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How To Use A Glycolic Facial Peel At Home The Ultimate Guide

Here is your ultimate guide to using a glycolic facial peel at home.

This article covers everything you need to know to do it safely and easily while getting the best results possible…

That is – clear, fresh, renewed skin!

Glycolic Acid Facial Peel

It really is easy doing light, safe glycolic acid chemical peels at home, so follow this guide and enjoy the benefits!* (Please note: this is a guide only, peels are done at your own risk)

Benefits Of Using A Glycolic Facial Peel

Derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid has the smallest molecule of the Alpha Hydroxy Acid group (AHA’s).

So, it can penetrate deeply and right into pores, effectively dissolving the glue that binds dead cells together:

  • Provides an even, deep exfoliation
  • Cleanses and clears blocked pores, blackheads, fades dark spots
  • The exfoliation action stimulates skin cells to increase turnover = a renewed, plump and heathy complexion
  • Decreases fine lines and anti aging concerns
  • Minimizes appearance of pores
  • Helps with acne by keeping pores clear – salicylic acid is really the star for acne treatment, so you might like to look at that if this is your main concern
  • Has a cumulative effect, with frequent use can stimulate collagen and greatly improve texture

Note: If you want to start with something safer and easier – use a low percentage of glycolic acid on a daily basis.

This is not only easier, but delivers better results as the consistent use is what really improves your skin.

Concentration and Ph – Where To Start?

An effective at home glycolic facial peel should be between 30 – 50% concentration.

Anything higher is far too strong, do not use 70%. Ever!

This is industrial strength and you simply don’t need it to get the benefits – far better to perform regular peels at a safer level.


What About pH?

Normal pH of skin is about 5.5, slightly acidic. One reason why acid peels are so beneficial is their ability to bring skin back to its optimal ph level.


In a glycolic acid facial peel, a ph between 2-3 is ideal. Any higher and the effect will be neutralized. Any lower and it’s the equivalent of battery acid!


 So…

It is best to start with a “low” concentration of 30%* with a pH of 2-3:

Picture of Skin Obsession Peel from Amazon.com
30% Glycolic Acid Peel from Amazon.com
This is far more beneficial to skin than trying to get more results faster by using a high concentration too soon – the reverse will be true and skin will react, sometimes severely.

  • First 2 – 3 treatments apply for 1 minute
  • Increase by 2minutes increments each time until you reach 5 minutes maximum
  • Once several glycolic acid 30% peel treatments at 5 minutes have been performed, you could then increase to 40% – again at 1 minute and build up. Repeat the process for build up to 50%.
  • Depending on your skin this might not be neccessary – a lot of people have perfect results from staying at the lower dose, and this is really ideal

What You’ll Need

  • Normal cleanser –  a simple, gentle one is best
  • Rubbing alcohol or skin prep (I like to use the little pads you can get for first aid kits) – this is important for thoroughly drying skin and removing surface oils, allowing the peel to work at it’s most effective
  • Glycolic Acid Peel 30% – 50%*
  • Small glass bowl to apply
  • A fan brush or gauze pad (fan brush is easier to use and prevents wastage)
  • 1/2 cup baking soda mixed with 2cups water (I put this in my sink) – this is to apply at the end of the peel to neutralize the acid, important
  • There are specific neutralizers like this one*, but baking soda and water is just as good.Put a soft wash cloth or a bunch of cotton pads in the bowl ready to use
  • Vaseline – apply to eyebrows, lip area and nostrils, places you do not want to the acid touching!
  • A heavy emollient moisturizer – very important after a peel… Coconut oil is also a very good option, extra bonus with it’s anti bacterial properties
  • A timer/clock

How To Do An At-Home Glycolic Facial Peel

Smiling lady with nice skin

  • Cleanse and dry skin.
  • Apply rubbing alcohol all over as you would a toner and allow to air dry completely
  • Make sure you have the baking soda solution ready beside you or in the sink
  • Apply vaseline to eyebrows, lip area and nostrils
  • Pour a small amount of glycolic facial peel into the glass bowl (normal drinking glass would work fine)
  • Using the fan brush apply to skin quite quickly and carefully – I suggest starting on the forehead, moving down the nose and chin then out to cheeks. But whatever feels right for you
  • A gauze pad also works well, just make sure you wear gloves and squeeze it to prevent drips
  • Apply evenly in one layer (don’t worry about being too fussy however) the acid will start working straight away
  • Avoid the eye, lip and neck area – they don’t have as many oil glands as the rest of the face so can react more severely
  • Start timing as soon as you apply that first stroke 
  • Be very careful to not get any in your eyes – for obvious reasons!
  • Avoid any broken skin or active breakouts
  • Relax, and watch your skin in the mirror

