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3 Popular Acids Used in Chemical Peels

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What is a Chemical Peel?

A chemical peel is a controlled burn where people pay a professional (like me) to correct the process and control the healing. The chemicals are applied to the skin to remove the top layer of the skin and then the skin that grows back is healthier and smoother. Chemical peels are often used to treat hyperpigmentation scars, sun damage, wrinkles, acne, and other concerns.

Chemical Peels and Ethnic Skin

When you schedule a chemical peel with Esthetics by P Brown, you’ll also receive 60 days minimum, skincare which includes the follow up appointment and the follow through appointment, so we can continue to deliver results. Therefore, if you want the chemical peel, you’ll want to budget for $180, then depending on how deep we have to go – it can go up to $300. However, I rarely have to go that deep. A lot of clients come to me thinking they have really bad skin, but rarely do they have skin as bad as they think.

Let’s Talk About Acids and Ethnic Skin. There are three popular acids used for chemical peels:

Glycolic Acid

Some estheticians favorite for ethnic skin, it’s an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA). A good place to get a hybrid Glycolic and organic Glycolic acid, is from the Aloe Vera plant. Aloe Vera is a natural derivative of Glycolic acid.

Traditionally, Glycolic Acid has always come with strong side effects because it has the smallest molecule. So, let’s talk about what that looks like: osmosis, cellular division, cellular wall penetration, and molecules. Imagine a cellular barrier, and the fact that glycolic is the smallest molecule – it hits that barrier hard and breaks through to the back of the barrier. For us, Glycolic acid is a sledgehammer acid. And your body is going to do what it is designed to do and it’s designed to put your body back in stasis and heal. When that happens, your melanocytes

do what they do best: spread and flood the area.

Let’s talk quickly about anatomy: Contrary to popular belief whether you are darkest of dark skin or fairest of fair skin, (from model Naomi Campbell to Frozen) we all have the same number of melanocytes. What determines your pigment is not your melanocytes or rather, it’s not the number, it’s the reach. So, if you’re fair skinned, your melanocytes are basically curled up like a fist, and if you’re dark skinned, they’re basically like a flat hand and in between is a loose claw, so when we’re working with ethnic skin, even Glycolic acid, it has to be able to work with our tyrosinase inhibitors. What are tyrosinase inhibitors? For my tribe, we call them melanin suppressants.

And what are tyrosinase inhibitors going to do?

They make sure, wherever you have an injury, it’s going to keep your melanocytes from flattening out like a hand and causing post inflammation hyperpigmentation. It’s going to remind your melanocytes to relax and remember that P Brown has everything under control.

For me personally, Glycolic acid is an inflammatory, it’s going to cause inflammation it can cause scarring, burning, itching, peeling, and flacking – it gives an instant false result. I’ve seen that my clients have gone places or ordered a chemical peel off Amazon (never with me) and tried to do it themselves and they’ll come to me and say, it was beautiful, it was glowing but now I have tear drop and penpoint hyperpigmentation.

Here’s the thing, estheticians are trained to use a black light to check the evenness of an acid so we know your acid is distributed evenly on your face… and Glycolic acid – is not my favorite acid. I do use it with buffers, but I also have 4 of my own skincare lines so we can provide custom skincare. I may at times use Glycolic acid for my clients with Cystic Acne.

Salicylic Acid

This acid is a Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA). Salicylic Acid is an anti-bacterial acid and anti-inflammatory acid, it is amazing if you have oily skin and are acne prone. With this acid, you really want to look at the % of acid, if you are looking at 5% or below – it’s really just like a toner and used as a long-term thing, it will give you the results you want over a prolonged period of time. If you go above 5% you’re getting into the chemical peel range. That is when you’ll have 3 days of peeling, 3 days of healing, and depending on how it’s mixed or how deep we go will depend on how deep the peel will be. This one is definitely one of my favorites.

I cocktail it and use it a lot as Lactic acid. Lactic acid is another AHA, I try not to use Lactic Acid with Vitamin C, because then it does become a little harsh for ethnic skin, especially if it’s at about a 5-7%, if you’re using a Lactic Acid with over 7 %, you really want to avoid sunlight and only use it at night. It has a beautiful peeling process especially when it’s cocktailed.

Side note: An AHA is going to work from the bottom up a BHA is going to work from the top to the bottom. As above, so below – is how I train my estheticians, so it’s a great way to hit the skin cells from multiple angles. I like to call it a “buffer” acid, it’s really not one we use for you to peel, it’s one we use for hydration benefits.

Hyaluronic Acid

This acid hydrates the skin barrier by 100%. I apply it with a moisturizer and I use the Hyaluronic Acid powder along with Neomycin in my chemical peel cocktails. With this method, you get minerals, vitamins and hydration – it feeds your skin.

These are the three popular acids used for chemical peels. Here at Esthetics by P Brown, we base our home care on three steps, polish, cleanse, and hydrate. Exfoliation, then cleanse, then hydrate. And with those 3 steps your exfoliation can be chemical or mechanical.

I hope this was helpful and answered some of your questions. To watch the video regarding Chemical Peels, click here. If you have additional questions about chemical peels, please feel free to contact us. We can be reached by phone at (615) 884 – 6744 or email us at

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As Always, we look forward to hearing from you…

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