Dr Oracle A-Thera Peeling Stick review

If you had told me I’d be exfoliating my face with a giant Q-tip one day, I’d had told you you were crazy. Who does that?! Me. Ahem… I spent the last couple of weeks testing out Dr Oracle A-Thera Peeling Stick, giant Q-tips infused with an exfoliating acid solution. It was totally weird. I kinda liked it. I won’t buy it again. Here’s all you need to know about these giant exfoliating q-tips. Are they a true gem for your skin or just another gimmick?

Key Ingredients In Dr Oracle A-Thera Peeling Stick: What Makes It Work?


Dr Oracle A-Thera Peeling Stick has both Lactic Acid and Glycolic Acid, two members of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) family. They do the same thing. Two, actually:

  • They exfoliate skin: These acids dissolve the glue that holds skin cells together, so they can slough off and reveal the brighter and smoother skin hiding underneath.
  • They hydrate skin: They attract water from the air into the skin and increase its hyaluronic acid levels, helping to keeping it hydrated for longer.

The main difference between the two? Glycolic acid is a smaller molecule. Size matters. Its small size means Glycolic Acid can better penetrate and exfoliate skin. It also makes it more irritating. If you have sensitive skin, these sticks aren’t for you.

P.S. Glycolic acid can irritate skin when you first start using it. Here, it’s paired with a big dollop of alcohol. You know where I’m going with this. These sticks sting your skin. Use them in moderation!

Related: The Complete Guide To Glycolic Acid: What It Is, What It Does & How To Use It


Glycolic acid and Lactic acid are wonderful exfoliants, but they only remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. Salicylic acid, a member of the Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA family) goes a step further. It also penetrates inside the pores to remove all the crap that’s clogging them up and giving you blackheads and pimples.

Get rid of it and the acne disappears. Keep using it and it won’t come back. Simple. While it’s at it, salicylic acid also reduces the redness and inflammation that always comes along with acne.

The catch? I’m not sure there’s enough salicylic acid in Dr Oracle A-Thera Peeling Stick to exfoliate much. If you want to get rid of acne, these sticks wouldn’t be my first choice. So what works better? You can check out my fave salicylic acid exfoliants here.

Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is Key To Spot-Free Skin

Want a cost-effective routine that banishes acne for good? Download your FREE “The Ordinary Anti-Acne Routine” cheatsheet to get started”

The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Bambusa Vulgaris Water: Derived from bamboo, this water is enriched with antioxidants to nourish skin.
  • Water: The main solvent in the product, it helps dissolve other ingredients.
  • Propanediol: A type of alcohol that enhances penetration of the exfoliating acids, so they can work better and faster.
  • Alcohol: This is a controversial ingredient. On the one hand, it enhances the penetration of the exfoliating acids, so they can work better and give results faster. On the other, it can dry out and irritate skin when not balanced out with moisturisation. Apply a generous dose of moisturiser afterwards.
  • Glycerin: A humectant that attracts and binds water to the skin, increasing its moisture level. It makes skin softer and plumper for hours.
  • Arginine: An amino acid with hydrating and anti-aging properties.
  • Butylene Glycol: It’s a multi-tasker. As a humectant, it increases the skin’s natural moisture content. As a penetration enhancer, it helps active ingredients get deeper into the skin and give faster results.
  • Sodium Citrate: It helps to adjust the pH of skincare products.
  • Erythritol: It prevents stickiness and unpleasant odours in skincare formulations.
  • Tremella Fuciformis Extract: Derived from mushrooms, it draws moisture into the skin, keeping it hydrated for longer.
  • Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Extract: A.k.a. tea tree oil, it has antibacterial properties that help treat acne.
  • Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract: Derived from lemon (duh!), it makes the product smell good. But it can be irritating for sensitive skin.
  • Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract: It contains sugars that give it hydrating properties.
  • Psidium Guajava Fruit Extract: An antioxidants that fights free radicals and slows down premature aging.
  • Disodium EDTA: A chelating agent that binds to the trace minerals found in water and neutralises them before they can spoil the formula.
  • PEG-75: A humectant that increases moisture levels in your skin.
  • Xanthan Gum: It thickens the texture of skincare products.
  • PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil: An emulsifier. In plain English, it helps the water-based and oil-based ingredients in a formula blend together seamlessly, improving texture.
  • 1,2-Hexanediol: A synthetic preservative that inhibits the growth of bacteria in your skincare products.
  • Chlorphenesin: Another preservative that extends the shelf life of skincare products.
  • Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil: It makes the product smell minty, but it can irritate skin.


