What are the Different Types of Acid Chemical Peel?

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  • Written By: M. Rosario
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 16 August 2019
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An acid chemical peel uses a chemical solution to peel off the top layer of dead skin cells. Skin resurfacing smooths and rejuvenates skin, removes blemishes and wrinkles, controls oil and acne, and evens out skin tone. There are different types of acid chemical peel available for different purposes and skin types. They are classified mostly between natural and synthetic, chemical penetration, and peeling strength.

Natural peels can either be made from alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta hydroxy acid (BHA) peels. They are the mildest chemical peels available for use. Natural chemical peels can be used as a home chemical peel without needing extensive training.

Alpha hydroxy is the type of acid chemical peel first utilized by humans for cosmetic purposes. Cleopatra is said to have used AHA peels by soaking in sour goat's milk to keep her skin radiant. AHA is naturally found in milk, sugarcane, and fruits. Fruit acids are further divided according to their fruit source.

Lactic acid is the acid found in milk. A lactic acid peel can be used by applying milk or yogurt directly on the skin. Some cosmetic products mix lactic acid with other solutions to vary the lactic acid’s concentration.


The acid found in sugarcane is called glycolic acid. Compared to a lactic acid peel, it is more abrasive and more irritating. To reduce irritation, cosmetic glycolic acid peels are combined with Strontium Nitrate. Glycolic chemical peel works by separating the dead and the healthy layer of the skin, thus allowing the top to peel off.

There are three main fruit acids: citric acid, found in citrus fruits; malic acid, found in apples; and tartaric acid, found in grapes. People generally rub the fleshy part of the fruit on the skin to remove the dead skin. Others grind the fruit and combine it with other ingredients or chemicals to use as an exfoliant.

A milder peel is provided by beta hydroxy acid. Salicylic acid chemical peel uses BHA to go deeper into the skin. A salicylic chemical peel provides more oil control and better dead-skin removal by working under the skin.

Synthetic chemicals are commonly used in professional chemical peel. They penetrate deeper under the skin and are used to achieve a medium to deep chemical peel. There are two types of synthetic chemical peels used by doctors for corrective and cosmetic surgery: tricholoracetic acid (TCA) and phenol peels.

TCA peel is suitable for dark-skinned patients. The chemical peel’s concentration can be adjusted to change chemical penetration. TCA is effective for removing wrinkles and to even out skin pigment. Treatment using a TCA peel requires repeated sessions and prior use of AHA and Retin-A creams.

Phenol peel is the strongest among the types of acid chemical peel used by doctors. It has the deepest peel and is used to remove deep wrinkles and precancerous cells. The effects from phenol peel are long-lasting. Heart patients, however, should consult with a doctor before undergoing phenol peel, as there are some risks involved.


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Post 3

@discographer-- You know, it's not necessary to get an acid chemical peel all over the face. You can also get it as a sort of spot treatment, just on the blemishes and scars you want gone. I think that this is a better idea for people with some noticeable blemishes and scars but who have decent skin otherwise.

Many of the acid chemical peels like glycolic and TCA can be used this way. I think most people just don't know it's possible. This is another reason why it's a good idea to go to a doctor who knows what his doing. My sister got a great TCA peel last year. Her doctor was great and adjusted the concentration of the acid specifically for her needs. That's how it should be.

Post 2

@discographer-- It would be best for you to consult with a doctor who can recommend the best acid peel for you based on your needs. If you don't have major scars, you will probably respond well to a light chemical peel like AHA, salicylic or glycolic. But if you have deeper acne scars like ice pick scars, you'll probably need a peel that goes deeper into skin layers.

Like I said, a doctor will help you decide. Keep in mind that all chemical peels cause some irritation. But the stronger the concentration of the acid, and the deeper it goes into skin, the more irritation and side effects you'll have. I've even heard of some peels causing more discoloration and scarring. So do your research and speak to an expert with experience in acid chemical peels.

Post 1

I use salicylic acid products for my acne prone, oily skin. These work quite well for reducing oil and preventing acne with regular use. But they don't get rid of my old acne blemishes and scars.

Will a salicylic acid peel get rid of my scars? If not, which type of peel is best for acne?

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