AHA Chemical Peel: The Ultimate Guide Through the Types

By PMUHub Editorial Team| Last updated on April 30, 2024

AHA chemical peel is a type of peel that uses natural acids to exfoliate the skin. Let’s see what benefits these procedures have and what conditions can be treated.

kojic acid peel

Image source: Instagram @surfaceskin_

AHAs have become increasingly popular in recent years for their ability to improve skin texture, reduce hyperpigmentation and acne, and increase collagen production.

These acids can be found in most skincare products, but they can also be used in much higher concentrations – as chemical peels.

Let’s take a closer look at what results AHA chemical peel can bring.

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What Is an AHA Chemical Peel?

AHA peel stands for alpha hydroxy acid peel, which is a type of acid derived from fruits, nuts, and milk. AHAs are natural, water-soluble acids that possess exfoliating properties.

Chemical peeling treatments work by using a specific peeling agent to break down the bonds between dead skin cells, so the outermost skin layer can be shed away, and with it all the superficial imperfections.

AHAs are used to moisturize and remove dead skin cells, treat acne, improve scars, and treat photo-aging.

AHA acid peel can also stimulate collagen production, which can help to reduce the appearance of scarring, fine lines, and wrinkles and improve the overall firmness and elasticity of the skin.

But each chemical solution also carries its own, unique benefits for the skin. So not all AHAs are the same.

what is ana aha chemical peel
Image source: Freepik

Different Types of Alpha Hydroxy Acid Peel

These acids have different molecular sizes, which can affect their penetration into the skin.

Each type of AHA acid peel can be used as a light, medium or deep peel. The intensity will vary depending on the severity of the condition you’re looking to treat. But mostly, AHAs are used as superficial treatments that help brighten and cleanse the skin.

The most commonly used AHAs in skincare are glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, and mandelic acid.

Each type of AHA has slightly different properties and choosing the right one for your skin type and concerns is important. It’s always a good idea to consult with a licensed skincare professional to determine the best AHA for you.

Let’s explain the properties of each of these in more detail.

Glycolic Acid

This is the most commonly used AHA in skincare products and chemical peels. It is derived from sugar cane and has the smallest molecular size, which allows it to penetrate deeply into the skin.

You can learn more about glycolic acid peels here.

Lactic Acid

This AHA is derived from milk and is often used in skincare products for sensitive skin. It has a larger molecular size than glycolic acid, which makes it less irritating but also less effective at exfoliating. It’s great for sensitive skin and achieving that brightening effect.

Read more about lactic acid peels here.

Citric Acid

Citric acid is, as the name suggests, derived from citrus fruits. It has antioxidant properties in addition to its exfoliating benefits. It’s great for brightening skin and rejuvenating the complexion.

Malic Acid

Your body’s cells naturally produce malic acid every day. It’s most notably found in apples and pears. By reducing melanin synthesis, malic acid helps hyperpigmentation, which is why it’s often used for fighting hyperpigmentation.

Mandelic Acid

This AHA is derived from bitter almonds. It is also known for its antibacterial properties, which can make it a good choice for acne-prone skin.

You can learn more about it here. 

Tartaric acid

This AHA is derived from grapes and is often used in combination with other AHAs to increase their effects. Plus, this acid also helps promote healing.

AHA Chemical Peel Benefits

There are many benefits to using an alpha hydroxy acid peel. Any AHA acid peel can help:

  • Promote collagen production
  • Correct discoloration from scars and age spots
  • Brighten your complexion
  • Remove impurities from the skin, leaving it looking and feeling smoother
  • Unclog pores and reduce acne breakouts
  • Improve skin texture and tone
  • Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Increase the absorption of skincare products, making them more effective
  • Make pores visibly smaller

AHA chemical peel benefits
Image source: Instagram @kirimarshallbeauty

What Conditions Does AHA Chemical Peel Treat?

AHA chemical peels are used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including:

Acne & Acne Scars

AHA chemical peels can be effective in reducing the appearance of surface-level acne scars by exfoliating dead skin cells and promoting new skin cell growth. They can also stimulate collagen production, which can improve the appearance of deeper acne scars over time.

However, it’s important to note that more severe acne scars may require a bit more aggressive treatments like laser therapy or microneedling.

AHA chemical peels can also be beneficial for individuals who have oily skin or acne-prone skin as they help reduce excess oil production and unclog pores, which can help to prevent future breakouts.

AHA chemical peel for acne scars
Image source: Instagram @the_laser_bar

Fine Lines and Wrinkles

AHA peels can help stimulate collagen production, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improve the overall firmness and elasticity of the skin.

The new cells that form help fill out indents, so this treatment is a great solution if you’re looking to aid in preventing anti-aging.

AHA chemical peel for fine lines and wrinkles
Image source: Instagram @ladylashes.samorin

AHA Peel for Hyperpigmentation

The exfoliating properties of AHA peels can help reduce the appearance of age spots, sun damage, and hyperpigmentation by peeling off layers affected by excess melanin production. This leads to a more even-toned complexion and promotes new cell growth.

Texture & Tone

Any AHA chemical peel is especially great if you’re looking to rejuvenate dull, tired-looking skin by exfoliating dead skin cells. This makes the complexion look brighter and glowier and simultaneously improves the rough or uneven skin texture and tone.

AHA Peeling for Rosacea

Rosacea is a common skin condition that is characterized by facial redness, flushing, and in some cases, acne-like bumps.

While AHA chemical peel may not be the first-line treatment for rosacea, it can be helpful in reducing some of the visible symptoms associated with the condition like rough, uneven skin texture.

It’s important to note, however, that AHA chemical peels may not be suitable for all individuals with rosacea.

