Chemical Peel Instructions

Chemical peels work to remove the top layer of skin (epidermis) in order to reveal the fresher underlying skin tissue. Chemical peel procedures are offered in salons, doctor's offices and at home and can range in price from a $25 over-the-counter peel kit to hundreds of dollars for treatment in a physician's office. The chemical peel procedure is often used to treat damage caused by sun, aging and acne or acne scars and works to remove wrinkles, sun spots and acne scars.

Types of Peels

Choosing a type of peel is important when you decide you want to perform a chemical peel procedure. Glycolic peels use fruit extracts and come in different strengths from 5 percent to 70 percent glycolic acid. They work to diminish fine lines and help decrease symptoms of sun-damaged skin such as uneven skin tone and dryness.

Salicylic acid peels help to cleanse pores and decrease fine lines as well. They give the skin a fresher appearance by removing dead skin cells. They come in strengths of 10 percent to 30 percent over the counter. Glycolic peels might cause more irritation than the salicylic version because of the water solubility of the acids that allow for deeper penetration. Salicylic acid works most effectively on the skin's outer layers.

Both types of peels are available for purchase online and in beauty supply stores. You might need a cosmetology or estheticians license in a beauty supply. Doctor offices, plastic surgeons and facial salons might offer these services as well.

Patch Test

Perform a patch test to find out if you have any allergies to the chemical peel solution. Put a small amount of peel solution on the inside elbow crook of your arm. Allow the solution to sit on the skin for five minutes, and then neutralize with a paste of baking soda and water. Remove by washing with mild cleanser and cool water. Pat dry and observe the area for 24 hours. If the skin develops bumps or severe irritation, do not use the chemical peel solution. Mild redness and irritation might occur. This is generally considered a normal reaction.


Cleanse your skin using a gentle cleanser and a washcloth before applying a chemical peel solution. Because of the caustic nature of glycolic or salicylic acids, you do not want to aggressively exfoliate before applying any peel chemical to the skin to avoid irritation. After cleansing, rinse with lukewarm water and gently pat the skin dry. Use lukewarm water to open pores and allow the peel to more deeply penetrate the skin. Make sure the skin is dry so moisture will not interfere with the chemical action of the solution.


Apply the chemical peel solution to the skin using the kit applicator, or use a soft brush such as a ½ inch watercolor brush or soft makeup brush. Start at the forehead and apply the peel solution in an upward motion from above the eyebrows to the hairline. Continue to the chin and then the cheeks. Finally, apply to the neck and décolletage area, if desired. Apply the solution quickly, but avoid contact with eyes and lips. Do not apply the solution to eyelids, and stay at least ½ inch away from underneath the eye. Beginning on the areas of the face that are thicker such as forehead, chin and cheeks allows the chemical peel to work on the thickest areas first while lessening time on more sensitive areas such as underneath the eyes.


Leave the peel on according to packaging instructions. Home chemical peels usually take from three to five minutes but might require less or more time based on your skin type and level of irritation. Because darker skin tends to be thicker, people who have lighter skin tones might be more sensitive than those with darker. If you experience severe irritation, remove the product immediately with warm water and cleanser. There will be a mild burning feeling while the chemical peel works. Do not leave the peel on longer than the packaging instructions recommend. Use a neutralizer to stop the action of the peel after the required timing is completed. Either use the neutralizer that comes in the peel kit, or try mixing a paste of baking soda and water. Use a cotton ball to pat the neutralizing solution all over the areas where you have applied the peel solution. Remove the peel with a mild cleanser and cool water immediately after applying neutralizer.

Post Peel

Apply a light moisturizer after the peel, and use daily to keep the skin soft and help to decrease inflammation that might occur. Moisturizers help to protect the skin and encourage healing after a peel. Avoid any harsh cleansers after peeling. Cleanse your face morning and night using a gentle circular motion. A mild washcloth can be used after 24 hours to remove any dead skin cells or peeling skin. Continue to apply moisturizer daily. Chemical peels can usually be repeated every two to eight weeks depending on skin reaction. Do not go out in the sun for two weeks after a peel without SPF 30 sunscreen, and avoid face makeup application for a few days to limit irritation.