Superficial Chemical Peels

Superficial chemical peels are the least abrasive of all chemical peel solutions and are meant to treat minor skin discolorations and uneven skin texture. During a chemical peel, a solution is applied to the treatment area which causes the sin to exfoliate and quite literally "peel off". In general, the more aggressive the treatment the more dramatic results, however, the recommended treatment will depend on desired depth of penetration, outcome, and tolerated recovery time.

Superficial Chemical Peels Overview - Everything You Need to Know

The Skinny

Superficial Chemical Peels
avg. recovery
0 days
$3000 - $6000

About the Procedure

Last Updated: 09.18.2021

There are three main layers to the skin: the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. Superficial chemical peels penetrate only the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin. Most commonly, superficial chemical peels utilize the exfoliating powers of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) which are often naturally occurring acids found in fruits. Examples include glycolic acid, citric acid, tartaric acid, lactic acid, or malic acid. Glycolic acid is the most common ingredient in superficial peels and can be used in concentrations up to 50% under the supervision of a professional. At-home chemical peels can be found in concentrations of 3-10% and are available over the counter. Superficial chemical peels can be utilized on their own, or as a pre-treatment of the skin for a medium or deep peel. By exfoliating away the epidermis with the superficial peel, deeper peels can penetrate deeper and become more effective. Before treatment, the skin will be cleansed then prepped with a protective oil or serum around sensitive areas such as the lips or around the eyes. The customized solution will then be brushed onto the skin while a trained, skincare professional observes the chemical changes that are exfoliating the treatment areas. Once the solution has thoroughly saturated the skin, typically around 15 minutes but will be dependent on your individual needs, the solution will be neutralized to stop the chemical exfoliation process and removed. A soothing lotion or serum may be applied after treatment.

Superficial chemical peels are used to create a youthful skin texture by improving the evenness of skin color and texture. Depending on the intensity of the chemical peel the appearance of wrinkles, sun-damage, skin discolorations, blotchiness, brown spots, scars and certain precancerous skin growths can be reduced.

Recovery Notes

No recovery is needed after a superficial chemical peel. Only mild skin erythema is associated with superficial peels although some candidates report minimal flaking or dryness. Most are able to proceed with normal daily activities following treatment.

Ideal Candidate

The ideal candidate for superficial chemical peels want to treat fine wrinkles, areas of dryness, uneven pigmentation and acne. These peels can provide smoother, more radiant skin for people who can't spare the time to recover from a deep or medium depth peel.

Not Recommended For

Superficial chemical peels are safe for darker skin tones but should be used cautiously due to risk of hypopigmentation.

Side Effects

Side effects from superficial 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
  • minimal interference in activities
  • treats fine wrinkles
  • improves skin dryness
  • pigmentation changes
  • improves acne
  • smooths rough skin
  • improves skin texture


  • only superficial issues
  • temporary
  • multiple treatments

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