My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Ask Your Question

WebMD Answers

120 Characters remaining
120 Characters remaining
  • First, try and keep your question as short as possible.
  • Include specific words that will help us identify questions that may already have your answer.
  • If you don't find your answer, you can post your question to WebMD Experts and Contributors.


Posted: | Report This Report Question |

What's the difference between a salicylic acid peel, a glycolic acid peel, lactic acid peel, and a TCA peel?

Does a dermatologist have to do this, or can an esthetician do these kinds of peels?

Answers From Experts & Organizations (1)

New York University
318 Answers
2,480 Helpful Votes

When we talk about acid peels, what these are doing is that they are creating a controlled chemical burn of the skin. These should be done by trained and qualified physicians.

Ideally, dermatologists or plastic surgeons. What they can do, depending on the concentration, is cause an exfoliation of the skin that will reveal healthy newer skin behind it.

Glycolic acids come in different strength. They can be as low as a 5%, up to a 70%, and depending on whether or not it's buffered, so how neutral it is, what the pH of it is, can affect how powerful that treatment is. That needs to be neutralized in order to turn it off. So the longer you leave it on the skin, the longer the results last.

Salicylic acid is often called a beta lift or a beta peel, and this does not need to be neutralized. So we have different concentrations, it can be 20-30%, and you have to be careful, because this is absorbed into the body, so we have to limit the body surface area that we apply. We wouldn't do the face and the back in one treatment because too much of the product would be absorbed and can cause systemic problems or problems internally. So it does need to be done in a very careful and monitored way.

But it does turn off by itself. Afterwards, you get red and you peel. I like the beta or the salicylic acid peels for people who are more acne-prone and the glycolic acids for general skin rejuvenation.

The lactic acid peels are more gentle in the alpha hydroxy or glycolic acid family of peels. They tend to be better for more sensitive and more dry skin. Trichloric acetic acid peels tend to be very strong. You have to be especially careful with these.

In as low as 10% concentration, that tends to be very gentle, but unlike the other peels, every time you apply it, you are getting a stronger concentration. So if you take a 10% peel and you keep dabbing it over the spot, you can get up to a 30-40% concentration. So there is a lot of finesse that go around these products.

It is also self-neutralizing, which is good because it turns itself off, but also, we don't have a neutralizer for it. So if you have too strong a product on your skin, that can create a chemical burn that can be significant.

So these are treatments that should be done under the supervision or directly by your physician. You need to be evaluated to make sure that your skin is healthy enough for this treatment, and you need to know what to expect afterwards; what the downtime is, what the skincare is in order to get the best results out of them.

This answer should not be considered medical advice...down arrowThis answer should not be considered medical advice and should not take the place of a doctor’s visit. Please see the bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.up arrow

| Report This Report Answer

Was this helpful?


Thanks for your feedback.

367 of 416 found this helpful
Read the Original Article: WebMD Ask the Dermatologist: Non-Surgical Cosmetic Surgery