Which Type of Acid “Peel” is Best for My Skin?

It used to be that you could only get what are called “acid peels” in the dermatologist or licenses asethetician’s office.  This is because acid peels are nothing to mess with.  Especially when full-strength acid peels are used, and certain different types of acids that can get further down the skin layers.

Skin peels – self-administered in your own home

However, in an age where we can do much of these things ourselves, in our homes for a fraction of the cost, there are multiple “at home” versions of these acids available that we can administer to our skin in our own home.

Even though these are made for at-home use, they still must all be treated with the utmost respect, and there must be an understanding that you can really do more harm than good if you’re not careful with these powerful peels.

Personally, I would use a natural exfoliant before I’d use an acid-based peel. Something that physically removes dead skin cells with abrasion such as pumice or sugar is gentle and doesn’t expose your skin to a too-deep type of exfoliation.  At any rate, let’s talk about the types of acid-based peels out there.

What type of peels are best for what type of skin?  It really varies, and traditionally certain types of acids have been used for various skin conditions or types of skin since they tend to help address specific issues a little better than another acid might.

For example, if you have very sensitive skin that cannot take a lot of exfoliation, then you would choose lactic acid, which is the least volatile of them all.

Types of Peels :

1.)  Glycolic – The glycolic acid peel is one of the deeper peels. It is often recommended for aging skin since it can penetrate multiple layers of skin, forcing them to slough off and revealing “younger” skin while also promoting new collagen production since this is the skin’s defense against irritation like this.

It is basically intentional “irritation” of the skin in order to get it to produce more collagen and also to get the dead skin off, and help to smooth it out. It is not recommended for sensitive or overly dry skin since it is such a potent and penetrating acid.

2.) TCA (Trichloracetic) Acid and Carbolic Acid – These two acids are even deeper peels than the glycolic peel. They are probably the best for minimizing age spots and wrinkles as well as fine lines and other sun damage, however they are very deep and must be used with caution.

These are the ones that should probably be done in the office of a professional so they can oversee how deep the peel goes. They have such a low pH that they can take off too much and cause too much irritation and redness after they are performed – and possibly skin injury.

It is important to point out, that even though the TCA peel is a pretty serious, deep skin peel, it also is being researched for its potential skin cancer treatment use.  Regular TCA peels may actually reduce topical skin cancers, commonly known as basal cell carcinoma.

3.) Salicylic – This one is excellent for acne prone skin. This is because it has the ability to penetrate into the pores better and to root out sebum, trapped bacteria and other dirt and debris that commonly causes an inflamed pore – also known as acne.

You see this as an ingredient in many OTC and even Doctor’s office product for acne prone skin because it is gentle enough and also sloughing enough to cause significant improvement in the skin, especially if you have acne.

4.) AHA or Alpha Hydroxy (often based on fruit enzymes) type peels – These were really popular about 15 years ago as a more natural, gentler alternative to the deeper peels. However, some people can also have adverse reactions to AHA’s if they are sensitive to them.

These mostly help to soften the skin and gently slough it off to help refresh and brighten the skin. These can usually be done more often than other types of acid peels, but if too concentrated they need to be done as often as the label indicates.

5.) Lactic acid – Lactic acid is probably the most gentle of the acid peels, and is most known for its dual ability to soften the skin.  It, like salicylic acid, is often used on acne prone skin or for the treatment of old acne scars to help soften and smooth them out.

Always remember, no matter which acid you use to make sure you apply enough sunscreen (preferably the nontoxic kind of course) for the next week or so after performing a peel. Your skin is ultra sensitive during this time, and it is also more prone to sun damage since it has had some of its protective layering stripped away.

This is an argument against peeling by some who believe that it really does more harm than good, however there are also multiple proponents on frequent exfoliation by means of acid peels.

I think that if you do them in moderation and choose the more gentle options, you are minimizing long term damage or the possibility of overdoing it.  Be sure to also really moisturize the skin more than usual for a while after a peel as it needs intense, replenishing moisture to help regain its proper moisture balance and to keep precious moisture in the skin.

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