A chemical skin peel is an effective method used to rejuvenate the skin, treat acne, and improve the skin’s overall appearance. While glycolic facial peels and salicylic acid peels were at one time solely performed by dermatologists, physicians, or skin care professionals, there are now at home peels which are just as effective and yet much less expensive. When it comes to acne, these two common face peels both have their advantages.
Glycolic Acid Peels
The alpha-hydroxy acid, Glycolic acid, which is derived from sugar cane, is the smallest AHA molecule. Glycolic acid penetrates the skin quickly and easily to break up the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin. Newer skin cells are uncovered and with continued use, glycolic facial peels will increase skin cell turnover and boost collagen production. This same shedding of surface skin also clears the pores of blackheads and debris which results in an improvement of acne. Glycolic acid is one of the most effective acne treatments available and overall is considered to be relatively mild so as not to irritate the skin too badly.
Glycolic peels provide gradual improvement with continued used over a period of weeks. Glycolic facial peels are safe for nearly all skin types and come in varied strengths starting at 10%. This allows those who want to use at home peels to find the right glycolic acid peel best suited for their own skin.
Salicylic Acid Peels
Whereas glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) which is derived from hearts of sweet bark & willow tree bark. In the skin care industry, salicylic acid products are used as a topical acne treatment and a chemical peel. Salicylic acid has been proven effective as an anti-inflammatory agent that also has the ability to dissolve and clear out sebum found in the pores. It is a bit stronger and involves a less gradual process than glycolic acid but for those with sensitive skin it can be used in lower strength concentrations in cases where glycolic acid peels are not well tolerated. As an added benefit when used regularly, salicylic acid products help protect skin from sun damage as it has the ability to absorb ultraviolet rays. Salicylic acid peels should not be used as often as the glycolic acid peels, as the peeling effects last a bit longer. When using salicylic acid peel products, it is recommended that you take a break in treatment after a period of use for best results.
As the Saint Louis University School of Medicine published in a study where glycolic acid and salicylic acid were compared in effectiveness at treating acne stated, “both types of treatments were similarly effective” for improving facial acne. If you have more sensitive skin, you can try a course of glycolic peels first and if you find you are not tolerating it well or are not happy with the results, move on to salicylic acid peels instead.
Unlike glycolic acid and lactic acid chemical peel treatments which are Alpha Hydroxy Acids, salicylic acid is a Beta-Hydroxy Acid. Salicylic acid is the only Beta-Hydroxy acid. The difference between AHA’s and Beta-Hydroxy acid is that AHA’s are water soluble while salicylic acid is oil soluble. What this means to those using at home peels is that salicylic acid peel products are great for people with oily and acne prone skin. Salicylic acid peels are very effective in superficial skin peeling and in reducing oil & cleansing the pores. Salicylic acid has been proven effective in fighting acne as well. For those with ultra sensitive skin, using a salicylic acid facial peel is a great alternative to glycolic acid peels. Salicylic acid peel products are specially formulated to penetrate into the pores to clearing them of oil and sebum while also reducing inflammation and irritation to leave a smooth, clear complexion. As an added benefit, salicylic acid peels are able to be used more often than the other chemical peel products.
Most commonly, salicylic acid peels are used to treat mild or moderate acne prone skin. Continued treatments can dramatically reduce the appearance of mild acne scars and red spots. However, salicylic acid peel products are not for people who have severe acne or deep scarring caused by their acne. Salicylic acid facial peel products are not strong enough to treat severe acne and a dermatologist or skin care specialist should be consulted before starting chemical peel treatments.
Besides being a great treatment for mild acne, salicylic acid facial peel products can also treat other skin blemishes including brown spots, dull skin, and uneven skin tone. Even though salicylic acid peels are good for people with sensitive skin, you should only perform these types of at home peels about once or twice a week. Salicylic peels are not recommended for every day use due to the harsh effect it could have on the skin if used too frequently. Start with a once per week application and if you feel that you are not getting good results, try using it twice per week.