Chemical Peeling vs Physical Peeling for the Face: Pros and Cons, Safety and More (2023)

  • Exfoliation is an essential part of good skin care as it effectively removes dead cells, debris and bacteria from the skin's surface.
  • Deposits on the skin can clog the pores and lead to a sallow complexion.
  • Exfoliation can be done physically, using machines and scrubs, or chemically, using formulas that contain acids that remove debris.

While physical and chemical peels can lighten and brighten skin, they do so in different ways. Physical peels are abrasive, and as such, chemical peels are more prone to irritate, dry out, or crack the skin. However, chemical peels are not without risk; If used incorrectly, they can damage the skin in the form ofhyperpigmentationor chemical burns.

Among the most commonly used chemical peels are alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHA). Hydroxy acids workbreak the tiesbetween the skin cells, which promotes the shedding of dead skin cells and stimulates the formation of fresh, new cells.


What is a chemical peel?

Chemical peels use exfoliating acids to create a chemical reaction. This reaction breaks down and removes the tightly packed outer layer of dead skin cells without the need for physical scrubbing.

Chemical peels come in many forms, including leave-ins, cleansers, toners, and exfoliants. Depending on your skin type, you can choose a chemical peel that contains AHAs, BHAs, or both. Those with sensitive skin should consider BHAs as is for their soothing propertiesleast likelyirritate the skin as AHAs.

Chemical Peel vs. Physical Peel

The two main types ofPeelingThey are mechanical (aka manual or physical) and chemical. Which peeling is best for you depends on your skin type.

To avoid stinging, flaking, or itching after exfoliation, it's important to consider any sensitivity or skin condition you may have when choosing a method.

physical exfoliation

During mechanical peeling, dead cells are removed with products such asschrubbencontaining granular substances or using equipment with abrasive surfaces such as brushes or textured gloves.

(Video) Do Chemical Peels Really Make A Difference?

Treatments that containMikrodermabrasion oder DermaplaningThey also qualify as a manual exfoliant because they physically exfoliate very thin layers of skin.

If you have normal or oily skin you can safely use a physical scrub, but they may be too harsh for those with dry or sensitive skin.

chemical peel

Chemical peels are often much gentler than physical peels and are becoming increasingly popular for home use.

While it is generally recommended that you get more involvedchemical peelsUnder the supervision of a dermatologist, over-the-counter (OTC) leave-in chemical peels are available in lower concentrations for home use. These products include creams, serums and toners.

Chemical peels with AHAs are good for dry, sensitive, or sun-damaged skin. These are water-soluble and therefore do not strip the skin of its natural oils, allowing the skin to retain some of its natural moisture.

These scrubs don't penetrate as deeply into the pores, which is ideal for people with sensitive skin. After all, most dark spots caused by sun damage only affect the top layer of skin cells, which AHAs can help remove effectively.

Common AHAs are mildlactic acidand Glycolic Acids, which accelerate cell turnover, allowing skin to shed faster and reveal new skin, while also acting as a moisturizer for drier skin types due to their water-binding properties.

Oil-soluble BHAs penetrate deeper into pores, making them a good choice for oily or acne-prone skin. Because BHAs are effective at fighting oiliness, this can also have a drying effect on some people; Be sure to follow up with a moisturizer.

Salicylic acid BHA is especially effective for those who are prone to breakouts. Reduces inflammation and kills bacteria and acts as a preventative against future acne breakouts.

security profiles

Although physical peels are often used without causing side effects, they can cause microcracks if used too vigorously. If your skin is dry or sensitive, it's best to avoid mechanical exfoliation as the process is drying and can cause redness and further irritation.

(Video) Microdermabrasion vs Chemical Peel split face experiment

If you do choose to exfoliate by hand, opt for products that contain gentle scrubs (like sugar) and moisturizing ingredients that contain natural shortenings instead of crushed ingredients, like clams, which tend to have sharper edges.

