A glycolic acid peel is a type of alpha-hydroxy peel used to treat acne, acne scars, melasma and aging due to sun exposure. You can receive glycolic acid peels in spas at 30-percent strength or in a dermatologist's office at up to 70-percent strength. The total time to receive such a peel is about 30 minutes and most people experience minimal side effects.
During, Immediately After and Long-Term Risks
During and directly following a glycolic peel, you may experience reddening and stinging or burning sensation. Your skin is more sensitive to the sun following a peel, and you may be prone to temporary darkening of the skin. People with dark skin or those vulnerable to keloid scarring could experience adverse reactions such as permanent uneven skin tone, skin lightening or scarring, notes a 2012 paper in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery. Milia, which are small white cysts, and permanent reddening of the skin are other potential complications. In rare cases, complications include infection, skin textural changes, tissue injury and allergic reactions to the peel.