What are Glycolic Peels and How Do They Work?

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Finding a skincare solution that works can be frustrating if you’ve struggled with acne, hyperpigmentation, or general dullness. But that’s where glycolic peels come in. These chemical exfoliants use the power of glycolic acid to penetrate deep into your skin, dissolving dead skin cells, unclogging pores, and leaving you with a brighter, smoother complexion. And the best part? You can get all these benefits without harsh physical scrubbing or abrasive tools. So, please grab a cup of tea and explore the world of glycolic peels together!

What are Glycolic Peels? 

Glycolic peels are a chemical peel that uses glycolic acid, a naturally occurring alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugar cane, to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin. A solution containing glycolic acid is applied to the skin during a glycolic peel. It works to dissolve the outermost layer of dead skin cells, resulting in more vitalized, brighter, smoother, and more youthful-looking skin underneath.

Glycolic peels can treat a range of skin concerns, including acne, fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin tone and texture. They are typically performed by a licensed skincare professional, who will apply the glycolic acid solution to the face, neck, or other areas of the body, depending on the individual’s needs.

Glycolic peels are available in a range of strengths, from mild to intense, and the strength used will depend on the individual’s skin type and concerns. While mild glycolic peels can be done as often as once a week, stronger peels may require more extended periods between treatments to allow the skin to recover fully.

Who should take Glycolic Peels?

Although Glycolic Peels are generally safe, there are still constraints regarding the suitable candidates for the procedure. If you have an allergy to citrus, glycolic, or lemon extract, have active sunburn, have been on Accutane or Accutane use for a year, are pregnant, and have a rash or irritated skin, Glycolic Peels may not be suitable for you. 

However, there are certain cases allowing the use of Glycolic Peels with some conditions: 

  • Recent use of Retin-A, retinol, glycolic or acne meds, recent waxing or laser hair removal, shaved within 2 hours, have had cosmetic procedures – Neurotoxin (Botox/Dysport)/Fillers within two weeks.

You can still get the service, but the reaction may be more sensitive than usual. 

What is the process for Glycolic Peels? 


Consultation: You will have a consultation with a licensed skincare professional to discuss your skin concerns and medical history. They will assess your skin type and determine the appropriate strength of glycolic acid to use.

Preparing the skin: The skincare professional will clean your skin to remove any excess dirt, oil, or makeup. They may also apply a pre-peel solution to cleanse further and prepare the skin.

Other reminders: 

  • Stop using Retin-A, retinol glycolic, and acne meds for 3-5 days
  • Avoid any cosmetic procedures for two weeks prior – neurotoxin (Botox, Dysport) /fillers/laser
  • Avoid waxing for 3-5 days prior


  • Applying the glycolic acid solution: The skincare professional will apply the glycolic acid solution to your skin, typically using a brush or cotton pad. The solution will be left on the skin for a certain amount of time, depending on the intensity of the peel and your skin’s sensitivity.
  • Neutralizing the peel: Once it has been on the skin appropriately, the skin care professional will neutralize it with a solution to stop the chemical reaction and remove the glycolic acid from the skin.


  • Soothing the skin: The skincare professional will apply a soothing moisturizer or sunscreen to help protect and hydrate the skin. They may also use a cooling device or mask to help reduce any redness or irritation.
  • Post-treatment care: The skincare professional will provide instructions on how to care for your skin in the days following the peel, such as avoiding sun exposure and using gentle skincare products. You should also avoid scratching at any flaking or peeling skin.

The aftercare instructions may go as follows: 

  • You may apply makeup as needed.
  • Avoid sun exposure, and SPF 30 daily is recommended.
  • Although rare blistering and scabbing may occur – use topical aquaphor or Neosporin ointment.
  • Prevent using retinol, glycolic for 3-5 days.

Additionally, your skin may be red/pink for a day after the treatment. 

What are the side effects of Glycolic Peels? 

Like any skin treatment, glycolic peels can cause some side effects, although generally mild and temporary. Some of the common side effects of glycolic peels include:

  • Redness: The skin may be red and slightly swollen after a glycolic peel, but it will be resolved in a couple of days.
  • Dryness and flakiness: As the outer layer of dead skin cells is removed, the skin may feel dry and start flaking, which is typical in exfoliation.
  • Sensitivity: Glycolic peels can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and other products, so using sunscreen and avoiding other irritants for a few days after treatment is essential.
  • Tingling or burning: Some people may experience a mild tingling or burning sensation on the skin during the peel; this usually subsides quickly.
  • Hyperpigmentation: In rare cases, glycolic peels can cause hyperpigmentation or darkening of the skin; this commonly occurs in people with darker skin tones or those with previous skin damage. It’s essential to discuss your skin concerns and medical history with your skincare professional before undergoing treatment to reduce the risk of this occurring.

Who should administer Glycolic Peels? 

Glycolic peels should only be administered by licensed skincare professionals trained to perform chemical peels. Depending on the country or state, this may include dermatologists, estheticians, or other licensed medical professionals. These professionals have the knowledge and expertise to assess your skin type, determine the appropriate strength of glycolic acid to use, and ensure that the treatment is performed safely and effectively.

The Spa at Aestique will provide this professional service as they are among the most reputable medical spas in Greensburg, Pittsburgh, and Wexford! Contact them now and learn more about the peels. 


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