Leave-in chemical peels are generally considered safer than manual peels because they do not require abrasion, greatly reducing the risk of skin damage. Stronger chemical peels, such as B. Disposable scrubs with a concentration of up to 30% often have a much greater effect.higher riskof side effects. To avoid chemical burns, book these deep peeling procedures with a dermatologist.

Using chemical peels with lower acid concentrations is generally very safe for home use when used as directed.

Can both be used at the same time?

Some combination skin types may require both mechanical and chemical peeling methods. However, to avoid irritation, it's best not to use both methods on the same day.

Advantages and disadvantages

Both manual and chemical exfoliation offer a number of benefits when properly incorporated into your skincare regimen. However, each method can also have its disadvantages, especially if you don't use a method that works well for your skin.

When choosing an exfoliant for your skincare routine, consider the pros and cons of both.

Peel MethodAdvantagesIn contrast
Body scrubLeaves a matt and oil-free skin feeling.

The mechanical movement stimulates blood circulation.

Combats flaky skin to quickly improve texture.

It can be used to remove dry skin on the lips.

Excessive rubbing can irritate the skin and cause microcracks.

Granules that are too large or rough can cause irritation.

Chemical Peel
More suitable for sensitive skin.

No risk of over scrubbing

Penetrates deeper into the skin layers than physical peels

Helps other skin care products to absorb better

createtighter skinby increasing collagen production

to reducehyperpigmentation(including scars)

Unclogs pores to prevent acne.

Research must be done before using any new product to avoid possible side effects

If used incorrectly, side effects such as dark spots, rashes and irritation can occur.

How to choose a chemical peel

Chemical peels are available in a variety of concentrations. Always start with lower acid concentrations to see how your skin reacts to the active ingredient. For salicylic acid products look for concentrations of 1-2%; Glycolic, lactic, and mandelic acids are milder, so you can opt for a concentration of 10% or less.

It's also important to consider your skin type when choosing a product.

normal skin

If you have normal, carefree skin, any type of chemical peel will do. One of the best all-over scrubs isglycolic acid. This AHA has a very smallmolecular structure, which allows it to penetrate deeper into the skin than many other hydroxy acids, making it one of the most effective options.

Dry skin

If you have dry skin it is best to avoid any ingredients that may cause further dryness such as: B. CertainRetinoideÖBenzoylperoxid. Instead, opt for a gentler approach, such as B. a brown sugar paste or an AHA mixturelactic acid and glycolic acidAcid that also moisturizes the skin.

(Video) CHEMICAL PEEL Full Process | Procedure | Peeling | Before & After

Oily and acne-prone skin

If you have oily and acne-prone skin, you may be able to use stronger products, but always use caution and avoid using scrubs if you have open or raw acne lesions.

A combination of bothglycol and salicylic acidThe acid is especially recommended for people with pimples as it exfoliates and treats blemishes at the same time. wear and tearsalicylic acidas a scrub it can also reducenumber and severityof acne breakouts.

Sensitive and aging skin

Aging and sensitive skin share many of the same symptoms that are easily damaged by harsh peels. They are often dry and react easily to external irritants, causing redness, rashes, flaking and even cracking of the skin.

Lactic acid is very mild due to its larger molecular size, which means it cannot penetrate the skin as deeply as other acids, making products containing lactic acid an ideal choice for people with sensitive or aging skin.

body scrub

Your body can benefit from exfoliation just as much as your face. If you have dry, flaky, or sun-damaged skin, use an AHA daily leave-in body scrub that contains glycolic or lactic acid to nourish your skin.hydrated and firm. If you are prone to blemishes, clogged pores or roughness, use a BHA body scrub with 2% salicylic acid daily for best results.

How to use chemical peels safely

Chemical peels are usually very safe. However, it is important to follow some safety guidelines to avoid damaging or irritating your skin.

Before beginning a chemical peel, be sure to add sunscreen to your routine, as freshly exfoliated skin is more sensitive to sun exposure. Never exfoliate withsunburned skinor other skin lesions.