What To Expect From A Glycolic Facial Peel:

  • Skin will tingle – a good sign! It may feel a bit ‘bitey’ but shouldn’t be painful or too uncomfortable – if it is neutralize straight away
  • It may become pink/red particularly in more sensitive areas – watch it in the mirror. If it becomes overly red or blotchy/motley, neutralize immediately
  • The tingling can subside after the first 30secs, or once it reaches a certain point it will even out as the beginning is when it’s most active. Don’t mistake this for it not working anymore – if left on skin it will continue to provide an acid affect
  • Once you start neutralizing it – expect the sting to intensify briefly – just continue and it quickly subsides

How To Remove A Glycolic Acid Peel

Girl splashing water on her face

  • Once the minute is up, apply the baking soda solution all over your face by splashing it and/or using a soft cloth 
  • Repeat for at least 1 minute until you are confident you’ve applied it thoroughly. Remember it will sting more briefly at the start
  • Rinse skin with water – If it feels hot keep splashing until it has cooled down and more comfortable
  • Pat dry skin and apply a very generous layer of moisturizer/oil
  • If you have time apply a soothing, nourishing mask after removing. This is what happens in professional facials as the skin is perfectly primed to absorb all that moisturizing goodness
  • It’s best to do this in the evening so you won’t be outside and exposed afterwards
  • Very important to wear a high spf sunscreen and preferable to avoid the sun altogether for a few days afterwards

Expectations And Aftercare

  • Skin will be quite dry for a few days as the top layer as been removed. Keep applying that heavy moisturizer. Coconut oil also works well
  • Do not exfoliate for at least a week. In fact, you won’t need to at all while doing chemical peels at home, they are the most effective exfoliation by themselves and anything else will be very irritating
  • Skin will probably be very sensitive and perhaps a bit pink and shiny for a few days. Avoid excessive heat or harsh conditions
  • I repeat – vitally important to wear a high spf sunscreen every single day. The new layers won’t take kindly to sun exposure, which can result in a more severe sunburn and pigmentation
  • There may be slight flaking. Just keep slathering on the moisturizer – don’t pick it! 

Your Treatment Plan – How often to do a peel and maintenance

You will see benefits after your first glycolic facial peel at home. A smoother, fresher looking complexion, and a nice glow for a few days.

Long term benefits will need at least 4 treatments to show. In this time cell turnover will increase and the surface of skin will be healthier.

How often should you perform glycolic acid peeling at home?

  • once every 2-3 weeks is ideal – not too close together but enough to get cumulative effects

Once you’ve done a few peels at this rate and are seeing good results, a maintenance treatment once every 1 or 2 months is all that’s needed. This will avoid over-peeling effects such as thinning or sensitivity.

It really is better to take the side of caution – don’t mistake the instant glow that peels give you as a reason to do them stronger and more often.

You know your skin best, and once you’ve done a couple will be able to adjust strength and timing by look and feel.


Skin Peel Product Recommendations

The best glycolilc acid peel product is simple… pure concentration and a decent pH. They don’t and shouldn’t cost a lot. Such as this one from Amazon.com*

  • Comes in 30%, 40%, and 50%
  • Enough in each for approx. 8 peels, consider using the end of a bottle as indication to increase percentage
  • pH 2. Ideal

Here’s a list of what else you’ll need:

  • pH Neutralizer* or baking soda
  • Fan brush* or gauze
  • small glass bowl
  • rubbing alcohol/skin prep (individual alcohol swabs in first aid kits work well)
  • rich moisturizer or coconut oil* to apply after – very important!

I’ve given this guide based on my experience and knowledge, but be sure to follow the product’s specific instructions.


Enjoy the clearing, plumping, rejuvenating benefits of using a glycolic facial peel!

Also look at incorporating this ingredient into your routine with a lower percentage product for easy, consistent results.

Once you’ve incorporated a regular acid peel into your routine, you won’t look back and everyone will wonder where that glow is coming from 🙂

28 Comments

  • Hello all.l did a 10% glycolic acid peel last night and left it on overnight. L woke up to my whole face peeling immensely and had to pick the skin that was sticking out which left it veery raw, shiny and red. I then applied L’Oréal age perfect facial oil. I’m now scared to get burnt and have the raw areas darken.what can l do to make sure the areas don’t darken and

  • i used 30% glycolic acid peel for 1 min for the 1st time. My skin is not feeling dry or layering out. i don’t see any change. Should i keep it for a long time???

