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Complete Guide to SKIN PEELS

Your complete guide to SKIN PEELS


Skin peels may have gained tremendous popularity these last few decades, but you will be surprised to find just how long skin peels have been with us. This skin peel guide hopes to bring you up to speed with skin peels from its history to application.


This is a manual of some sort; a one stop page in which you can find everything you ever wanted to know about chemical peels. It is a result of countless years of people's queries about different aspects of the face peel - FAQs if you like. Please feel free to read through and satisfy your curiosity. It would be a nice place to start for people new to skin peeling as well as seasoned pros- everybody needs knowledge, and everybody can learn something new from this so let's get this started shall we.


What are skin peels?

Skin peels are basically beauty treatments that are applied to the skin or the face to fight wrinkles and fine lines as well as other skin and facial complications. They are chemical peel solutions which vary in strength and are known to peel off the stratum corneum of the skin to allow new skin to grow and develop. The idea is that the old skin (top layer of dead skin cells) is taken off the body and along with it various other skin conditions that it had. What also happens when you remove the stratum corneum is that you accelerate the skins natural exfoliation period of 28 days. Your skin notices that the upper dead layer of skin is now gone so it has to work quickly to replace it. So all new cells, collagens and elastins are created quickly to try to replace what was taken. Its truly an amazing process.


It should be worth noting that not all skin peels actually peel off the stratum corneum. Some are much more intense and can actually take off the enitre epidermis (top layer of skin). Skin peels come in three major categories:


Superficial peels - These are the lightest and most popular skin peels. Here, glycolic acid and salicylic acid are the most commonly used acids, alongside lactic acid. They are all mild and are used to treat mild skin conditions. The downtime/ recovery time when these peels are used is almost.


The popularity of superficial peels is enhanced further by the fact that they require much less supervision and as such can be applied safely at home and that they have basically no down time. Homepeel's Fortnightly Fruit peel is an example.


Expectations: Temporary redness, sometimes skin flaking for the day as well as dryness. Others are improved skin texture and your normal activities will not be affected. You will need sun protection of SPF 30 or more.


Medium Peels - These are used to treat skin conditions that might escape the superficial peels. They are medium in strength and like superficial peels, they use glycolic acid, salicylic acid and lactic acid- only stronger in concentration. For example, where Superficial peels use glycolic acid of less than 20% concentration, Medium peels use it in excess of 20% (between 20% to 35% depending on necessity). To these three acids, medium peels would add trichloroacetic acid which is its signature acid. Medium peels will treat more obvious cases of acne, fine lines and wrinkles as well as rosacea, sun damage and blotches on the skin among others. Homepeel's Green Herb Skin Peel is an example.


Expectations: A little discomfort and mild swelling but will subside in an hour. Skin will peel for up to five days at which time the new skin will be obvious and looking good. Recommended sun protection is at SPF 30 or higher.


Deep peels - These are the most severe skin peels with the longest downtime of them all. The signature solution for deep peels is phenol but glycolic acid and salicylic acid in excess of 40% concentration have also been known to produce deep peeling effects. Of all the three, deep peels are the ones that produce the most acute results but the risks are just as real. A deep peel is used in severe skin cases of wrinkles and fine lines and even rosacea and psoriasis. Other conditions would be acne, melasma and others.


Downtime for deep peels go well into six or seven weeks during which exposure to the sun is very dangerous and must be avoided. It must be performed in a controlled environment by an expert dermatologist or risk facial disfigurement- just as the lead oxide reliant people of the middle ages. AGAIN - these type of peels need to be done by a professional in a clinic or salon.


Expectations: Higher discomfort and mild swelling, depending on concentration but will also subside in 7 to 10 days. The new skin will be apparent and sun protection must be at SPF 30 or more.



Skin peels have been known to exist for as long as humanity. Long before the sons of Jacob sold their brother Joseph to Egyptian slave masters, the Egyptians had long practised a tradition of using sour milk or old wine to bathe. Sour milk especially- you may want to know is still used in chemicals to this day for its lactic acid effect. Egyptian obsession with beauty, along with the ancient Greek's reverence for their gods made both people famous for their application of chemical peels.


