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 • Skincare  • Skincare Guides  • “How Do I Choose Between Acids and Chemical Peels?” Our Skincare Agony Aunt Dr Sonia Weighs in

“How Do I Choose Between Acids and Chemical Peels?” Our Skincare Agony Aunt Dr Sonia Weighs in

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Dr Sonia Khorana is a GP with a special interest in dermatology and Live That Glow’s own skincare agony aunt. She is passionate about helping people feel confident in their own skin.  Here, she advises a reader concerned about how to choose the right chemical exfoliant.
What is the difference between using a skin peel and a chemical exfoliation product, and how often should you use them depending on your skin type?
Dr Sonia says:

Peels are basically another form of exfoliation. They both remove dead skin cells mainly by using acids.

Exfoliants can be chemical or physical: physical is when you use something like exfoliating beads, grains, a brush or a towel to mechanically rub the skin and remove dead skin cells.
Chemical exfoliation is where chemicals and enzymes (acids) are used to remove dead skin cells.

All chemical peels are basically chemical exfoliants

You will see OTC chemical toners/exfoliants which will offer very superficial peeling and you may not even notice this when using them but they will still exfoliate the skin. Chemical exfoliation helps unclog pores, refine skin texture, and promote a brighter complexion.

Chemical exfoliation is something you can incorporate into your regular skincare routine at home (usually found in toners, serums, or masks). 

Whereas, in clinics, you can access deeper peels (still chemical exfoliants) which will result in a visible peeling action of your skin and may also require some downtime (depending on it’s strength) and address deeper lines/wrinkles/scarring.

These are professional treatments performed by doctors or licensed aestheticians. It involves the application of a chemical solution to your skin, which causes controlled damage to the outermost layers and you will notice visible peeling/flaking.

They can range from superficial to deep peels and which one you pick will depend on your desired results/skin concerns. So, in a nutshell, chemical peels are the heavy-duty option for more significant skin concerns, while chemical exfoliation is the gentle and convenient choice for regular maintenance.

If you are using chemical exfoliant toners at home, I would advise using twice weekly. Some people who have oily skin may be able to tolerate more but 2x weekly is a good starting point and always do a test patch.

To ask Dr Sonia your skincare-related question, get in touch at or send us a message on social media.

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Dr Sonia is an Aesthetic Doctor and Laser Specialist who is also a GP with a special interest in dermatology, offering laser and dermatology consultations at UK-based clinics, MediZen and Kat & Co. She discusses the holistic needs of patients linked to their appearance on her Instagram @dermgp and is Live That Glow's resident skincare agony aunt, answering readers' questions on all things skin related.

Education: University of Liverpool Medical School and Queen Mary University, London

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