What is a glycolic acid peel?
Chemical peels are a kind of professional cosmeceutical treatment, done by licensed doctors or aestheticians. Chemical peels involve the exfoliation of the skin using certain chemicals, based on which it can be of three strengths- mild, medium and deep. Glycolic acid peels are chemical peels involving the use of glycolic acid which is an Alpha-hydroxy acid with the potential to tackle many skin problems.
How does a glycolic acid peel work?
Glycolic acid is made up of tiny molecules which penetrate the skin and remove lipids which hold the dead skin cells together. By loosening this bond, Glycolic acid allows easy removal of dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. Glycolic acid can also remove excess sebum and prevent the hair follicles from getting clogged. The concentration of the glycolic acid determines how deeply it penetrates into the skin.
Benefits of glycolic acid peel
- Glycolic acid peel can help treat acne by clearing out the skin from any sebum, bacteria and dead skin cells which could potentially clog the pores.
- It can help get rid of hyperpigmentation as it increases the rate of cell turnover, removes older pigmented cells and slows newer cells to come up to the surface.
- It can help remove certain signs of photoaging such as wrinkles, dark spots and fine lines.
- It can help treat and prevent ingrown hairs.
- As they can help stimulate the production of collagen in the skin, Glycolic acid peels can be effective against stretch marks.
Who should use a glycolic acid peel?
- It can be effective in brightening the skin.
Glycolic Acid Peels are generally considered to be safe for most skin types. If you’re looking to treat skin conditions like hyperpigmentation, acne or just dullness, Glycolic Acid Peel may be the perfect choice for you. You should avoid using Glycolic Acid Peel if you’re suffering from any skin condition or are sunburnt. Also, be cautious about using Glycolic acid peels if you have sensitive skin.
Where to get a glycolic acid peel?
While getting a glycolic acid peel, it’s important to go to a certified dermatologist or a licensed aesthetician. It’s best to avoid taking any chances and work with people who are qualified. Alternatively, you can opt for a mild glycolic acid peel which can be bought online or through stores. These peels are much gentler in comparison to the ones used professionally, and are meant to be used as an at-home treatment. The procedure and aftercare for both of these remain pretty much the same. Since the at-home glycolic acid peels are milder, these pose a lesser risk of side effects, but also don’t expect miracles while using them as the result will also be less significant than that of a professional peel.
Alternative treatments to glycolic acid peel
You can look for alternative treatments to glycolic acid peels based on the skin concern you’re looking to treat-
Acne- If you’re looking to treat acne, you can go for ingredients like Tea tree oil, Salicylic Acid, Azelaic Acid and Retinol like the or OTC medications like Benzoyl Peroxide, which are effective in eliminating the acne-causing bacteria and exfoliate the skin to free any trapped sebum or dead skin cells.
Dullness- You can opt for brightening ingredients such as Vitamin C, Kojic Acid or Azelaic Acid to get rid of dullness. These ingredients can exfoliate the skin very mildly and get rid of uneven skin tone.
Exfoliation- If exfoliation is your goal, choose alternative AHAs like Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Malic Acid or BHAs like Salicylic Acid. You can even choose ingredients like Retinol, Vitamin C and Azelaic Acid which are much gentler and tackle other skin concerns while exfoliating. Deconstruct Exfoliating Serum can be the perfect alternative to harsh glycolic acid peels.
Hyperpigmentation- Ingredients like Alpha Arbutin, Kojic Acid, Azelaic Acid and Vitamin C can be effective alternatives to Glycolic Acid in getting rid of hyperpigmentation.
You can even opt for other cosmetic procedures like laser skin resurfacing or peels with other ingredients as an alternative to glycolic acid peel.
What to expect during a glycolic acid peel?
Glycolic acid peel may cause you to feel a tingling or stinging sensation on the skin, which is usually normal. The stinging sensation should subside in some time. While getting a Glycolic acid peel professionally done, your skin will be cleansed and a protective solution will be applied to protect your eyes and corners of nose and mouth before the peel. After the required amount of time passes, the Glycolic acid peel will be neutralized using water or another solution to stop the reaction and avoid any side effects. Your skin may turn red or discoloured and may even peel a bit post your treatment. These effects usually last for about 14 days after which the skin heals.
