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Common Types of Chemical Peel

It’s good to know the types of chemical peels available.

Chemical peels are popular skin-regenerating solutions for rough, dull and dry skin.

Peels exfoliate skin, hastening the natural process of skin shedding. As a result, skin appears renewed and refreshed.

Chemical peels also help fade skin discolorations and dark spots, creating an even skin tone. These treatments also help improve the appearance of fine lines and other adverse effects of sun damage.

There are different types of chemical peel. Each one uses a different ingredient and formulation to address specific skin issues.

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is a type of AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) extracted from fermented milk. It promotes a light peeling effect that results in a healthy, lovely glow. It helps produce smooth, even-toned skin and is effective for treating hyperpigmentation. Mild or low-strength formulations offer little to zero downtime.

Best For: General peeling for all types of skin, particularly dry skin; usually recommended for first-timers.

Glycolic Acid

A glycolic peel is one of the most popular skin treatments. It uses glycolic acid, a substance extracted from sugar cane. Glycolic acid contains AHA or alpha hydroxy acids. It’s quite effective for mild to moderate skin peeling. It comes in different strengths and some brands are even sold as DIY toners.

Prescription-strength preparations should be administered by a trained and licensed dermatologist or cosmetologist.

Glycolic is stronger than lactic acid, but it provides a light and even peeling. It’s good enough to help improve the appearance of blackheads, light wrinkles and uneven, rough skin. It is also excellent as a deep-cleansing treatment for pores.

Best For: Treating facial scars due to acne, sun damage and aging.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is another type of AHA that works well as a chemical exfoliant and keratolytic. It works on the deeper layers of the skin which makes it excellent for unclogging pores. It works well for treating scaly, flaky and thickened skin, hence its use as a wart remover. It works by slowing down the natural shedding of skin cells in the follicles, thus minimizing clogging.

Best For: Oily and acne-prone skin, and clogged pores. It works very well for treating whiteheads and blackheads.


TCA (Trichloroacetic acid) is one of the earliest types of chemical peel. It is a stronger formulation compared to others. Obvious peeling will be experienced about 24 to 48 hours after the treatment,.

There is some discomfort associated with this treatment. Skin may appear red or deep pink for at least a week but it works well for treating rough, uneven skin and discoloration.

Best For: Fine lines and wrinkles, sun-damaged skin, shallow scars caused by acne and hyperpigmentation. It is also used as a topical solution for stretch marks.

Mandelic Acid

Mandelic acid comes from bitter almond nut. It is also a type of AHA. It is an excellent choice for people who have not undergone peeling skin treatments before because it’s gentle. It is often the treatment of choice for individuals with dark skin tones.

Best For: Treating acne-prone skin, rosacea, dull and uneven skin, and sun-damaged skin.


An enzyme peel is one of the gentlest types of chemical peel. It’s non-acidic and that targets the uppermost layer of the skin. It’s usually made from fruits such as pineapple, papaya, blueberries and pomegranate.

It is an excellent option for individuals who have a sensitivity to acid-based treatments. Enzymes work on the skin by accelerating the process of sloughing off dead cells, replacing them with younger, smoother skin.

Enzymes are considered safe for majority of individuals, which explains their increasing popularity. There is virtually no downtime with this treatment because enzymes do not create wounds on the skin.

Best For: Diminishing the appearance of scars, fine lines, hyperpigmentation and age spots.