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AHA peel

AHA peels are mild chemical peels with a short recovery time. They're a good starter peel if you'd like a bit of exfoliation.

By Zeel Editorial Staff, Last updated: June 26, 2012

Treatment Basics

Other names: Light peel, alpha-hydroxy acid peel (glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid)

When Cleopatra bathed in goat's milk to clear her skin, the Queen of Egypt had the right idea; milk contains lactic acid, a type of AHA used in light chemical peels for skin smoothing. AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) peels are among the mildest chemical peels available. Appropriately dubbed a "lunch hour peel," AHA treatments are quick from start to finish, with little to no downtime afterwards.

Other names include light peel and alpha-hydroxy acid peel (made from glycolic acid, lactic acid, or citric acid). As with all chemical peels, AHA peels work by removing the upper layer of skin cells, allowing younger, healthier cells to take their place.

What It's Good For

The AHA is mild enough to be used on the face, neck, chest and hands. The peel can smooth out rough skin, treat early sun damage, and keep acne under control.

Recommended Uses
Name Description Cost
Acne Another way to reduce acne is to clear pores so they won’t get clogged by oil (thus providing a breeding spot for acne bacteria.) An AHA peel, which gently exfoliates the skin, is a good...more Mild acne may clear up after two or three AHA treatments, a regimen which costs...more
Dull skin The AHA peel is a good vehicle for removing dead skin cells and rejuvenating dull skin. An alpha hydroxy acid peel is one of the mildest chemical peels available – it can even be purchased...more Depending on how lackluster your skin is, you may be able to treat dull skin with one to...more
Large pores AHA peels can use a variety of chemicals to peel the skin, but glycolic acid is the optimal ingredient for reducing pore size. AHA peels can contain from 30% up to 70% glycolic acid—the...more Though it’s not possible to shrink your pores permanently, frequent AHA peels can keep them...more

Who it works for: Not everyone has the time to recover from a TCA or phenol peel. When you can't take weeks off from work on a whim, regular AHA peels can improve light wrinkles, dry spots, unevenness, and oily, acne prone skin. AHA peels are not recommended for very dark skin types, though olive and tanned tones may still benefit from the treatment.

The peeling that takes place in the days after treatment can actually make the darkest skin even spottier. Your dermatologist will be able to assess whether your skin tone can benefit from an AHA peel.

Recommended age range: No limits. AHA peels are more effective on skin that isn't too deeply wrinkled.

When will I see results?: It may take up to 10 days until your skin looks normal again. However, one peel may not be enough because AHA peels are so gentle. You may be required to return for at least three more AHA peels over the coming months.

How long it lasts: AHA peels do not penetrate as deeply as other kinds of peels, so the results don't last as long. It'll require several touchups and a medicine cabinet's worth of supplemental topical products (like Retin-A, for example) to extend the life of your AHA peel.

Key benefits of AHA peel: AHA peels can help control acne and oily skin, and minimize sun damage, leaving your skin tighter, smoother, and more even. The chemicals used in an AHA peel may also be applied on darker skin tones without causing damage (though it may still be risky for individuals with extremely dark skin).

Did you know?: Cleopatra bathed in goat milk to clear her skin. The Queen of Egypt had the right idea; milk contains lactic acid, a type of AHA acid.

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