Skip to main content
Hey there. Looks like you’re not in the KSA. Would you like to switch to:
Close up image of a lady representing chemical peels

Chemical peels - types and treatments explained

Medically reviewed by
Dr. Anna Zakhozha from 7 Dimensions Medical Center

Chemical peels can conjure up images of red, flaky skin and weeks of downtime. The truth is not as dramatic, unless we’re talking about their outstanding results, with chemical peels regularly prescribed to improve skin tone and texture, stimulate new cell growth, and help with acne and the signs of ageing.

And there isn’t just one type to choose from. So, which one is best for you?

Fast facts

  • Best results

    Monthly sessions

  • Duration of results


  • Back to work

    Up to 3 days

  • Full recovery time

    7 to 14 days

  • Price range

    305 SAR to 1,019 SAR

  • Treatment duration

    30 to 90 minutes

  • Comfort

    OTC pain relief, local anaesthetic or general anaesthetic

  • Treatment type


What are chemical face peels?

Chemical peels are cosmetic treatments that help improve the appearance or feel of your face, neck and hands by removing a layer of dead skin cells.

There are three main categories of chemical peel:

  • Superficial: Sometimes known as a 'light' peel, these use mild acids to gently exfoliate the top layer of skin. They're popular for acne, fine wrinkles, dryness and uneven skin tone.
  • Medium: Penetrating the middle and outer layers of skin, these are used to treat acne scarring and deeper wrinkles.
  • Deep: Using phenol or trichloroacetic acids, these can penetrate deeper layers of skin to help treat deep wrinkles.

How do chemical peels work?

The science behind it

Chemical peel treatments usually contain some form of acid, which is applied directly to your skin and allowed to soak in for a set time, before being gently wiped off. As the peel is removed, it takes dead skin cells, damaged cells, dirt and bacteria with it. Those skin cells are naturally replaced with new ones from the lower layers of your skin.

Before the treatment

Your dermatologist may advise you make certain changes to your routine before your chemical peel. This could include adding or removing a retinoid cream from your skincare regime, depending on the strength of peel you’re having. You will also be advised to avoid unprotected sun exposure or using any facial scrubs, and pause any waxing, shaving and electrolysis.

During the treatment

First, your face will be cleansed thoroughly and eyes and hair will be protected.

If you have a medium or deep peel, you might be offered a sedative or numbing agent for the treatment area.

During a light chemical peel:

  • The peel is applied using a brush, cotton ball, gauze or sponge.
  • The treated skin will appear paler as the peel soaks into the skin and you may feel mild stinging.
  • A neutralising solution or wash will remove the chemical solution from your skin.

During a medium chemical peel:

  • The peel is applied using a cotton-tipped applicator.
  • That treated skin will begin to lighten as the peel settles.
  • After a few minutes, a cool compress will be applied to soothe your skin.
  • You might feel stinging for up to 20 minutes.

During a deep chemical peel:

  • You'll receive intravenous (IV) fluids and a sedative if necessary.
  • Using a cotton-tipped applicator, your practitioner will apply carbolic acid (phenol).
  • The treated skin should begin to turn white or grey.
  • Your doctor will usually split the procedure into 15-minute sessions.


Aftercare guidance typically includes:

  • Avoid excessive sun exposure.
  • Regularly moisturising.
  • Applying protective ointments.
  • Avoiding picking, rubbing or scratching.
  • Applying ice packs.
  • Taking painkillers.

The time it takes to recover depends on which type you choose.

  • Light peel - one to seven days.
  • Medium peel - one to two weeks.
  • Deep peel – skin will heal within a few weeks but may remain slightly red for months.

You should be able to use make-up to cover up any redness:

  • Light peel - 24 hours.
  • Medium Peel - five days.
  • Deep peel - four weeks.

Chemical peel treatments – different types, and how they compare

Lactic acid peels

One of the gentlest peels in the pack, it has a naturally lower pH than others, so typically causes fewer side effect. Effectively hydrating.

Good for: melasma, wrinkles and fine lines.

Mandelic acid peels

They typically have larger particles which means they often cause minor irritation. However, this also means they a good option for those who have more sensitive skin, or first timers.

Good for: acne scars, sensitive skin.

VI peels

These are classed as light to medium treatments.

Good for: fine lines, wrinkles, sunspots and acne.

Salicylic acid peels

A medium strength chemical peel often termed the gold standard, salicylic acid is fat-soluble and can penetrate pores producing excess sebum. Good for: acne, sun damage, fine lines.

Glycolic acid peels

These peels can vary in strength depending on the percentage of glycolic acid used and for what length of time they are left on the skin. Can be one of the deepest peels and penetrates the skin rapidly and so may cause irritation. Good for: hyperpigmentation, signs of ageing.

Retinol peels

These continue to penetrate the skin up to 48 hours after application. Because of their intense effects, it's vital to prepare your skin with a barrier-strengthening serum for around 12 weeks before treatment. Best for: acne, signs of ageing.

TCA (trichloroacetic) peels

They provide medium to deep penetration, helping to resurface your skin. Best for: acne scars, hyperpigmentation.

Phenol peels

These are some of the deepest available and must be done in a surgery as an outpatient procedure. Best for: deeper wrinkles.


Microdermabrasion – this treatment won't penetrate as deeply as some chemical peels, but there's no downtime and many benefits to repeated use.

Laser skin resurfacing – deeply penetrates the epidermis to stimulate cell regeneration and encourage collagen production for rejuvenated skin. It typically takes ten to 21 days to heal, although you may notice minor redness beyond this time frame.

Carbon peel – combines activate charcoal with a low-energy laser to exfoliate the skin, encouraging collagen production and healthy cell regeneration while tightening pores.

HydraFacial — non-invasive and with no downtime, a HydraFacial cleanses and exfoliates the skin using a mix of antioxidants.

Microneedling – another minimally invasive skin treatment designed to stimulate collagen and elastin production.

Face peeling treatment fact

  • Early records show that the ancient Egyptians may have used sour milk as a form of skin peel thanks to its lactic acid content.


All of the content and material of (the “Website”), such as text, treatments, dosages, outcomes, charts, profiles, graphics, photographs, images, advice, messages, forum postings, and any other material (the “Content”) are provided on this Website on an "as is" basis for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for nor intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website. Many external links have been provided on this Website as a service and convenience to visitors to our Website. These external sites are created and maintained by other public and private organizations. Selfologi DMCC does not control or guarantee the information of external websites and does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Website, or on any linked websites, apps and/or services. Reliance on any Content provided by Selfologi DMCC, by persons appearing on the Website at the invitation of Selfologi DMCC, or by other members is solely at your own risk. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency medical services immediately. If you have any questions or comments about the website, please contact us.