Glycolic Peel

Glycolic acid based chemical peels gently exfoliate the skin to improve the appearance of dull, dry, and uneven complexions. Glycolic peels are simple, inexpensive, and are typically accompanied by little no recovery time.

Glycolic Peel Overview - Everything You Need to Know

The Skinny

Glycolic Peel
avg. recovery
0 days
$200 - $600

About the Procedure

Last Updated: 07.27.2021

Glycolic acid is a common ingredient found in superficial and medium depth chemical peels. Glycolic acid (GA) is derived from the sugarcane plant and is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), a type of chemical exfoliator that when applied to the skin, sloughs away dead surface cells to reveal firmer, younger, and smoother skin beneath. GA is also frequently found in over-the-counter skincare products in concentrations ranging from 5-30%. When used for chemical peeling, concentrations of glycolic acid are much higher, typically between 30-70%. While there are many DIY and at-home glycolic acid chemical peel kits available, it is always best to seek service from a licensed professional to ensure best results. Before treatment, the skin will be assessed and evaluated. Once it is determined that the patient is a good candidate for the peel, the skin will be cleansed to remove any oils or products. The customized glycolic solution will be applied to the face, with special care to not irritate sensitive areas around the eyes and mouth. Multiple layers may be applied to areas of concern such as deeper wrinkling, acne scarring, or pigmentation irregularities. The solution will be left on the skin for 1-15 minutes before being neutralized to stop the chemical exfoliating process. If the skin begins to frost prior to being neutralized, the peel will be immediately neutralized. Glycolic peels are meant to be more gentle and should not reach the deeper layers of the dermis, which is indicated when the skin begins to turn white. Once the peel is neutralized and removed from the skin, a soothing gel or lotion may be applied. Most patients are then able to resume normal activities with only minor redness. Multiple treatments are needed to see desired results with maintenance peels necessary every 6 months.

The goal of a glycolic peel is to improve the appearance of uneven skin tone and texture through chemical exfoliation of the skin.

Recovery Notes

Typically there is no recovery period associated with a glycolic chemical peel. If any redness is present, it will typically subside within 1 day. If a higher concentration solution was used during treatment, patients may need to apply a daily moisturizing ointment.

Ideal Candidate

The ideal candidate for a glycolic chemical peel has skin dryness, minor pigmentation irregularities, acne, or melasma and desires a noninvasive treatment with improvement over a series of sessions.

Not Recommended For

Glycolic peels are safe for darker skin tones but should be used cautiously due to risk of hypopigmentation. A glycolic peel is not recommended for patients with severe skin imperfections who would better benefit from a more invasive procedure.

Side Effects

Side effects from a glycolic chemical peels are few, and in most cases require no recovery time. Skin may flake mildly or be slightly irritated, although most are able to return to work or everyday activities almost immediately after treatment.


  • minimal recovery time
  • improves skin dryness
  • improves acne
  • smooths rough skin
  • improves skin texture
  • brightens skin


  • temporary
  • multiple treatments
  • minimal improvement

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