Chemical Peels

I have to admit that I am a chemical peel queen. If performed correctly, chemical peels can eradicate many skincare issues from acne to hyperpigmentation. Peels are also relatively inexpensive compared to other treatments such as laser therapy and fillers. I know many people are confused when it comes to the different types of chemical peels so here are the most popular.

Glycolic Peel

Glycolic peels are the most popular chemical peels performed in spa settings. Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that’s naturally found in sugar cane. It is produced synthetically in the clinical setting. Since the molecular size is quite small, glycolic has an intense penetration rate.  Glycolic peels can help improve fine lines, solar damage, hyperpigmentation and mild cases of acne.  Available in concentrations of 20-70 percent. A series is recommended for proper results.

Lactic Acid

Lactic Acid is another alpha hydroxy acid that’s naturally found in milk.  Lactic acid is a milder peel compared to glycolic acid and recommended for drier skin types & sensitive skin. It is great at increasing hydration levels while providing anti-aging effects.  Available in concentrations of 10-70 percent and again a series is recommended.

Mandelic Acid

Mandelic acid is yet another alpha hydroxy acid. Unlike glycolic and lactic, it has a larger molecular size so it can’t penetrate as deep into the skin.  It’s naturally derived from almonds and provides a very mild exfoliation. It’s great at treating superficial discoloration such as melasma. Since mandelic acid also contains antibacterial properties it can be used to eradicate acne that is more severe such as adult acne. Since it’s so mild, this peel is also used to tone down redness associated with rosacea. I personally use a mandelic acid peel on a weekly bases to help control my adult acne breakouts.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid naturally found in willow bard. It contains both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties so it works well for acne. Since it’s oil-soluble, it can penetrate pores and decrease excess oil and dead skin cells. Since it’s bringing up debris from the pore, you may notice breakouts post-peel, also known as purging. It’s found in concentrations of 20-30%. You may notice a reddening of the skin after the peel for a few days.


Tricholoracetic Acid Peels (TCA) ,or as I like to call the “big guns”, is available starting at a 10% concentration and increasing in 5% increments. It’s imperative that TCA is mixed properly in a water-based solution so the peel can penetrate the skin. TCA works by method protein coagulation. This means that the peel is reaching the protein of the skin found , therefore TCA is a more intense peeling agent.  TCA is great for use on fine lines, rolling acne scars, hyperigmentation, and solar damage. You may have heard of Dr. Obagi’s Blue Peel, this is a TCA peel. TCA has a tendency to cause hyperpigmentation so it’s best that you find a reputable technician to perform this advanced peel. Downtime is mild-intense peeling, depending on strength use, that can last up to two weeks.

Jessner’s Peel

Dr. Max Jessner, a German-American dermatologist, created the Jessner’s peel. This medium-depth peel consists of resorcinol, lactic and salicylic acids in 14% concentrations saturated in an ethanol base. It sounds dangerous but it’s virtually non-toxic. This peel is best used to treat oily, acne-prone skin. This peel has the ability to reach a little deeper into the upper papillary dermis (2nd level of the skin). You may notice frosting with this peel, which forms as a sheet of white on the skin. This happens when the peel mixes with keratin in the upper layer of the skin, the epidermis. This peel produces more down-time that the other peels in my experience. You may notice intense peeling and a darkening of the skin for up to 5 days.