Always make sure you do a patch test first. Use the product as directed on a small patch of skin and wait 12-24 hours to see if you have a reaction. It is best to start with a low percentage: 1-2% for salicylic acid and 8-10% for glycolic or lactic acid. If you find that you are not seeing results of clearer and fresher skin, you can gradually increase the concentration.

Apply your chemical peel after cleansing. Be gentle, using small circular motions for about 30 seconds, then rinse off with lukewarm water. Allow the skin to dry for a few minutes before applying other products.

Apply a moisturizer after exfoliating to keep your skin healthy and hydrated. It is recommended to exfoliate in the evening so that you can apply a moisturizing night cream afterwards to allow your skin to recover while you rest.

(Video) CHEMICAL PEEL Full Process | Procedure | Peeling | Before & After

If you are new to chemical peels, use them sparingly. It is recommended to start with once every two weeks to get used to the effects and then gradually increase to once a week. If you experience irritation, stop immediately and discontinue use until your skin returns to normal. If this is the case, wait a few more days before trying to exfoliate again.

Homemade chemical peel

Make a homemade scrubat homeIt's a relatively easy and inexpensive way to customize your product for your specific skin concerns. However, just to be safe, always make sure you find a recipe with reliable ingredients.

Some of the most commonly used and proven ingredients in homemade chemical peels are:

  • Avocado, honey or egg white are natural moisturizers foradd moistureto your homemade scrubs
  • NatriumbicarbonatThe alkaline nature can act as a neutralizer in your product, ensuring the acids in your other ingredients don't dry out or damage your skin
  • Citrus juice can exfoliate as wellprovide an antioxidant boost; Lemon also has lightening properties, making it effective for fading age spots
  • glycolic acidgently removes dead skin, leaving it fresh and rejuvenated; Glycolic acid is found in yogurt, vinegar, apples, and a variety of citrus fruits.


Incorporating regular exfoliation into your skincare routine has many benefits. Exfoliating can give your skin a more even complexion by reducing hyperpigmentation. It also prevents acne and other skin imperfections and promotes a more radiant complexion and smoother texture.

While people with normal or oily skin can use manual peels, chemical peels are the safest option when used properly. The main risk with mechanical peels is the potential for micro-tears as the product physically rubs away a layer of skin.

Chemical peels, on the other hand, work with the skin's natural shedding process to rid the skin of debris and dead cells. They're most commonly found in the form of scrubs (but can also be formulated as creams, toners, and other topical products) that contain leave-on hydroxy acids, either AHAs or BHAs, depending on your skin type.

Those with dry, sensitive, or aging skin should opt for acids that are mild and don't penetrate too deeply into the skin, such as lactic and glycolic acids. These are also suitable options for those with oily or acne-prone skin, but these skin types can also safely opt for more penetrating options like salicylic acid.

However, chemical peels with high levels of acid can cause unwanted side effects such as excessive dryness, rashes, or even chemical burns. To avoid damage to your skin, consult a dermatologist if you decide to use 20% or more chemicals.


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  • Ditre CM, Griffin TD, Murphy GF, Sueki H, Telegan B, Johnson WC, Yu RJ, Van Scott EJ. Effects of alpha hydroxy acids on photoaged skin: a pilot clinical, histological, and ultrastructural study. J.Am. Acad. dermatol. 34 Feb 1996 (2 Part 1) 187-195.doi:10.1016/s0190-9622(96)80110-1
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  • Bhatia AC, Jimenez F. Rapid treatment of mild acne with a novel skin care regimen containing 1% salicylic acid, 10% buffered glycolic acid and botanicals. J Drugs Dermatol. June 2014; 13(6):
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  • Kim DB, Shin GH, Kim JM, Kim YH, Lee JH, Lee JS, Song HJ, Choe SY, Park IJ, Cho JH, Lee OH. Antioxidant and anti-aging activities of citrus-based juice blend. Food Chemistry March 1, 2016; 194:920-7.doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2015.08.094
  • Burlando B, Cornara L. Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review. J Cosmetic Dermatol. December 2013; 12(4):306-13.doi:10.1111/jocd.12058
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