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Glycolic Peels for Skin Treatment

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Glycolic peels are chemical exfoliants used to rejuvenate the skin. Read more to learn about its uses and how it is done.

Written by

Dr. Pallavi. C

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav

Published At January 17, 2023
Reviewed AtJuly 4, 2023

What Is Glycolic Peel?

Chemical exfoliants like Glycolic Acid peels can successfully resurface the skin. These peels can treat various skin issues, such as melasma, fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and acne. A Glycolic Acid peel is an exfoliation procedure to treat various skin issues. It can lessen the look of facial wrinkles, clear up hyperpigmentation, and treat acne and melasma.

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), of which glycolic acid is a part, are known for their ability to enter the skin deeply due to their small molecular size. Based on the intensity of the skin issue and the patient's skin type, professional treatments are typically given as very superficial, shallow, and medium-depth peels. Due to their anti-inflammatory, keratolytic, and antioxidant properties, these peels can address various issues, such as acne, photodamage, hyperpigmentation, and scars.

To get better results, doctors can use them alone or in combination with other procedures like laser therapy or dermabrasion.

How Do Glycolic Peels Work?

The amount of Glycolic Acid used, how many coats are administered, and how long it stays on the skin will affect how deep the peel is. A superficial peel often only affects the top one to three layers of skin, whereas a medium-depth peel affects layers four to six. Because of its small molecular size, Glycolic Acid may penetrate pores and remove excess oil, dirt, and germs that cause acne. This helps to treat inflammatory acne and stop further outbreaks.

Glycolic Acid, a keratolytic, can soften and degrade the skin's outer layer to thoroughly exfoliate and dissolve dry, cracked skin. Topical agents are also more effective due to this activity since the skin can absorb them more readily. When paired with vitamin E and melatonin, Glycolic Acid has also been found to have a synergistic impact. Results indicate that Glycolic Acid can significantly affect the antioxidant capacity of both substances, increasing their potential for photoprotection.

Who Is a Potential Candidate for Glycolic Peels?

  • People who desire to treat acne, lighten dark pigmentation, and combat aging are the best candidates.

  • Oilier skin will be less irritated by these peels because they are drying.

  • These peels can benefit those with rosacea, sensitive skin, and dark skin tones.

What Are the Benefits of Glycolic Peels?

Anti-Aging Benefit:

  • A Glycolic Acid peel has been shown to have a low risk for all skin types and offers several advantages as an anti-aging therapy.

  • Peels promote a regulated form of injury that encourages skin remodeling and regeneration.

  • The production of elastin and collagen increases during the healing process, firming, strengthening, and giving the skin a youthful appearance.

  • Peels using Glycolic Acid offer the benefit of going deeper into the skin for better outcomes, including lessening sun damage, balancing skin tone, enhancing texture, and decreasing wrinkles and fine lines.

Reduction of Acne:

  • A Glycolic Acid peel can be used to treat all types of acne; however, because of its potency in removing dirt and material from pores, it works best on comedonal acne (these are papules that are raised above the skin usually seen in the forehead and chin), which is characterized by blackheads and whiteheads.

  • The acid prevents the inflammatory process and is effective in mild to moderate acne.

  • Studies have shown that Glycolic peels have been found effective on comedogenic acne on an average of six applications and nodulocystic acne (cystic acne that resolves by scarring) on an average of eight applications.

  • They act by exfoliating the outer layer of skin and eliminating the dirt and oil from the pores. This process helps to reduce the size of pores that are enlarged.

Decrease of Hyperpigmentation:

Hyperpigmentation means an increase in the dark spots or patches on the skin caused due to inflammation, hormonal changes, aging, and sun exposure. The standard conditions caused due to hyperpigmentation are

  • Melasma: It is an inherited, persistent skin condition that causes gray or brown skin areas. It is challenging to treat. As a first-line treatment, Glycolic Acid is commonly used in doses ranging from 30 percent to 70 percent over several applications. By eliminating this damaged tissue and increasing the skin cell cycle, substituting them with young, standard cells, Glycolic Acid peels can significantly minimize the appearance of discolored patches of skin, mainly when used in high concentrations. Additionally, this activity prepares the skin to absorb topical treatments like Azelaic acid to lessen discoloration further. Glycolic Acid hinders the synthesis of melanin (the pigment responsible for skin color) by preventing tyrosinase activity.

  • Hyperpigmentation Following an Infection: Dark spots may appear on the skin due to skin injury or infection. An excess of melanin can be produced in response to a skin trauma or damage leading to hyperpigmented areas. The Glycolic peels are effective in treating these conditions.

  • Sunlight Exposure: Continuous exposure to sunlight causes the increased production of melanin. This increased production of melanin is a protective mechanism advocated by the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.

How Is the Glycolic Acid Peel Procedure Performed?

The health care provider will clean the face and cover the patient's eyes and hair. In contrast to a medium peel, which comes with both a sedative and painkiller, a superficial peel does not require painkillers. The Glycolic Acid would be administered to the skin using a brush, cotton ball, or sponge during the treatment. A light peel should have some tingling, but a medium peel should have increased severity and burning. Peels containing Glycolic Acid can be very superficial (applied for one to two minutes), superficial (applied for two to five minutes), or medium-depth (applied for 3 to 15 minutes), depending on the concentration used. A neutralizing agent will then be applied to the skin to stop the peeling at this stage. The depth will influence the recuperation time.

What are the Precautions to Be Taken by the Patient?

  • Depending on the extent of the peel and each person's response, the recovery period will vary; it usually lasts between 3 and 14 days.

  • The skin will gradually peel away after a peel and become extremely dry, red, and irritated.

  • To prevent scarring, avoid scratching or poking at the skin. The following week, it is crucial to drink lots of water to combat the peel's drying impact and to apply a thin coating of petroleum jelly to the skin to promote healing.

  • Patients might apply a cold compress and take any medications or sleep aids that have been recommended to ease discomfort.

  • Ibuprofen (painkiller) and Benadryl (antihistamine), available over the counter, help alleviate pain and soothe itching.

  • Peels with Glycolic Acid may make skin highly sensitive. For at least six weeks following a peel, applying a high-SPF (sun protection factor) sunscreen is crucial.

  • Wash the face gently with a cleanser without soap to avoid depriving the skin of moisture.

  • Until the skin has fully recovered, stay away from products containing Salicylic Acid and retinol.

  • To preserve healthy, comfortable skin and to combat the dryness brought on by the peel, patients are advised to apply a rich moisturizer. Reapply as necessary throughout the day.

How Often Are Glycolic Peels Used?

Every four weeks, Glycolic Acid peels are safe to use. To reach a patient's goal, they can repeat a few treatments over four to six months; each peel has a cumulative impact. Peels done at home are less powerful than peels done by a professional. Therefore they can be done once a week.


Glycolic peels effectively achieve more significant results in rejuvenating the skin and reducing fine lines and marks. These are compatible with all skin types and should be cautious on dry and sensitive skin. Glycolic peels help to achieve the results in a single sitting, but in some cases, multiple sittings may be required to achieve the desired results.

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Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav
Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav



chemical peelsglycolic acid
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