Chemical Peeling: Dermatologist Guide

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Chemical Peeling: Dermatologist Guide

“Doctor, What is chemical peeling? How to do peel at home? Which peel is better TCA, glycolic or salicylic?”

Chemical peel is the oldest skin rejuvenation procedure used by dermatologist. Fortunately, you can do peeling at home. Unfortunately, if peeling goes wrong, skin can became sensitive and red. Sometimes, skin might get dark as well. 

In this article, we will tell you in details about process of chemical peel, precautions, choice of peel and how to do peel at home safely.

What are chemical peels? 

Chemical peeling is a procedure where chemical agents of a defined strength are applied to the skin. Peeling causes controlled shedding of skin cells followed by formation of a new layer of skin. You would notice improvement of texture and surface abnormalities. In simple words, peeling is exfoliation of the dead skin followed by formation of new rejuvenated skin.

Who can take chemical peel?

Chemical peels can benefit all the skin types and skin concern. However, the choice of agent differs as discussed in table given below:

Salicylic acid peelsBlack/whiteheads, pimples, dilated pores
Lactic or mandelic acid peels. Skin rejuvenation in Sensitive skin
Glycolic acid Peel Pigmentation
Yellow peelSkin rejuvenation
Combination peels All of the above

How is chemical peel done?

The chemical peels are performed in following steps:

Counselling: Dermatologist determines chooses appropriate peeling agent based your key skin type and concern.

Priming the skin: If your skin has never seen any strong agent, priming is absolutely essential before the first peel. It is done by applying creams containing skin lightening and exfoliating agents.

Positioning: The procedure is done on a cosmetic chair or bed with head slightly inclined up. 

Cleaning: You face is thoroughly cleaned to remove make-up, dirt and pollutants, etc. This ensure even absorption of peeling agent. 

Application: The peeling agent is then applied with the applicator on your face in specific order. 

Monitoring: The dermatologist monitors you for any untoward side effects in the form of redness, intolerable burning or irritations, and rarely blister. 

Neutralisation: The peel is then neutralised with water or neutralising agent at a specific time depending on the agent used and tolerability of your skin.

Revisit: The peels are usually performed at the interval of 2-4 weeks until the adequate response is achieved; which might vary from 3 to even 10 peels. The concentration of peeling agent or the time of application of peel is increased gradually in the subsequent peeling sessions.

How can I do peel at home?

Peeling is safe at home if done right. Follow the exact steps given below:


If you are new to skin care, then peeling should be added after following CTM regime to cater your key skin concern for atleast a month. If you start using peeling solution on a skin that has not been primed, it might turn red and then dark.


Peeling should be done at night preferably. Wash you face. Pat dry your skin gently with soft towel. Do not rub. 


Carefully inspect and feel your skin. Do not put peel if your skin is:

  • Red or irritated
  • Itchy or burning
  • Flaky or dry
  • Bumpy

Do not attempt peel at home for sensitive skin or prone to allergies.


Dermatologist use cotton bud to apply peel evenly to skin. You can also do the same. Start your timer. Dip cotton bud in peeling solution and apply it on the skin in even strokes in following order:




Other cheek


Do not put peel in under eye area, near angle of mouth and nose. Leave maximum for 10 minutes. Wash off immediately, if you notice redness, feeling of heat, itching, burning etc. You can increase time in next peel. Better to be safe then over exfoliate and regret later.


Wash your peel with abundant water. Make sure your keep your eye closed tightly to avoid any kind of spillage inside your eyes. Pat dry with a soft tissue. Hydrate with non-comedogenic moisturizer.


Avoid going out in bright sun for a week after peeling. Use sunscreen of atleast SPF 50 daily in morning. Repeat if you step out in sun again. 

This is absolutely essential. Sun can make your skin sensitive. Your skin might get darker, if you dont take adequate sun protection.

Do not bleach, scrub, wax, or for that matter any salon procedure.

Consult Dermatologist if your skin is red, irritated, burning, flaky after doing peel. Immediate consult can save your face from going darker.

How often can I do peel at home?

Ideally peel should not be done after 2 weeks. Once you achieve results, switch to once a month frequency. Lot of companies advocate to do peel twice a week. But this might make your skin sensitive over a period of time. 

Which peeling solution can be used at home?

The Ordinary is globally trusted brand that can be relied for at home peeling. 

The Ordinary Peeling Solution

The Ordinary peeling solution has 30 % AHA that can help in skin lightening, reducing dullness and uneven skin tone. While 2 % BHA help in reducing oil secretion, open pores, and comedones.

Available in


United States@


United Kingdom

Skin type: All skin types

Skin concern: Pigmentation, Acne, Pores, Ageing

Not recommended for: Avoid using this peel if you have:

  • Sensitive skin- Do not try even if your skin is calm. 30% AHA peel can be used in sensitive skin under the supervision of dermatologist only.
  • Post Inflammatory hyper-pigmentation-If your pimples or cuts heal with dark spots, then you should not use this peel to begin with.
  • Severe daily sun exposure- This peel will make your skin sensitive to sun. If your daily work involves exposure to bright sun, then avoid this peel. Sunscreen might not be enough to protect your newly developed skin cells from sun.
  • If your skin reacts to salon procedures or skin care products easily, then avoid starting your peeling journey with 30% AHA.

