What Are Glycolic Acid Peels And Why They Are Beneficial For Your Skin

Reviewed by Dr. Ameesha Mahajan

Dermatologist | M.D - Skin & VD, MBBS

Written by Urvi DalalSep 16, 2023
What are glycolic acid peels and why they are beneficial for your skin

If you are a skincare enthusiast, then you’d already be aware of how chemical and acid peels are having a moment in the sun right now. A deeper and more targeted form of exfoliation, chemical peels are a great way to remove dead skin cells, reveal a brighter-looking complexion and give your skin some much-needed care.

And one such chemical peel treatment that is really popular to solve quite a number of skin ailments is glycolic peels. A lot of skin experts and dermatologists love the sheer number of benefits glycolic acid peels can have for your skin and how, over time, it can completely transform the look and feel of your complexion. To give you a better idea of glycolic acid peels and are to answer some commonly asked questions related to the procedure, we spoke to a dermatologist, Ameesha Mahajan about it. 

Whether you are hearing of glycolic acid peels for the first time and are curious to find out more, or someone who is considering getting this treatment for the first time, the expert insights provided by Dr. Ameesha will surely be quite helpful to you. Read on to find out everything you need to know – from what it is and the benefits to the pre-and post-care – about glycolic acid peels all in one place…


1. What exactly are glycolic acid peels?

Are there any recommended post-treatment skin care tips?

Glycolic acid peel is a type of professionally-conducted chemical peel, which is an excellent way to deeply exfoliate your skin. Dr. Ameesha Mahajan says, Glycolic Acid Peel is an exfoliation treatment done with glycolic acid which is an alpha hydroxy acid. It is one of the most popular treatments done at a dermatologist’s clinic all over the world. Since it is derived from sugarcane, it is also popularly known as fruit peel. There are different strengths of the professionally used glycolic acid peel which vary from 20-70%, depending on the skin’s condition and the outcome that we want to achieve. It gently exfoliates the skin and helps with pigmentation, uneven skin tone, fine lines, acne spots and gives a radiant glow. It is a simple yet result-oriented and cost-effective procedure with no downtime.”


2. Benefits of glycolic acid peels

Are there any recommended post-treatment skin care tips?

Glycolic acid peels have a number of benefits for your skin. The main reason why glycolic peels are so popular is that they help your skin in stimulating collagen production, which helps in retexturizing your skin, reducing fine lines and wrinkles and making your skin look healthy and youthful. But that’s not all. Regularly going in for these peels also helps in evening out your skin tone by reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation, dark spots, age spots and a number of other signs of sun damage. Additionally, glycolic acid peels are an excellent way to slough away blackheads and whiteheads, minimize pores and thereby reduce existing acne and prevent future occurrence.

As if these reasons weren’t enough, glycolic acid peels are a great way to brighten dull and lacklustre skin and leave it fresh and glowing. This happens because glycolic acid penetrates deep into your skin quite easily and brings about these changes from the inside, thereby making it one of the best skin treatments available in the market.


3. How to prep your skin before the appointment?

Are there any recommended post-treatment skin care tips?

This is a question that a lot of us have and it is quite important as you don’t want to face any complications later. But fortunately, Dr. Mahajan is here to help us out. “Usually, one to two weeks before a peel, a priming agent like retinol, glycolic acid cream or hydroquinone is prescribed which prepares the skin for the peel and also increases its efficacy. These agents are stopped a few days before the peel so that there are no dry and scaly patches on the skin on the day of the treatment. Steer clear of any exfoliating face wash, scrub, steam or sauna before the treatment so that the skin is not irritated before the procedure”, she explains.


4. How does the peel work?

Are there any recommended post-treatment skin care tips?

A glycolic acid peel is best done by a dermatologist or by a trained professional under the guidance of a dermatologist. Dr. Ameesha says, “While the term ‘peel’ sounds very harsh, it is a very gentle treatment. After cleaning and degreasing of the skin, the chosen glycolic acid is applied on the skin with the help of a brush or cotton applicator. You will experience a mild tingling sensation similar to that of a face bleach or less. Within minutes of the treatment, the peel is neutralised. Some dermatologists also combine other peels in the same session depending on the skin’s requirement.”


5. Is it safe to do a glycolic peel at home?

Are there any recommended post-treatment skin care tips?

While there are a lot of gentler and milder versions of glycolic acid peels available in the market, it is always better to visit a doctor for such skin treatments. However, if you have consistent acne, scars or pigmentation, then using a mild form of glycolic acid in your skincare routine will definitely help a lot. “If you do not have a very sensitive skin type, you can try a home-based peel. The first step is to do a patch test behind the ear, by keeping the product for one to two minutes and then washing it off. If you get redness and burning sensation, it is best to avoid it at home.

“When doing the treatment on the face, make sure to stay away from the under-eye area, the area around the nose and corner of lips. The home peel should be applied in the least possible quantity and not kept for more than a minute when you are starting out. Restrict the home peel to once a week or once in fifteen days to avoid any possible damage to the skin”, warns Dr. Ameesha.


6. Are there any possible side effects?

Are there any recommended post-treatment skin care tips?

When it comes to the side effects of glycolic peels, there aren’t too many as this treatment is safe for people with all skin types. But it is common for your skin to feel a little dry and tight for a couple of minutes right after the treatment. Dr. Mahajan says, “Though glycolic acid peels are very safe treatments, they can go wrong when done by someone who is not qualified and experienced in these treatments. Mild erythema and dryness for a few days are normal. Make sure to apply and re-apply your sunscreen after the procedure to avoid any photosensitivity. Rare side effects like a burn and blistering are possible if not done correctly.”


7. Are there any recommended post-treatment skin care tips?

Are there any recommended post-treatment skin care tips?

It is really important to take good care of your skin post the treatment, as this will prevent any adverse reactions and show you better and faster results. To make things easier, here are some skin care tips that will definitely help

  • Apply a soothing moisturiser at least twice a day
  • Apply and reapply sunscreen throughout the day
  • Wear a hat or scarf while stepping out during the day to prevent direct sun exposure
  • Strictly do not scrub or exfoliate your skin for up to a week
  • Avoid touching your face and picking at the dead skin with your nails
  • Avoid smoking
  • Do not wear makeup
  • Wash your face with a really gentle face wash and use cold water to rinse it off

Urvi Dalal

Written by

Writer, avid reader and hardcore beauty enthusiast is the best way to describe Urvi Dalal. With over 5 years of writing experience in the beauty industry, you can trust her to have the latest skin, hair and makeup tidbits on her fingertips. In her time working as a beauty writer, she has had the opportunity to interact and work closely with a string of dermatologists, makeup artists and hairstylists. All that knowledge exchange, coupled with her flair and love for writing make it possible for her to bring you some authentic yet fun beauty content. When Urvi isn’t working, you’d usually catch her curled up with a big, fat book, drinking a cup of tea or practising her makeup skills; there is no in-between!


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