  • Hi, has anyone tried this on the back of their hands? Can you leave it longer than the face? Any tips appreciated. Thanks!

  • I just did a glycolic peel at home today my peel is 50% but I diluted it half purified water and half peel to reduce the strength to 25%. Was that ok to do?

  • I bought a 50% peel for my first time I have never done a peel ever and I am really nervous about it. Will the skin be peeling off a lot or do u get hardly any peeling with these? Also how much water to how much of the 50% should I use to dilute it?

    • 50% for your first time is too high, love. Start with 20-30%. Prep your skin (cleanse) & start with 2 minutes tops. Then add a minute or 2 with each session but no longer than 5. Do this once every week or two. After 6-8 peels, do a maintenance peel once a month. Again, I cannot stress enough, if this is your first time, start off no higher than 20%. Then after several peels, you can adjust. Your skin is not ready for such a high concentration. You’ll very likely cause irreversible skin damage.

  • thanks for this info… i want to try glycolic acid peel.. what is the best acid peel gel or liquid? i have blemishes in my face. tnx

  • 1:4 ratio of baking soda solution?!

    Doesn’t 80% of your 1/2 cup of baking soda just end up as sediment sitting on the bottom of your sink with those amounts?

    • I agree with your comment! I use about 1/3 or 1/4 cups of baking soda and it works perfectly fine.

      What I find works best is putting the baking soda+water solution in a bowl instead of filling it directly in the sink.

      There are extra baking soda sediments floating at the bottom of the bowl so I’ll usually do a quick stir so that the baking soda dissolves a bit more before I splash it on my face.

  • Can I use a 50% peel for my backne? I’ve done glycolic peel before but it’s been years. Also, is it possible to dilute a 70% glycolic peel so as not it’s too strong?

  • I make a DIY vitamin C serum. Should I avoid using this after a peel? I imagine that it will absorb better (a plus), but sting more (a minus). What do you think?

    • If you haven’t used the Vit C serum before I would wait a day or two, as your skin will likely be fairly sensitive after the peel already. Another option is to try it on a small patch of skin and see how it goes before applying to the rest of your face. I always advise caution – most things like this won’t do extreme damage however a week of irritated or extremely dry skin probably isn’t worth it. Hope that helps!

    • We know that:
      Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties. [1]
      Vitamin C in concentrations stronger than 20% will not promote faster absorption. [1]
      Around 3 days of daily application is required to achieve skin saturation point [2]
      Vitamin C has a half-life of 4 days in the skin once skin saturation is achieved. [2]
      Vitamin C requires a pH of 3.5 or less to remain stable, which at 3.5 less acidic than vinegar or coke – about the level of wine.

      Based on the above, we can surmise the following:
      1. Just applying regularly at 20% will achieve maximum concentration levels in the skin, and is the best way, so don’t feel you NEED to try and cram it in during any extra absorption bonus time (if there is one).

      2. Delaying 1-2 days from your last Vit C application to let your peel settle down won’t destroy your Vit C reservoirs, with 70% still remaining 2 days later.

      3. Having said that, Vit C has anti-inflammatory properties, and pH 3.5 isn’t hugely acidic, so it probably wouldn’t do any harm and may even help post-treatment inflammation. You said you DIY your own so just make it to 3.5 if you do (don’t put it on un-buffered as the L-ascorbic solution I make using the powder has a pH of around 2.4 or something at 20% strength).

      What I found really interesting about the source study [1] was that the addition of just 1%Vit E and 0.5% Ferulic Acid to 15% Vit C increases its efficacy 8 times (at preventing UV damage, idk about Vit C’s other benefits) and that only 55% of sun damage is prevented by sunscreen.

      It also notes no adverse effects when using Vit C in conjunction with AHAs and Retinoids and also cites a study[2] that supports the daily topical application of Vitamin C with 20% glycolic acid over 3 months can significantly help stretch marks. I’m not sure if that’s 20% glycolic acid every day or just the Vit C so, don’t rush out and start applying 20% Glycolic daily without further investigation 🙂

      GL hope this helps.

      sources:
      1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673383/
      2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11207686

    • Update to tell of my experimental experience following my previous post:

      I began by applying a 5minute, 30% Glycolic Acid Peel to my face and neck.
      I neutralised the peel with a baking soda solution and a long shower.
      Wanting to test the anti-inflammatory properties of Vitamin C I decided to apply a 20%, pH 3.25 Vit C solution a little while after my shower.

      My skin is of mixed sensitivity. For example, I have no troubles using Tretinoin Microspheres 0.1% my face or decolletage, but I can get irritation when using suncream and moisturisers around my facial mask, and also suffer from mild rosacea appearances.