They are known to have pioneered civilization, and with it they shall take credit for pioneering healthy lifestyles and for this article- beauty in the form of skin peels.


Some of the most famous people to use chemical peels in ancient history would be Pharaoh Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, and a myriad of other Egyptian Pharaohs and Greeks.


Even through the middle ages, sour milk and old wine would continue to be used and to that was added lead oxide mostly for facial application to fade/ whiten the skin. The Greeks pioneered this habit of whitening the face and made it popular throughout the Middle Ages and lead oxide was the perfect chemical for this. They paid little attention to the side effects of lead oxide which include disfigurement and muscle paralysis. Sometimes, even death was reported. This culture peaked at around the 15 th Century.


Modern skin peels have since come a long way, owing to lots of scientific advancements but there's no denying that the ancients of Egypt and Greece- with their primitive technologies were a great help in promoting this culture and teaching it to subsequent generations until modern science could finally advance it to become a premier beauty requirement. Today, peels can be got at spas and at health resorts and chemicals are now mixed and optimized to achieve perfection and eliminate side effects such as muscle paralysis.


Medium and deep peels were first administered in the 50's by qualified dermatologists who used trichloroacetic acid, phenol, salicylic acid and resorcinol to treat the skin. All the above ingredients are still used in this day and age and along them have come others such as glycolic acid and pyruvic acid. In this time, chemicals begun to be treated as much more than mere cosmetic procedures but as skin treatments.


Today, these peels are so popular that they are the treatment of choice for celebrities, businessmen, politicians, sportsmen, entertainers and local folk. They have become affordable and accessible- a long way from the times when they were a preserve of Royalty!


Who can use a skin peel?

For all the friendly and usable nature of skin peels, they are not the type that you should just jump into. It helps to know what you are entering into.


People in poor health, recent surgeries, abnormal scarring, active medications, damaged/ broken skin and people with sensitive skin shouldn't use skin peels UNLESS advised by a qualified physician and a qualified physician will likely tell most of the above the impossibilities of doing skin peels.


The Skin

The human skin consists of the epidermis (which is the top most layer of the skin) and the Dermis (beyond the epidermis/ the inner skin layer). The skin is the one that interfaces with the environment and as such is a person's very first line of defence. It follows then that everything nature can throw at us will be received by the skin- enough reason to keep it as healthy and moisturized as possible.


Peeling off the stratum corneuem (upper dead layer of skin cells) or the epidermis and allowing a new layer to develop is a great way to keep looking radiant.


The use of skin peels

Skin peels have for eternity been used to beautify a person but even more importantly, they have since evolved to become treatments. Skin peels can be used to treat conditions such as melasma, rosacea, psoriasis, blackheads and whiteheads (acne), sun damage, dry skin, dead skin, fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, large pores, sagging skin, tattoo removal and other conditions as they arise.


The idea is to peel off the affected skin and leave new skin to develop. The result is usually a thing of great marvel and beauty to rival the best that Ancient Egypt can offer.


How to choose a peel:

Do understand the reasons why you would like a skin peel and ensure that you meet all the requirements of a successful skin peel. Afterwards;, choose the skin peel that you would like to use.


The questions you should be prepared to successfully answer are but not limited to:


  • Why do I need a skin peel,

  • What color/ type is my skin,

  • What is the best skin peel for me,

  • What is the downtime of this skin peel,

  • What side effects can come from using this peel,

  • How long do the effects of this last,

  • Can I apply the skin peel myself,

  • Do I have clear instructions?


Those and more questions should set you to the right direction.


How to apply a skin peel

First and foremost, do a patch testing i.e, choose a small part of your skin (many people would like somewhere well covered) and drop a small solution of the peel you are about to use and leave it on for some 30 minutes after which you should rinse using cold water.


In this procedure, you are trying to determine whether you have chosen the right strength for your skin. If itching and redness is very strong, then you will likely need to reduce the strength of the peel. If it is too low, you may do well to increase a little and test again until you get the right concentration. Keep in mind that the natural of skin peels are irritating to the skin, so it's a matter of finding what level you personally are comfortable with.


If your tolerance level is low, or you are unsure (and/ or using a particular solution the first time), its recommended that you use a low peel strength as you continue building your tolerance level. Always leave it on for the recommended time the instructions state - especially if it's your first time to apply it.