What precautions should be taken after a peel?

Peeling sheds tough dead skin and exposes the new delicate skin. This new delicate skin has to be protected from harsh chemicals and environment. You should take following precautions after the peel:

  • Cleanser: Use the non-soap cleanser to wash you face twice a day.
  • Sun protection: Apply broad-spectrum sunscreens every three hours for at least a week. Avoid bright sun.
  • Use skin care products recommended by your doctor: Make a point to ask your doctor to recommend post-peel skin care regime. Newly formed skin might not tolerate certain strong ingredients like glycolic acid, hydroquinone and retinols. Start only if you do not have flaking, redness, burning or dryness.
  • Do not scratch: Avoid scratching the peeling skin, instead let it shed naturally.
  • Avoid harsh procedures: Facial procedures like steaming, scrubbing, waxing, bleaching or facials should be avoided in the first week after the peel. Irritant like Dettol, scrubs and loofahs should be strictly avoided for a week.
  • Report to the doctor: If there is excessive crusting or redness, consult your doctor immediately.

What are the side effects of a chemical peel?

Side effects are essentially few. They occur if you do not follow the precautions, more so in sensitive skin and with the use of deeper peels. Side effects include:

  • Burning sensation
  • Swelling
  • Pigmentary changes like darkening  or lightening of the skin colour
  • Persistent redness
  • Allergic reactions
  • Milia
  • Acneiform eruptions
  • Scarring in case of deep peels
  • Lines of demarcation
  • Textural changes
  • Infections (bacterial, viral, fungal)
  • Ocular complications can occur in the case of accidental spillage of peels in your eyes.

What are different types of chemical peels?

Peels can be differentiated into superficial, medium and deep peels according to the depth of the skin they penetrate. 

Most of the peels used now are superficial peels because they have minimal healing time, and no one can make out that you have taken one. There are thousands of peeling agents available in various combinations. The most important ones are:   

  • Alpha-hydroxy acids(AHA): Glycolic acid, Lactic acid, Mandelic acid, Citric acid, Tartaric acid
  • Beta-hydroxy acids(BHA): Salicylic acid
  • Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) 
  • Other agents like Pyruvic Acid, Resorcinol, Jessner’s solution, Retinoic acid, Phenol, etc.

What is salicylic acid peel?

Salicylic acid is BHA (beta hydroxyl acid). It has the unique ability to seep into oil secreting glands. BHAs dissolves the oil secretions and loosen the clogs plugging the opening of these glands. Thus, salicylic acid peels reduces oil secretions, black/white heads, pimples and open pores. 

What is TCA peel?

TCA stands for trichloro-acetic acid. TCA peel is usually followed visible peeling in the form of shedding of a thin layer of the skin over next 7 to 10 days.  Post-peel care is important. It is usually used for a patient with multiple skin issue like age spots, pigmentation, superficial scars, pimples, skin texture changes due to aging. 

What is Glycolic acid (GA) peel?

Glycolic acid is alpha hydroxyl acids (AHA) commonly known as fruit peel. Its benefits had long been recognized when Polynesian women used sugarcane juice that contains GA in their beauty regime. Glycolic acid specifically helps in decreasing the pigmentation and hydrating the dry skin.

What is Lactic acid peel?

Lactic acid has been in the use of skin care for ages. The much-celebrated beauty icon Cleopatra use to apply sour milk that contains lactic acid. Lactic acid is AHA, but much milder than the glycolic acid, thus preferred for sensitive skin types. 

Is it safe to use peels for pre-bridals?

Yes, they are safe; in fact series of peels over 1 to 2 months can boost up your looks before any important engagements. 

However if you have you have multiple skin issues, then they should be started at least six months before marriage. 

Peels have an edge over pre-bridal facials because a dermatologist does them after considering your skin type and issues. Milder agents like lactic acid, arginine, mandelic acid near the most important day to minimize the chances of any untoward side effects.

My skin is super sensitive, is any alternative to peel?

Following natural ingredient have peeling properties:

  •  papaya (rich in papain)
  • lemon and orange (rich in citric acid)
  • sour curd (rich in lactic acid)
  • sugarcane juice (rich in glycolic acid) 

They gently exfoliate your skin, showing small improvement on repeated usage. They also possess anti-oxidant and skin-lightening properties. Though mild they might still irritate your skin more so the sensitive skin. It is always advisable to patch test before using them. 

What are the advantages of a peeling over other cosmetic procedures?

Chemical peels have following pros:

  • Little downtime. No one can make out that you have taken one.
  • Single procedure can tackle multiple skin issues. 
  • Inexpensive compared to other rejuvenating procedures. You can afford maintenance peels once in 1 to 3 months to keep up your radiant looks.

However if you are expecting a drastic change in your wrinkles, sagging skin, scars, etc. then peels might not satisfy you. On the other hand instead of spending on a facial treatment in salon, chemical peels might get you a lot more satisfaction at somewhat similar cost.

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