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

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

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