Those with very sensitive skin may experience increased redness or irritation following an AHA peel. This is why it’s important to talk to a dermatologist to determine if an AHA peel is a safe and appropriate treatment option for your specific skin condition.

Limitations of the AHA Chemical Peel

While AHA chemical peels have many benefits for the skin, they are not suitable for all skin types or concerns. Alpha hydroxy acid peel may not be suitable for:

  • Very sensitive skin. Individuals with very sensitive skin may experience increased redness, irritation, or even burning following an AHA peel.
  • Deep wrinkles or severe acne scarring. These conditions may require more aggressive treatments, such as laser therapy or microneedling.
  • Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. AHA chemical peels are generally not recommended as AHA peels can exacerbate inflammation, dryness, and irritation – which are all symptoms of these skin conditions.
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding. Some acids aren’t recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding clients, so you need to consult a doctor before booking. 

Before booking a procedure, talk to a licensed skincare professional or dermatologist to determine if an AHA peel is a safe and appropriate treatment option for your specific skin type and concerns.


AHA chemical peels are not a one-time solution. In order to maintain the benefits of the peel, individuals may need to undergo regular treatments over an extended period of time.

Additionally, it is important to practice good skincare habits and avoid triggers that can damage the skin, such as exposure to the sun or harsh chemicals.

What to Expect After an AHA Chemical Peel?

AHA facial peel results in a brighter, smoother, more even skin tone and texture. This process effectively removes dead skin cells that can lead to dull-looking skin, uneven pigmentation, and aging signs.

AHAs also have the added benefits of enhancing collagen production and reducing the appearance of pores and acne.

But to get these incredible AHA facial peel results, you need to maintain a good post-treatment routine.

Follow aftercare instructions carefully and wear sunscreen every day as the AHA chemical peel will make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

Also, limit the use of active ingredients and retinol products or other exfoliating products, as they can irritate your skin. Instead, use a gentle facial cleanser and soothing moisturizer to keep skin hydrated.

You can learn more about chemical peel aftercare here.

How Safe Is the AHA Chemical Peel?

AHAs are commonly used in cosmetics as pH adjusters and moisturizing agents.

Overall, AHA chemical peels are considered a safe and effective way to improve and treat a variety of skin conditions – when used properly.

Improper use of AHA peels can cause damage to the skin, including burns and scarring.

This is why AHA chemical peels should always be performed by a licensed skincare professional or dermatologist since they can correctly assess your skin type and concerns and recommend the most appropriate AHA acid peel.

Does AHA Chemical Peel Have Any Side Effects?

While AHA peels are generally safe for most people, there are some risks and side effects involved. These include:

  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Blisters
  • Dermatitis (eczema) flare-up
  • Skin irritation, redness, and inflammation (most likely to occur in people with sensitive skin)
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Temporary skin discoloration, particularly in people with darker skin tones
  • Allergic reaction to the AHA peel, which can cause itching, swelling, and rash
  • Uneven results, particularly if the peel is not applied evenly or if there are areas of the skin that are more sensitive than others

Can You Do an AHA Chemical Peel at Home?

While it is generally recommended to have an AHA peel performed by a licensed skincare professional, it is possible to perform a mild AHA peel at home with the right products and instructions.

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to performing an AHA peel at home:

  1. Cleanse and dry the skin thoroughly and perform a patch test to make sure that you are not allergic to the AHA acid peel.
  2. Apply the AHA product to your skin, following the instructions on the packaging, and leave it on for the recommended amount of time (this will vary depending on the product and the concentration of AHA – follow the instructions carefully).
  3. After the recommended amount of time has passed, rinse (or neutralize the way it was instructed) the AHA product off your skin thoroughly.
  4. In the end, apply a gentle, hydrating moisturizer to help soothe and nourish your skin.
  5. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and avoid direct sun exposure for at least 24 hours after performing an AHA peel, as the skin may be more sensitive to the sun.

How to Choose the Right Product for AHA Peel at Home?

Since there are many AHA products available on the market – including cleansers, serums, and masks – choosing the right product can seem challenging.

Once you’ve determined the right kind of acid for your skin needs, you need to think about the strength of the product. We suggest choosing a product that contains a mild concentration of AHA, particularly if you are new to using AHA products.

Start with a low concentration to avoid any adverse reactions, especially if you have sensitive skin. It’s recommended to begin with a 5% peel and then gradually increase the strength up to a 10% if your skin tolerates it well.

But it’s crucial to consult with a dermatologist before using any stronger peels at home.

AHA Peels for At-Home Use

Using professional-grade chemicals by yourself can be really dangerous and cause serious harm to your skin. Certain products with Alpha Hydroxy Acid are formulated in a way that is safe to be used by non-professionals, at home.

So here are some safer AHA peel at home options:

Products Containing AHA Acids

But there is another way to get these results without using actual chemical peeling solution – by using skincare products containing AHA. The results take a bit more time to become noticeable, but this method is completely risk-free.

Usually, daily-use products such as serums, toners, and moisturizers typically contain lower AHA concentrations, like 5%. These products can be incorporated into your regular skincare routine without needing to worry too much about adverse reactions. Here are some recommendations:

AHA Chemical Peel – Main Takeaways

By exfoliating the outer layer of dead skin cells, an alpha hydroxy acid peel can improve skin texture, reduce hyperpigmentation and acne, and stimulate collagen production, resulting in a brighter, more youthful complexion.

However, it is important to note that not all AHA peels are created equal, and it is essential to select the right type and strength of peel for your skin type.

But, it’s also important to prepare and care for the skin properly before and after undergoing a peel to maximize the benefits and minimize any potential risks. With the right approach, AHA facial peels can be a highly effective and safe way to achieve radiant, healthy-looking skin.



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