How to Apply Glycolic Acid Peel on the Face

Glycolic acids, found in citrus fruit, cause the top layer of the skin to peel off, revealing fresh, new skin beneath. Dermatologists and estheticians use glycolic acid peels to make skin appear firmer and more youthful. Glycolic acids can help fade skin discoloration, fine lines and acne scars, according to Johns Hopkins Cosmetic Center. While physicians and specialists use glycolic acids of 40 to 70 percent, you can purchase milder strength glycolic acid peels, from 20 to 35 percent, for use at home.

Step 1

Open the glycolic acid peel kit, and remove all the components. Lay everything out on the counter within easy reach. Read the directions on the package insert. Note how long you are supposed to leave the peel on your face.

Step 2

Wash your face with a mild soap and water to remove any makeup, dirt or oils. Rinse well, and pat dry with a towel.

Step 3

Wash and dry your hands, then open the tube or bottle of glycolic acid. Pour a small amount onto your fingertips and smooth onto your face and neck. Apply in a thin, even layer. Stay away from the thin, sensitive skin around your eyes and don't place the peel solution on your lips.

Step 4

Set your timer for the amount of time indicated in the package insert. Relax and wait for the timer to go off.

Step 5

Open the tube or bottle of neutralizer solution. Pour the solution onto a cotton ball and smooth onto your face and neck, over the glycolic acid peel. The neutralizer stops the action of the acid. Cover all the peel with the neutralizer.

Step 6

Rinse the neutralizer and acid off your face. Pat dry with a towel.

Step 7

Apply a moisturizer with sunscreen to your face. Your newly peeled skin will be sensitive to sunlight and will burn easily, so avoid direct exposure to the sun.

Things You'll Need

  • Glycolic acid peel kit

  • Soap

  • Water

  • Towel

  • Timer

  • Cotton ball

  • Moisturizer with sun block


Some glycolic acid peel kits also include a pH balancer solution you put on your face before you apply the acid.

Conduct a patch test on a small area of your skin to check for an allergic reaction to the glycolic acid formulation before you apply the acid to your face.


Do not exceed the maximum time recommended on the package insert. Leaving the acid on too long could result in burns.

If you feel a burning sensation on your skin while using the peel, immediately apply the neutralizer and rinse the acid from your skin.

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