The q-tips are infused with a liquidy lotion that absorbs fairluy quickly on your skin and doesn’t feel sticky.


Technically, it’s fragrance-free. Practically, it’s not. Here’s what I mean. Fragrance is the most irritating ingredient in skincare, so a lot of brands decide to leave it out. But, without a fragrance, you smell the natural scent of the ingredients – and that’s not always pleasant. So brands exploit a loophole. They use essential oils, like peppermint, to impart fragrance and make the product smell good. The catch? Fragrant essential oils are just as irritating as fragrance itself. These q-tips have a nice herbal scent, but that can still irritate sensitive skin.

How To Use It

The q-tip is much easier to use than you’d think: you massage it all over your skin (or only on the areas that need exfoliation – whatever your skin needs). Just leave it there and proceed with the rest of your skincare routine as normal.


Each q-tip is packaged in a big plastic pouch. I get why. If the brand gave you 50 q-tips in one pouch, some of them will eventually dry up before you have the chance to use them. Individual packaging ensures their freshness till it’s time to use them – but what a waste for the environment!

Performance & Personal Opinion

Dr Oracle A-Thera Peeling Stick looks like a giant Q-tip dripping wet with lotion. I’ve been exfoliating with acids for years. I even get peels regularly. You could say my skin has built tolerance to them and doesn’t feel them on the skin anymore.

Well, my skin definitely feels Dr Oracle A-Thera Peeling Stick! This stuff doesn’t tingle, it stings! I’m starting to understand why Korean skincare isn’t fond of exfoliating acids. Most of the SoKo chemical exfoliants I’ve tried sting like crazy. I blame it on all the alcohol they pour into them…

Is it worth putting up with it? Imho no. But only because there are gentler options out there. If you’re curious to try this, it does the exfoliating job fine. The day after I use it, my skin looks brighter and softer. A clear sign some of the dead skin cells have already fallen off my skin.

Does it help with acne? Yes and no. The concentration of salicylic acid is so low, these sticks only prevent rather than treat acne (they work by removing dead skin cells before they have the chance to fall into your pores and clog them).

That’s not why I won’t be buying these again, by the way. My skin can take the sting and doesn’t have acne. It’s my conscience that has a problem with them. As I get older, I become more conscious of my impact on this planet. I try my best to recycle as much as possible and minimise waste.

These giant Q-tips create a lot of waste. Sure, I know that most exfoliants come in plastic bottles – but those bottles will last me for months. These sticks are one use only. Each of them is housed inside a plastic pouch. Even if they could be recycled, it’s still too much packaging for an exfoliant.

You may feel differently about this and that’s ok. In my teens, I’d probably have loved something like this. Now I prefer less wasteful (and stinging!) options.

dr oracle a-thera peeling stick review

Who Should Use This?

I only recommend these if you need an exfoliant on-the-go, for example when you’re travelling. And even then, only if your skin is NOT sensitive.

Does Dr Oracle A-Thera Peeling Stick Live Up To Its Claims?

This treatment comes in a peeling stick, shaped like a cotton bud.  True.
This powerful treatment contains both AHA and BHA (found in Wintergreen Extract), which are powerful acids, that help clear pores, clean blackheads and fight acne. True. But you need enough of them to work and there’s hardly any BHA here. So no, they won’t help much with acne and blackheads.

Price & Availability

10 sticks, $22.61/10 sticks, £6.56 at Soko Glam

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

No, these are mostly a gimmick. They may be fun to try once, but there are plenty of exfoliants that do the same thing – while being gentler on the skin and not so wasteful on the planet.

Dupes & Alternatives

  • Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA ($33.00): A wonderful low strength Glycolic Acid exfoliant that makes skin softer, smoother, and brighter. Available at Paula’s Choice and Selfridges
  • The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution (£6.80): A gentle, no-frills Glycolic Acid exfoliant for people on a budget. Available at Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty


Bambusa Vulgaris Water, Water, Propanediol, Lactic Acid, Alcohol, Glycolic Acid, Glycerin, Arginine, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Citrate, Erythritol, Tremella Fuciformis Extract, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Psidium Guajava Fruit Extract, Salicylic Acid, Disodium EDTA, PEG-75, Xanthan Gum, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, 1,2-Hexanediol, Chlorphenesin, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil