Any product or tool that removes any of the superficial layers of your skin is considered a ‘peel’.

Ok, so just to clarify, a peel doesn’t always mean that your face will peel. A lot of clients come to me and say they want a ‘peel’, my next question is always, “what do you mean by peel?”.  And here’s why… everyone has a different idea of what a peel is.

  • A low level glycolic acid (meaning 15-30%),  or any acid for that matter, being applied to the skin is definitely a peel. The acid will remove/peel away the uppermost layer of your skin. But you won’t get any peeling of your skin down the road from this type of peel, or at least most people won’t.
  • Now something like microdermabrasion (sandblasting the skin), is a stronger ‘peel’, the crystals and suction are removing a little more than what an acid peel can do. But you might not peel from a service like this either. Some clients get some minor micro-flaking, but it’s usually pretty minimal.
  • Then there are mid-level peels, like a retinol or layered peel (I like Cosmedix peels for these sorts of results), because they layer lactic and retinol, and antioxidants for awesome results. These might cause a little bit more micro-flaking or shedding (that looks like dry skin) for a few days. This is definitely a more aggressive peel, because we are removing the first few layers of your skin with something like this, but you can still go back to work or go on with your day having done a mid-level peel.
  • Now, where I work, we offer some deep, or whats considered ‘downtime’ peels, to clients who really want to overhaul their skin. I love the VI Peel, which will really cause a lot of peeling, like sheets of skin will be coming off your face, crazy! But it offers amazing results. It will help even out skin tone and texture, fine lines, and pigmentation. This is the type of peeling you can expect from a VI Peel (notice the darker spots of pigment on her cheeks? That’s pigment that the peel pulled up to the surface and will then peel away):


  • We also do  Jessner peels, which is a deeper and more intense version of a VI Peel.  You will be shedding for over a week, it is really deep, but offers a great way to really change your skin. This is an example of the peeling you can get from a Jessner (it may look very similar to the VI Peel peeling, but notice the dark line on her jawline in the first pic, its definitely pulling up more pigment, and the thickness of the skin that has lifted is deeper than in the pic above):


So who should be getting peels? Everyone! Depending on your skin, and what results you’re looking for, anyone can get one. Any and all peels are going to give you a nice glow and even out your tone and texture.  I wouldn’t call at home masks or exfoliators a ‘peel’ per se, I really do think that any all aggressive exfoliators should be done by a professional, please don’t do crazy deep acid peels at home!  I do recommend finding a good esthetician (if you don’t know where to start, I always suggest Yelp, or to ask around to friends or coworkers who you think may have some insight), and then work with them for a while before getting into something aggressive like a downtime peel. When clients call into the spa, and they’re new to us, and want to book a VI Peel or even a microdermabrasion, we always say that it is spa protocol to come in and have at least one facial before doing something like that. If we don’t know your skin, we can’t know what’s going to be best for you.  My goal as an esthetician is to always give my clients the best results possible, which I can’t do if I don’t know your skin a little bit beforehand.

I hope this gives you some insight into the world of peels (sorry I said that word SO much in this post!!), and helps to clarify some of the language that’s out there in the world of skincare!

Thanks for reading! XO~Jennifer

3 thoughts on “What exactly is a peel?

  1. I know many people are fans of doing mandelic peels at home (25%-40%) since its one of the least aggressive peels (at least from what I’ve read). Do you feel that’s safe or any peel should be done by an esthetician?


    1. It always makes me nervous when people take peels into their own hands… I’ve had so many people get way too aggressive and damage their skin. That being said, mandelic can be more gentle, and can be used without too much harm in a home care routine. I think it’s just a matter of knowing your skins limits and not doing it like 3 times a week because you liked the results from the first one you did… less is more. Hope that helps and thanks for reading!!


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