Glycolic Vs. Lactic Peel

by Juliana Robertson ; Updated September 28, 2017

Chemical skin peels are done to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and lines.

Valua Vitaly/iStock/Getty Images

Chemical skin peels are done to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, lines and furrows in the skin. They can also eliminate acne scars, skin discoloration and blemishes. Glycolic and lactic peels fall into the category of “light” chemical peels. Candidates for both types of skin peels usually have mild skin imperfections. After a few treatments, noticeable improvements to skin tone, texture and pigmentation will be visible.


Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) is the most commonly administered chemical peel used in skin care. Glycolic and lactic acid fall under the umbrella of this group. AHA chemical peels contain glycolic acid (sugar cane), lactic acid (milk), malic acid (pears and apples), citric acid (oranges and lemons) and tartaric acid (grapes). The chemical peels are formulated from a mix of acids based on individual needs. They work by removing outer layers of dead skin cells and promoting the production of elastin and collagen. Exfoliation of the skins top layer also unclogs pores, which helps reduce the occurrence of acne.


Applications of both chemical peel processes follow the same protocols. Chemical peels are administered in a clinical setting by a licensed dermatologist or plastic surgeon certified in the application. Patients can request a mild sedative to aid in relaxation. A topical anesthetic is applied to treatment area before chemical peel solution.The chemical peel solution is applied to area and left on skin for predetermined time limit. The solution is washed off and a soothing topical ointment is applied.

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is a chemical peel made from sour milk. It is the mildest of all chemical peel formulations. The peeling process is very similar to that used in glycolic acid peels. Results from a lactic acid peel are temporary and will require maintenance visits. Lactic acid peels leave skin highly sun sensitized and mildly irritated. This peel is recommended for people with sensitive, dry, oily, and acne prone skin. It is also recommended over the glycolic acid peel for sufferers of rosacea.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid peels can be formulated for mild or medium concentration. This type of peel is more widely utilized than the lactic.These treatments do not always promote chemical peeling of skin.The glycolic peel is water soluble and draws nourishment from the topical after-treatment cream into the skin. Glycolic acid sometimes penetrates the skins surface unevenly, and requires neutralization of solution.


Treatment packages and chemical formulations for both procedures are individualized. The cost of either procedure varies by region but is roughly between $150 and $300 per session. At least five to eight sessions are required to achieve results. Consult with a licensed cosmetic surgeon or dermatologists before making a decision on treatment options.


The results and effects of procedures vary greatly among individuals. Both chemical compounds are non-toxic and patients experience minimal side effects, and both chemical peels require no recovery time. Normal daily activities can be resumed after treatments. Skin may flake or be slightly irritated after the peel. After-care instructions normally include using a gentle cleanser, moisturizing lotion and limiting sun exposure on treated areas.

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About the Author

Juliana Robertson is currently studying creative writing. She is a full time student of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Central Florida. Interdisciplinary Studies is a fancy way of saying she couldn’t decide on one major. The only decisive thing is her love for writing, and her ability to translate life’s lessons into poignant prose. Her articles have been featured on