Important Peeling Ingredients

Professional Peeling Ingredients

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA)

Alpha hydroxy acids are a group of carboxylic acids that work to release the desmosomes that hold skin cells together. This action allows for easier exfoliation and increased cell turnover. AHA are also thought to stimulate fibroblasts to produce collagen and elastin, to strengthen the matrix and firm the skin.

Types of AHA:

  • Glycolic acid has a small molecular size makes its penetration into the skin very quick, which can lead to potential irritation and inflammation. It is most appropriate for oily acneic skin, and for improved skin texture.
  • Malic acid provides humectant and antioxidant benefits.
  • Tartaric acid in addition to its desmosome-releasing action, it also acts as an antioxidant.
  • Mandelic acid is one of the largest AHA molecules and penetrates slowly. It has shown benefits for treating acne and some promise for treating hyperpigmentation.
  • Citric acid works to thicken the epidermis and increase the hyaluronic acid content in the skin, allowing the skin to more effectively attract and hold moisture. It is an excellent ingredient for anti-aging, as well as skin brightening.
  • Lactic acid’s larger molecular size allows it to penetrate into the skin slowly, reducing the chances of irritation and inflammation. It also acts as a hydrating ingredient and suppresses the formation of tyrosinase.

Beta hydroxy acids (BHA)

The only BHA typically used in skincare is salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is lipophilic and has the ability to penetrate into oil-filled follicles and breakdown impaction. It also functions to normalize the excess inter-follicular cell shedding that contributes to the formation of microcomedones. Salicylic acid has a keratolytic action that works to break down surface impaction, leaving the skin smooth. Because of this, salicylic acid produces little to no visible post-treatment exfoliation.

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA)

TCA typically causes protein denaturation (blanching) when applied topically. It is a safe peeling agent that has been used for over 50 years. This acid can be used at higher percentages by physicians for traditional chemical resurfacing procedures. When used as a single acid at high percentages, it is best for textural concerns, such as scarring and moderate to deeper wrinkling, because of its action as a cauterant (breaking down living tissue). It can be safely applied as a superficial peel, even on higher Fitzpatricks and sensitive skin, when used in a blended formulation.


Retinoids, which are vitamin A derivatives, have many benefits for the skin. They are ingredients that normalize skin keratinization. They work to increase cell turnover and, at higher percentages, act to increase post-treatment exfoliation. This is particularly important for lifting pigmentation, reducing impaction in acne patients, and when treating aging skin that has a naturally slowed cell turnover cycle.

Additionally, retinoids act as melanogenesis inhibitors by preventing melanosome transfer from the melanocyte to the keratinocyte.

Proteolytic enzymes

Many enzymes are native to the human body and are critical to myriad biological functions. They are catalyst-proteins that either start or accelerate an action. There are thousands of types of enzymes, but proteolytic enzymes are most frequently used in skincare. They are considered proteolytic because they digest the keratin protein on the surface of the skin to reveal the healthy skin below. Fruit enzymes are gentle and safe, and are an excellent treatment option for all Fitzpatrick skin types and a wide variety of skin conditions.