Peels – how deep is superficial, medium or deep?

Hi Glycolic peel 30%-50% is a superficial peel or medium depth peel ? and can it be done on fitzpatrick skin types IV, V AND VI?

I’m glad you raised this because it’s confusing to most women/men.   Most beta-hydroxy peel systems now are self neutralizing which means that there isn’t as much room for operator error.   With most glycolic peel systems, the glycolic acid needs to be neutralized by your aesthetician or nurse, and if that person isn’t paying attention, a much deeper peel than intended can occur. 

Please don’t do peels like this in the summer on skin types IV, V and VI unless you live in a cave!   Very light peels with a ton of sunscreen could be okay, but consult your dermatologist.  There’s too much risk of pigment problems.  Microdermabrasion is safer.

Also, the skin prep for the peel matters a lot.   Acids penetrate the skin differently depending on how much oil is left on the skin.  If the prep isn’t done evenly, the acid may “burn” in one place but not  in another.

What you’ve been doing at home also matters, for example, using vitamin A cousins like tretinoin, Retin A, etc. will thin the outer dead layer and allow for more penetration of the acid.

So…… answer your question, most dermatologists would consider the above to be more in the mediumish range, but it depends somewhat on the system and prep.   A deeper, light peel is also realistic.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I



Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

Ask me your skincare question!

Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin, and I believe that consumers need and deserve a medically trained and unbiased skincare advocate.

  • All our content is written and researched by myself and my trained staff.
  • My medical office in Seattle has experience treating thousands of patients.
  • This site is not affiliated or financially tied to any product line.
Ask Me Something
SkinTour Skincare
One of the best investments in your skin is your daily skincare. Why? Because you can prevent many problems with blotchy skin color, lack of glow, texture, some types of acne, and fine lines with good skincare products. You can also correct some of these problems with effective skincare products. Great skincare is often more expensive because quality ingredients are expensive. Some companies spend on research/development which benefits all of us and adds to the cost. Are they worth it? In general - yes!