How to prepare your skin for a glycolic acid peel?
Keep your skin hydrated- It’s important to keep your skin hydrated before any chemical peel. Hydrate the body from the inside by drinking plenty of water and using a good moisturiser to keep your skin healthy.
Avoid sun exposure- Use sunscreen religiously and minimise your exposure to sun prior to getting a chemical peel.
Limit the use of makeup- Refrain from using makeup before a glycolic acid peel. Makeup may clog the pores or interfere with the action of the glycolic acid, which is why you must avoid using makeup before and after a glycolic acid peel.
Skincare routine following a glycolic acid peel
Avoid exfoliating- Since Glycolic acid peels already are a form of exfoliation, avoid using any other form of exfoliation before or after getting a glycolic acid peel.
Take a break from topical treatments- Avoid using any topical treatment such as retinol or Benzoyl peroxide before getting a glycolic acid peel.
Here’s how you could minimise the risk of irritation post a glycolic acid peel-
How often should a glycolic acid peel be used?
- Use a soothing moisturiser to keep your skin hydrated. Avoid using ingredients like retinol which may dry the skin out.
- Make sure to use a good sunscreen of at least an SPF of 30 every day.
- It’s best to avoid sun exposure as much as possible, also consider avoiding smoking to reduce the risk of side effects.
- Avoid using any cosmetics for at least a week or two after a glycolic acid peel.
- No matter how tempting it may seem to take a steaming hot shower, stick to washing your skin with cold water after a peel.
- Since a glycolic acid peel is a strong exfoliant, avoid using any other exfoliants for 1-2 weeks after a glycolic acid peel.
It’s important to avoid over-exfoliation as it can result in a damaged epidermal barrier and irritated skin. Hence, it’s best to consult a professional regarding the frequency of getting peels done for your specific skin type. Generally, 3-6 treatments are considered ideal for visible results. If you choose to do an at-home glycolic acid peel, avoid doing it more than twice a month. Even though at-home peels are milder, keep in mind that your skin may need up to 14 days to heal post a glycolic acid peel treatment, so avoid using a peel in this duration.
Glycolic acid peel before and after results
Even though your skin may appear irritated right after a glycolic acid peel, it’s important to trust the process and give your skin time to heal. After all, you’re basically applying a form of acid to your skin for exfoliation! You can expect to see visible results once your skin has completely healed, which may take about 14 days. Although it may take multiple treatments to treat specific skin problems, you can still see noticeable changes after getting a peel.
Potential side effects of glycolic acid peel
Although Glycolic Acid peels are generally safe for most people, using high concentrations of Glycolic Acid or over-exfoliating may result in side effects. Some of the side effects associated are-
- Burning sensation on the skin
- Peeling of the skin
- Eye irritation
- Skin irritation
It’s important to keep in mind that sun exposure and excessive smoking may increase your likelihood of suffering from side-effects.
Glycolic acid peels are a professional form of exfoliation which can help treat multiple skin concerns. As with any other acid, it’s important to exercise precaution and take care of your skin before and especially after getting a glycolic acid peel.
- Is it safe to do glycolic acid peel at home?
Yes, you can safely use glycolic acid peels at home. Just make sure to follow precautions and use a low concentration to avoid irritation.
- Is it good to use glycolic acid for hyperpigmentation?
Glycolic acid works on the surface level by getting rid of dead skin cells and bringing new skin cells to the surface. By doing so, it can help fade hyperpigmentation over time.
- Can you use glycolic acid for dark circles?
It’s best to avoid using glycolic acid on sensitive skin such as the area around the eyes and mouth to prevent any irritation. Instead opt for other ingredients like Niacinamide, Caffeine and Peptides to treat darker under eyes.
- Is 20% Glycolic Acid peel safe for beginners?
If you’re a beginner 20% is too high a concentration for your skin to tolerate. Start slow and get your skin familiarised with glycolic acid by using a concentration of less than 8% through products like toners and serums. Once your skin’s accustomed to glycolic acid, you can consider using peels with higher concentrations.