in the fruit extracts to a minimum, allowing them to function primarily as humectants. Bromelain and papain are the main exfoliators here, and they pose much less risk of overexfoliation.


It can be hard to gauge the effectiveness of a chemical exfoliant when your face is in decent condition. Luckily(?), by the time I started testing the Peeling Taps, I’d been off my AHA long enough to get a few little clogs and closed comedones on my cheeks.

(Incidentally, it was also nice to get some extra confirmation that my COSRX AHA had still been working for me, not that being constantly on the edge of overexfoliation wasn’t proof enough, but…you know what I’m saying maybe.)

Anyway. So when I started testing the Peeling Taps, I had some small blemishes, exactly the kind that an effective chemical exfoliant should be able to reduce. Skincare is pretty subjective a lot of the time, so it’s nice to have a concrete performance metric to watch.

Each dose of Prelab Toning Peeling Tap comes individually sealed into a foil packet with a fuzzy, spongy circular applicator on one end. It took me a couple of tries to get the hang of the bend, squeeze, and wiggle needed to transfer the essence from the packet to the applicator, but by the time I finished my tub of 15, dispensing it was second nature. The essence itself is clear, with a gel consistency and almost no smell at all. One time, I did detect a very faint chemically-lemon scent to it, like the homeopathic version of Mizon’s AHA 8% Peeling Serum, but I never noticed that smell again.

Once a bit of essence soaks through the applicator, the rest is a breeze. Except for the sharp edges of the part of the foil packet glued to the back of the applicator. Be careful when using it around your nose, because it can scratch. That could just be my lack of fine motor coordination, though.

Prelab Toning Peeling Tap exfoliator pod dispensed
See the little wet spot (har har) in the middle of the applicator? That’s what it will look like when dispensed.

Each tub of Toning Peeling Taps comes with 15 exfoliant pods. I sacrificed one pod to pH test the essence and used the rest over a period of two week. On the nights when I used my vitamin C serum, I applied the Toning Peeling Tap 15 minutes after the serum, before my Curology prescription. On the nights when I would usually go straight from cleansing to Curology, I slotted the Toning Peeling Tap in after cleansing, once again before Curology. No wait time. I just let the essence dry and then moved straight on to the next step.

Two weeks is a pretty short time to assess an active, so I was surprised and impressed with what the Toning Peeling Taps did for me. Those little clogs and bumps I’d sprouted on my cheeks after discontinuing my AHA began clearing up within the first week and were all smoothed away before the two weeks was up. That’s more exfoliation than I’d expected the product to deliver. At the same time, my skin was doing better and better as it recovered from months of invisible-until-it-wasn’t overexfoliation. My face never felt stripped, thin, or tight anymore. In fact, it improved so much that I no longer feel the need to use facial oils anywhere on my face except my eye area! I’m also planning to reevaluate a couple of low-pH cleansers that I originally planned to review somewhat poorly for having dried out my skin. I’ll definitely be mentioning that they were too harsh on overexfoliated skin, but I also need to see what they’re like on skin that isn’t compromised.

The longer I used and contemplated these weird little things, the more I realized just how great they are for travel, too. They take up almost no space, add almost no weight, can fit anywhere, and don’t count as liquids. It’s like they were made for frequent travelers in need of gentle daily exfoliation. And even if you need to take the whole package’s worth of product, never fear: the tub is made of very thin, near-weightless plastic, so still perfectly flight-friend.

I only have one gripe with the product. It is significant, though. At $14 for a tub of 15 pods, that’s nearly a dollar for each pod, a per-use cost that’s far, far higher than any I’ve ever seen for a chemical exfoliant. Two weeks is also a pretty short length of time to go through an entire tub. At the same time, the cost itself isn’t exorbitant if you take per-use cost out of the equation, and for people like me, who have a hard time finding a balance between necessary exfoliation and necessary skin barrier preservation, a product like this can be hard to come by. Frequent fliers with overexfoliation issues stand to benefit even more.

Conclusion: Prelab Toning Peeling Tap did much more for my skin than I thought it would. It exfoliated enough to keep my skin smooth and clear without ever crossing the line into overexfoliation territory, even though the borders of that land are so close for me that even every-other-day use of the notoriously gentle COSRX acids can push me over. The single-use pods are easy to pack and convenient for everyday use: no cotton pads required, no getting product onto one’s hands.  I have to knock a good portion of a point off of my final rating for the costliness of this product (and another little fraction of a point off for the couple of times that the edge of the packet scratched the corner of my nose), but overall, I’m very happy with the experience. I’ve got a couple of other exfoliants to test before I can settle down again, but when the time does come to settle down, there’s a good chance I’ll be settling down with these.

Rating: 4/5

Rating scale:

1 – This should be taken off the market, or this failed at its one primary job.
2 – Caused me some problems or doesn’t work very well; would not buy again.
3 – Meh. Neither great nor bad.
4 – Pretty good. Would buy again unless I find something better.
5 – I’ll never be in the market for a replacement unless this one is discontinued.

UPdate: Prelab Toning Peeling Tap Tip

So as I mentioned above, my two main gripes with this product are the sharp edges of the pod where they’re glued to the spongy applicator, and the rather high per-use cost of the product. Despite these flaws, I’ve used up several tubs of Prelab Toning Peeling Tap and finally came up with a way to fix both those problems.

It’s so simple.

Peel the spongy thing off!

Tip for using Prelab Toning Peeling Tap
The spongy pad peels off fairly easily.