      Day 0:
      Following the application of the Vit-C, the skin of my decolletage became irritated and slightly inflamed in response, especially the area between my trachea and suprasternal notch and to the sides of this area. It was quite itchy and resisting the urge to scratch it was difficult.

      Day 1:
      I had put midnight recovery oil over it before bed and woke to find it had settled down a lot. I then made the mistake of applying a touch of Kiehl’s Ultra Facial moisturising cream thinking it would help to sooth and it immediately inflamed again in response.

      Day 2:
      I’m hesitant to apply anything now and will just let it settle down on its own now. This is a little difficult to do seeing as when the skin is in its inflamed state it takes on a leathery texture, greatly amplifying the appearance of crease lines. It is still a little itchy but most of the skin, while a little reddened has returned to it’s normal softer texture.

      I had no idea my decolletage could be so sensitive. The urge to itch is driving me a little nuts but I’m glad it’s not as bad as the first day.

      For the record, the Vit-C on my face was fine without a hint of reaction at all.

      If you have or suspect you may have sensitive skin, or just wish to avoid the risks, I recommend avoiding post-Glycolic Acid Treatment Vit-C application, especially on the decolletage area, known for it’s heightened sensitivity. Your mileage may vary for facial applications, but I know that I would hate for my face to go through what my neck is at the moment, so personally, I won’t be taking the risk in future.

  • Hello! Thank you for this guide. It’s very informative and an excellent tool for beginners like myself.

    My question: when you say rich mousturizer… what would be considered a rich mousturizer? I use L’Oréal Revitalift Mousturizer twice a day.

    • Thanks for you comment! A rich moisturizer is really anything that can hydrate skin well after a peel, because your skin will likely be drier than normal at least for a day or two. Any moisturizer that is more oil based than water based – usually “dry skin” creams etc, is good. Otherwise, the more simple approach is to continue to use your normal moisturizer, and apply a layer of Aquaphor or Vaseline over top at night. Coconut oil works well too. You’ll be able to tell by your skin how long it needs it, one night may be sufficient 🙂

  • I will be adding a 30% glycolic acid peel into my skincare routine, but i recently bought a derma pen and i was wandering if i Can use both the pen and glycolic acid in my routine or should i alternate them so i use one at a time and not both at the same time?

    • I’m not familiar enough with derma pens, I would recommend checking with the manufacturer or the seller. I can say it always pays to be cautious when using any other treatment with a heavier peel – at least for the first few treatments until your skin adjusts.

  • Hi, I started using salicylic acid 20% once two weeks, can I use it more often? I want to combine I with glycolic acid? How can I do that? Thanks in advance

    • Hi! If your skin is doing well the the SA 20% yes you could use it once a week, I wouldn’t recommend more than that and you shouldn’t need it. If you want to try Glycolic Acid too then it would be best to alternate weekly, less is usually more with these peels. So one week you could do salicylic, the next glycolic. Keep your skin hydrated and protected in between, and enjoy!

  • I use a 10% glycolic peel. My skin tingles as soon as I apply it. I started by leaving it on for 2minutes and now 5 minutes. I use this once every two weeks. Is this too often? I have only been doing this for 8 weeks. I am not really seeing any results to date. My upper lip between my nose and lips have always had a darker appearance. It almost looks like a split pencil moustache, and it isn’t hair. I also have the appearance of dark “shadows” on the outer edge of my cheeks where the “hallow” begins. This peel doesn’t seem to be lightening these areas. Should I use a stronger solution? My friend uses a stronger peel, her skin actually flakes after a few days. I don’t get that effect, is that what I should be experiencing?

    • Hi Sue – flaking isn’t necessary, it does mean the effect was stronger, however it can be annoying in itself and you have to be careful about letting it heal or it can cause further pigmentation problems. In your case I would suggest trying your 10% peel more frequently, once or twice a week and see how that goes. You can also try layering it – apply a layer as usual, wait a few seconds, then apply another. This will increase the strength without needing to buy a stronger peel.
      Keep in mind that really good sun protection is needed especially if you already have pigmentation – this will only get worse with a glycolic peel and the sun. Be extra extra diligent. If the pigmentation is fairly dark and/or has been there for a long time, it will take more to see a difference. You may also need to see a dermatologist for other options such as laser if it is a big concern, but see how this goes first 🙂
      Also keep in mind this is a general suggestion as I can’t give specifics, so please do so with caution and see a professional with any concerns. Good luck, do let us know how you get on!

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