What is a Glycolic Peel?

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  • Written By: Alison Faria
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2019
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A glycolic peel is a chemical peel that can reduce fine lines, soften rough skin, dry out blemishes, and lighten irregular pigmentation. There are natural fruit acids in a glycolic peel that can help to unclog pores and remove dead skin. During a glycolic peel procedure, the damaged top layer of the skin is removed to reveal healthier skin underneath. These peels can be applied on the face, chest, neck, or hands.

If a person is interested in having this skin treatment done, he or she should keep several things in mind. The procedure can be done in a spa setting or at home, but many people choose the former. Those who experience frequent cold sores generally avoid this treatment because they might suffer an adverse reaction, usually in the form of swelling. People who suffer from rosacea should only leave on the glycolic acid for about five minutes, after which time the area usually must be treated with a neutralizing agent.

People who have suffered sun or tanning damage sometimes get a glycolic peel. When skin has been exposed to prolonged amounts of ultraviolet (UV) light, those can trigger the production of melanin cells. Freckles and moles are the common results. A glycolic peel treatment permeates skin layers to break up the melanin cells and restore even skin tone.


The glycolic acid itself is primarily made up of sugar, the smallest molecule particle in the alpha hydroxy family. This allows the acid to penetrate the skin layers quickly for treatment. Procedures generally take about 30 minutes to complete. While one procedure might be enough for some people, others might have more over a period of several months to treat more severe skin conditions.

Treatment procedures usually begin by thoroughly cleansing the skin of any lotions or makeup. A thin coat of glycolic acid is then typically applied to the desired area. Areas to avoid include the eyes, mouth, and nostrils. Slight burning sensations might initially be experienced, but should gradually subside. If a person has sensitive skin, the acid should only be left on for about 10 minutes. Otherwise, the acid is typically left on for 15 minutes.

Once a sufficient amount of time has elapsed, the acid is typically washed off with cool water. Dry gauze is then submerged in a glycolic neutralizing solution and applied to the treated area. Many people go about their usual routine after the procedure, but they typically wear sunscreen and moisturizer for added protection.


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Post 2

@Azuza - Glycolic facial peels are considered to be a fairly gentle kind of chemical peel. I know a retinoic acid peel is one of the stronger kinds so that may be what your friend had done.

I'm starting to notice some fine lines and wrinkles so I'm considering having a glycolic peel done. I do have a few reservations about it so I'm definitely going to go with one of the less harsh types of peel. I think a glycolic peel might make a good choice for me.

Post 1

I'm a little bit afraid of chemical peels. An acquaintance of mine had a chemical peel done and her skin looked so awful right after that she didn't leave the house for a week! I'm not sure what kind of chemical peel she had done though, so it might not have been the glycolic face peel.

Does anyone know if glycolic peels are somewhat gentle as far as chemical peels go?

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