I don’t really find the tiny bit of exfoliation the pad provides to be necessary; I use this product for the mild enzyme exfoliation it provides. Peeling off the unnecessary applicator lets me squeeze the product out of the pod onto my hand. As an added bonus, doing so lets me get two uses out of each pod, since I’m not dirtying the pad.

The glue on the pad is quite sticky, so once I’ve got what I need from the pod, it’s very easy to just stick it back on, which then seals the pod and keeps the product sanitary for the second use!

Resealed Prelab Toning Peeling Tap

And doing this doubles the amount of time a jar of Prelab Toning Peeling Tap lasts!

Where can I buy Prelab Toning Peeling Tap?

I received my full-size review sample of Prelab Toning Peeling Tap from Memebox US, which sells each 15-pod tub of Prelab Toning Peeling Tap for $14*. If you decide to purchase this product, remember to use the coupon code FIDDYSHAUL to save 10% off your entire order through the month of March. And if it will be your first time buying from Memebox, registering with my referral link will get you 20% off your first order!

Have you tried any alternatives to standard chemical exfoliants? How well did they work for you?


11 thoughts on “(UPDATED!) Exfoliation Sensation: Prelab Toning Peeling Tap Review + Bonus Tip

  1. I may have to try these. I’m afraid to exfoliate to often so I’m at 2 times a week at the most. But Im hoping to up that amount. Side note..you may like that tony moly tomato pack. I’ve used a sample not that long ago and it was actually very nice. Not whitening from what I can tell and I’m an nc 43 in Mac for reference. . It left my skin Bright and soft .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Welcome to the low exfoliation club, the water is warm!

    If the price was a little cheaper, I can see these taking off (haha, travel pun) more. Per use, they are pricy, but for someone who travels semi frequently, I imagine the price would be reasonable. Especially as they’re so portable!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve been looking for something to spend my $10 Meme referral credit on! (I’m currently using a slew of new daily products so I’ve been holding out on introducing something new to my daily routine.) BUT I just started with Curology, so I also discontinued my AHA/BHA products from Cosrx, so this will fit the bill perfectly!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for another great post!

    I wonder if the delivery method is what makes it so expensive (not sure if the little sponge is really necessary?).

    I am debating on trying Curology, but your post today says you had developed a few bumps and clogs after stopping AHA. Bumps and clogs are my main issue (and why I want to try Curology) but am thinking that maybe even that won’t help since you are using “tret” and getting them?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ooh, this sounds like something I might have to check out. From March through December of last year I regularly used BHA and AHA (first PC’s BHA and the Mizon AHA, and then Cosrx BHA and Biologique Recherche p50). Last fall when my derm diagnosed me with mild rosacea he encouraged me to stop using AHA as he said it would be more irritating than the BHA with my condition, so I scaled back on the AHA and started using it on my arms (that p50 is giving me nice arms!!). In January I was away for a month and didn’t bring me BHA; when I come home and tried to use my Cosrx BHA liquid, I had a bad reaction to it both times, even though I reintroduced it slowly. For now I am casting the BHA aside and just using L-AA Vitamin C (one every three days as it’s still new to me) and the gently exfoliating with my L’Herboflore Exfoliating Gel, but the “peeling tap” sounds like something that would be worth trying. I’m not sensitive to papain or papaya extracts, and it sounds great for travel.

    Off-topic, but your Instagram posts of all your Maskingdom goodies inspired me to make a large Beautibi purchase last night! (I don’t have an Instagram account so can’t comment there) It started because I’m going to Beijing, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong next month and wanted to see if I could get L’Herboflore or Maskingdom there, and I can’t, so I decided to replenish my stash from Beautibi instead. We won’t talk about how much $$ I spent as I also ordered the L’Herboflore Aqua Toner (since I’m liking the exfoliating gel and eye gel in the same line) and am in LOVE with my L’Herboflore Flora Supreme Recovery Infusion Crème that I’m patch testing right now. Oh my goodness, one half of my face is so velvety! T-Beauty is really impressing me these days. I might be begging Jen to start carrying other products in their lines too.

    Sorry for the digression. You must let us know if you ever test out the Maskingdom masks for the, ah, “chestal” area. I couldn’t bring myself to buy one since no one’s looking at that part of my body right now–maybe when I get back into the dating scene and have reason to keep that area looking extra radiant.

    And thank you again for the review and for everything that you do for the AB realm!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Like you, I’ve been cutting back on the exfoliation in order to protect my skin’s barrier. I know this product isn’t Asian but I got this great stuff from Birchbox that I’m a total convert to, even though it is expensive. It’s from a company called Real Chemistry and called Luminous 3 Minute Peel. I haven’t even investigated how it works. It’s not an acid & not a physical exfoliator. You just rub a tiny drop onto damp skin for 2-3 minutes then rinse off. It totally works with seemingly no irritation (part of my issue with other types of exfoliating). It’s expensive but I can see one tube lasting me ages. I did notice Birchbox’s website (unlike the actual product) gives instructions saying to rub on dry skin instead of damp skin & many reviews then say it’s horrible because it doesn’t rinse off. I think that typo is creating tons of problems. Anyway, sorry to gush on & on but I feel like this is a new HG product for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. hi fiddy. i recently got this product to try per this exact post and have some questions on it…
    it’s okay to use daily? cuz you went through the entire thing in 2 weeks.
    and would i need to skip actives on the days i use this?

    thanks so much. love your posts!


    1. I did use it every day. It’s really gentle! I wasn’t using any other actives except Curology at the time; I would be very careful if you use it on the same day as a strong exfoliant.


  8. I get almost all the exfoliation I need from the COSRX Clarifying Treatment Toner and my konjac sponge. Welcome to the club 🙂


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