When all is in place, then consider the steps below:


  • Remove any dirt, oil or makeup from the face or where the skin peel will sit by washing and rinsing mildly.

  • Using gauze pad or gloves, apply a small solution of the peel to the face but avoid contact with the ears, eyes, lips and nostrils. You don't want itches in complex places.

  • Rinse the applied area with clean, cold water and apply a neutralizer. Do this to remove the peel 30 or more minutes after application. The time it takes before you can rinse it off depends on tolerance (and the first time is always 30minutes.)

  • Do not rub the skin, but just pat it gently.

  • Apply a moisturizer to nourish the new skin. It is essential to have SPF at 30 or higher.


It is important you read over the complete instructions of the skin peel you choose to do before you purchase. Make sure you understand them and that the manufacture will answer all your questions quickly. CLICK here to read full skin peel instructions.


Skin peel depth

It is not a standard that the low acid % is necessarily less abrasive than higher % as different acids have different individual strengths. Glycolic Acid at 50% is less abrasive than 20% concentration of salicylic acid while 30% TCA is a whole new level. Its able to burn into the dermis upper layers and careless applications can leave burns. TCA is not recommended for home use.


Popular Acids

Glycolic Acid:

Used in virtually all skin care, Glycolic Acid being the smallest A-hydroxy acid is also the most used/ popular. It is a water soluble that can be got from some sugar-crops like sugarcane and grapes.


On top of its use in skin peels, Glycolic Acid doubles as a dyeing and tanning agent. It can also work as a preservative and as a flavour.


Physician strength peels as low as PH of 0.6 can be enough to penetrate the epidermis while for home applied peels can go as high as 2.5.


Glycolic Acid is a natural exfoliant and breaks down bonded dead skin cells that sit beneath the top layer of the skin. Dead skin cells can then be easily rinsed away leaving behind leaving the skin smooth and soft.


Glycolic Acid has its risks if not applied in the right concentration. At less than 10% Glycolic Acid, it can be rinsed away but in excess of that must be a neutralizer to accompany it. It is recommended that most skin peels (being in excess of 20%) be applied by a consummate pro because these people know how to formulate special neutralizers for such high concentrations. Please also do note that Glycolic Acid is not for every skin type.


Salicylic Acid:

To begin with, salicylic acid functions as the immune system of plants. It is a chemical compound found in them and is also chemically related to aspirin.


Salicylic acid exfoliates dead skin cells and can penetrate hair follicles, making it the ideal anti-acne combatant, fighting acne at typical strengths of 0.5- 2%


As an anti-inflammatory, salicylic acid also minimizes redness that is common with acne breakouts. Salicylic acid is mostly famous for fighting acne, discoloration as well as hyper pigmentation. Low concentrates can even be applied to sensitive skin.


Salicylic acid is often the best choice for skin peels as it is less likely to cause breakouts due to its ability to get right into the skins pore. Homepeel only uses salicylic acid for all its peel for this reason.


Lactic Acid:

A popular acid made of milk, lactic acid was first refined in 1780 from sour milk and became the bedrock for consistent energy production especially during exercising of the body muscles. This acid is known to hydrate and moisturize the skin. While it is undoubtedly milder than many other acids, Lactic Acid is not recommended for skin with allergies and damaged skin.


The use of Lactic Acid containing skin peels also mean time under the sun should be limited and using sunscreen would be a great idea.


Trichloroacetic Acid:

Trichloroacetic Acid is the signature solution to medium skin peels and was discovered in 1839. Commonly known as TCA, Trichloroacetic acid is best used to even out skin tone and to remove any skin imperfections as well as fine lines and wrinkles.


Inasmuch as there are some cases of skin discoloration among users of this peel, it's a much better alternative to phenol peels for dark skinned users. It is stronger than AHA peels such as Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid among others yet still effective. This chemical peel is also not recommended to be done yourself at home. A professional should do its application.


Wearing sunscreen is advisable after application because the skin is left red and vulnerable during its short recovery period.


