How to Do a Glycolic Acid Peel at Home

bottle of glycolic acid

By chemical industry /

Glycolic acid offers many benefits for the skin, including exfoliating the skin to remove dead skin cells, evening out pigmentation, clearing blocked pores, stimulating skin cell turnover, reducing the appearance of fine lines, and more. While you can get deep glycolic acid peels at a dermatologist or aesthetician office, they are also available in over-the-counter formulation that you can do at home. Here’s everything you need to know about choosing and applying a glycolic acid peel at home:

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How to Choose an At-Home Glycolic Acid Peel

There are two main types of at-home glycolic acid peels: leave-on overnight treatments and wash-off treatments. The leave-on treatments typically feature a lower percentage of glycolic acid because they are meant to be left on the skin for a longer period of time; they usually top out around 10% glycolic acid. Wash-off treatments often have around 25-30% glycolic acid and can go as high as 70%.

We recommend sticking to the lower end of those percentages if you are new to chemical peels, have sensitive skin, are using a retinoid, or have a darker skin tone. You should always buy your chemical peel from a trusted brand, such as Lancer Skincare, to ensure that you are getting the quality formulation that you have been promised.

Leave-on face peels are usually more gentle on the skin and can be used up to two to three nights a week once you build up your tolerance. Wash-off treatments are stronger and should not be used more than once a week, and most people only use them every other week. Using an at-home chemical peel too frequently can dry out your skin and harm your skin barrier, so start slowly and gradually build up your tolerance for chemical peels.

applying glycolic acid peel to face

By Andrey_Popov /

Glycolic acid is one of the more powerful over-the-counter exfoliating acids available, which is why it’s so popular for at-home peels. If you struggle with acne, you might also want to look into salicylic acid peels or peels that combine glycolic and salicylic acid. And if you have very sensitive skin and have never done a chemical peel before, you might enjoy using a gentler acid such as lactic acid or mandelic acid to start off.

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How to Do a Glycolic Acid Peel at Home

Regardless of whether you choose a leave-on peel or a wash-off treatment, you should begin the process by removing all your makeup and washing your face with a gentle, non-stripping cleanser. Pat your face with a clean towel until it is completely dry, and then grab your glycolic acid peel of choice.

If you are doing a leave-on overnight treatment, that should be the very first serum you apply so it goes directly on top of the skin. Otherwise the glycolic acid will have to get through numerous layers of product in order to reach your skin, which will make the chemical peel less effective. Follow up the glycolic acid with moisturizer to prevent moisture loss while the peel does its work overnight.

portrait woman applying glycolic acid

By Dean Drobot /

For a wash-off peel, apply a thin, even layer all over your face and jawline and leave it on for no more than the time specified in the instructions. If you are new to chemical peels, we recommend cutting the time even shorter to avoid compromising your skin barrier. Some mild tingling or stinging is normal, but if your face starts hurting you should wash off the peel regardless of how much time has passed. Once your face is clean and dry, follow up the peel with hydrating serums and a moisturizer.

Always avoid applying any kind of chemical exfoliating to the eye area as well as the lips. Also be careful with applying exfoliators to your neck — the neck has fewer oil glands than your face, so applying a chemical exfoliator to the skin there can really dry it out. Be diligent about wearing your daily sunscreen, especially in the days following a chemical peel when your face will be more sensitive to sun damage.

Ready to try out a chemical peel at home? At Lancer Skincare, we offer different acid face peels to reveal smooth, glowing skin. Browse our facial exfoliators and get free, fast shipping on all U.S. orders — no minimum needed.