Skin ap-PEEL

Allyson Mattingly


If you're looking to peel back your lived-in skin to reveal a rejuvenated, fresh complexion, a chemical peel could be your answer. A chemical peel is a type of exfoliation where a chemical solution is applied to the skin and removed once the solution has penetrated the layers of the skin. Most often, they're applied to the face, but some treatments can be used on the arms, legs, neck, shoulders or scars anywhere on the body. These treatments can provide a number of skin-loving benefits, such as preventing acne, diminishing fine lines and wrinkles, and revealing glowing skin. We've peeled back the layers so you can learn more about the basics of chemical peels! 


Superficial peels are often described as "lunchtime peels," as they involve little to no downtime and are suited for mild skin problems. These peels minimally penetrate your skin but provide gentle exfoliation. Often, these chemical peels are available in at-home treatments, but it's best to consult your skin care professional for guidance before starting a new regimen. Most often, you will be advised to use a daily SPF to protect your skin after using the product (which you should be doing anyway!)

Glycolic Acid Peels

Glycolic acid is an Alpha Hydroxy acid (AHA), a category that contains others like citric acid, lactic acid, and tartaric acid. Glycolic acid, derived from sugar cane, maintains a structure that allows it to penetrate the layers of the skin. Glycolic acid increases collagen production, brightens skin tone, reduces wrinkles, and is especially effective for acne scars. When searching for an at-home glycolic acid peel, look for a formula with a glycolic acid strength of 8-15%. The risk of negative side effects increases with the strength of the formulation, so it's best to trust a professional with more intense peels.

Salicylic Acid Peels

While AHA peels exfoliate the skin, Beta Hydroxy acid peels (BHA) can penetrate deeper layers of the skin by attaching to the skin's natural oils. The most popular acid in BHA peels is salicylic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce acne-induced irritation. BHA peels are a great option for those wanting to reduce the appearance of blemishes, as salicylic acid acts as a powerful clear-out for pores. 

Medium peels penetrate down to the middle layer of skin and help with moderate skin problems such as scarring, fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and discoloration. Definitely consult with your skin care professional before starting an at-home medium-depth peel. Avoiding direct sun exposure is recommended until the entire treated area has regenerated. 

Trichloroacetic Acid Peel

Trichloroacetic acid peels, or TCA peels, penetrate deeper than glycolic or salicylic acid peels, making them an excellent option for people with sun damage, pigmentation issues, or deep wrinkles. TCA can be used alongside salicylic acid, but since it is offered in a variety of strengths, make sure the formulation percentage is low within your chosen solution. For reference, 10-30% TCA provides a superficial peel, 30-40% TCA provides a medium-depth peel, and 50% and above provides a deep chemical peel that must be administered by a professional.

Deep peels are designed to penetrate deep into the layers of the skin to offer long-lasting, dramatic facial restoration. These peels target damaged skin cells, severe scarring, deep wrinkles, and discoloration. While superficial peels can be done at home and medium-depth can be performed at home with caution, deeper peels should always be administered by a skin care expert.

Phenol Peel

Phenol peels are the deepest type of chemical peel, with carbonic acid as their peeling agent. The concentration of carbonic acid can be combined with salicylic acid to produce dramatic results and can be so intense that some concentrations of a phenol peel can only be administered once in a lifetime. A phenol peel is an effective remedy for intense sun damage, deep scars, significantly aged skin, and even precancerous growths. If you've tried just about everything to get your glowing, youthful skin back, but nothing seems to work, it may be time to try one of these chemical skin care treatments. Peel back the layers today by scheduling a consultation with your skincare professional!