Jessner's Peel:

It belongs to the category of beta hydroxyl peels, which are becoming more popular than aha hydroxyl peels because they are milder. This peel is used to fight acne, blemishes, fine lines and wrinkles among others. Downtime will run up to seven days tops. These skin peels must be done in a beauty salon.



The very epitome of skin peels. Effects of phenol can be apparent for up to 20 years. It is classified as a deep skin peel and penetrates all skin layers. While it is largely thought to have croton oil as one of its ingredients, researchers have since discovered that this oil might even be totally absent from it and much different oils do give it its massive penetrating power.


While its positive effects are all massive and well appreciated- such as removing precancerous growth, fine lines, wrinkles and skin blotches, phenol has been known to cause massive discoloration and disfigurement of the face if not well applied. Phenol might also cause permanent skin lightening when it reduces the skin's ability to produce pigment.


Its downtime is longer than in AHA or TCA peels. It should never be used unless by a proffesional.


The issue of gender

Originally, chemical peels were the preserve of women. With the coming of women emancipation however came men's intrusion into the world of skin peels. Now, more than ever, the males have become more and more concerned about their appearance to which formulas have been designed specific to their skin and needs. Up to 86,000 men were recorded to have undergone skin peels procedures in 2008 in the US alone. It is therefore acceptable for men to use skin peels and society has long accepted the practice.


Skin peels or microdermabrasion:

Microdermabrasion, which involves the sanding away of dead skin cells from the skin has risen to be the closest treatment to skin peels. In this procedure, a sanded paper is rubbed gently onto the skin until all dead cells have been washed away. It is gaining popularity mainly because of its relatively simpler application but if push comes to shove, and symptoms keep growing, microdermabrasion will not be found among the solutions.


Skin peels have proven to be much more effective in the form of chemicals as opposed to microdermabrasion.


The effects of microdermabrasion also last much less than chemicals. It would require up to 12 visits to the cosmetologist and every month after application to maintain the positive effects of microdermabrasion yet its much less time needed to redo the skin where chemicals are used. Effects can be maintained with monthly or two month touch overs.


Where to find skin peels

There are many outlets that sell various skin peels. You need to avoid random over the counter purchases and seek to purchase at competent pharmacies, beauty salons or clinics. If possible, have a trusted physician write the prescriptions for you if he doesn't have them by himself. The dangers of purchasing over the counter or at random supermarkets are many including ending up with expired or contaminated skin peels that can cause negative consequences.


Other sources of purchase can be reliable internet websites (retail or wholesale vendors). has been a market leader in having reliable and carefully examined products. Australian made since 2006.


The Homepeel alternative

Homepeel have been releasing some of the most innovative peels of this time; face peels that can easily be applied from home without risk and even better, peels that can be customized. The Green Herb Skin Peel and the Fortnightly Fruit Peel have been revolutionary in fighting acne, scars, sun damage, wrinkles and the like. In cases like the fortnightly fruit peels, the user gets to choose what fruit to use with their peel and just add it! That way, the user achieves beauty as well as treatment at affordable rates.



Storage instructions for skin peels can be found written on the label. All of them agree that you should keep these peels as far away from children as possible. The acids are real and can burn a child's skin, leaving sometimes permanent damage. Even used containers must be disposed of safely and according to local waste management regulations. 



The different acids that are mixed to come up with peeling solutions are all mostly rich in nature. Acids such as lactic acid from sour milk and glycolic acid from sugarcane and the rest mean that a natural approach to skin peel is achievable and encouraged. Perhaps the finest display of the efficiency of natural additions to skin peels would again be the fortnightly skin peel. In it, depending on one's specific skin problem, different fruits- having different properties, can be put together to come up with a skin peel that is equal to the problem at hand.


While beauty is of great importance, it's important to put the effects of a skin peel to the skin into perspective before choosing whether or not to go for a peel. As seen previously, sometimes a natural option such as applying cucumber over your eyes is better and safer than applying chemicals that might irritate the skin.


Advanced science and technology has broadened our skin peel options much more than the entirety of its history and it only continues to get better. The competition is also fierce and with it a lot of poorly produced chemicals. Remember one of the golden rules of skin peels- always seek professional advice and first apply a little solutions to a small part of your body before rolling out to the rest of the body.



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