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Skin-peeling Facial

Written by: Alice Hart-Davis

Last Updated: 22 September 2023

A skin-peeling facial is a non-invasive treatment that removes some of the top layer of skin from your face in order to freshen up the skin’s surface and improve your complexion. Scroll down for the FAQs on skin-peeling facials.


£ 120


30 - 60 minutes


1 week




Possible redness and flaking

Find a Practitioner


FAQ ABOUT Skin-peeling Facial

What is a skin-peeling facial?

A skin-peeling facial is a non-invasive treatment that removes some of the top layer of skin from your face in order to freshen up the skin’s surface and improve your complexion.

Many different types of skin-peeling facials are available, using various peeling agents and differing greatly in the amount of peeling involved and the length of ‘downtime’ you need afterwards. Whereas old-style chemical peels would need a week off work to recover, today’s lighter peels leave no trace, and even the peeling is subtle.

Skin peeling is often performed as one component in a multipart facial that also includes other treatments such as cleansing, light therapy, laser or Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), or massage. Before you start fretting that, say, an acid peel plus laser plus light therapy is overkill, bear in mind that these treatments offer mini doses of powerful technologies, so they won’t harm you. However, you will need repeated sessions to get the best results.

Is a skin-peeling facial safe?

Many people flinch from the idea of peeling as something that will ‘thin the skin’ and therefore be harmful. Do peels thin the skin? Yes. A little, and just on the very surface. But here’s why that’s not a bad thing. What a chemical peel will do is dissolve the cellular ‘glue’ that keeps old dead skin cells stuck to the surface of your face. That’s a very small thinning of the stratum corneum, the outermost layers of the epidermis. Peels reveal a fresher surface beneath, and that’s good, because that fresher surface is smoother, reflects light better, and absorbs skin products better.

People feel that ‘thinner’ skin will mean skin that is more fragile and worse protected, but because the ingredients used in chemical peels also stimulate skin repair in the lower levels of the skin, they actually thicken the dermis (the lower layer of the skin) and improve its health, so overall, your skin will be left in better shape.

Do skin-peeling facials work?

Yes, skin-peeling facials work. They are a great way to freshen up the surface of your skin.

Chemical peels used to be one of the standard procedures offered by dermatologists in the 1990s, but they have had something of an image problem since the 2002 episode of Sex and the City where Samantha turns up at Carrie’s book launch with a face like a skinned tomato after having ‘a little something’ done.

It’s true that old-fashioned peels were hardcore; rather than just freshening up the surface of the skin, the acids that were used made most of the top layer of your face peel off and meant you needed to spend a week or so in hiding while new, fresh skin frantically grew itself fast enough to repair the damage. Why were they popular? Because this new, fresh skin grew through without the wrinkles and pigmentation spots that had besmirched the old skin, and with a lovely softer, smoother texture.

How do skin-peeling facials work?

Skin-peeling facials use acid to dissolve the bonds that are holding old, dead skin cells onto the skin’s surface. The dead skin cells then slough off, leaving fresh skin beneath.

Skin peels use different types of acid depending on the degree of peeling the practitioner is aiming to achieve. For example, a superficial peel uses a light acid such as lactic acid, or a relatively mild acid such as glycolic acid, retinol, or salicylic acid; a medium-depth peel typically uses a moderate concentration of trichloroacetic acid, which is a stronger acid; and a deep peel uses a higher concentration of trichloroacetic acid.

The practitioner paints the acid onto the skin of the treatment area and leaves it for a short time to do its work. After that time, the practitioner applies a neutralising agent to neutralise the acid; some mild acids don’t need this step, as they neutralise themselves, and can be left on longer. The patient then washes off the neutralised acid, together with outer layers of dead skin that it has loosened and dissolved.

Do skin-peeling facials hurt?

Whether a skin-peeling facial hurts depends on the type of facial you have and the acid or acids used. With some acids, you may feel no discomfort at all – but other acids can make your face itch and sting until they are neutralised.

What do skin-peeling facials treat?

Skin-peeling facials treat various conditions, depending on the depth of the peel:

  • Superficial peel. Sometimes called a ‘lunchtime peel’, this type of peel treats wrinkles, fine lines, large pores and dark spots. A superficial peel can also tighten the skin of your face.
  • Medium-depth peel. This type of peel is good for treating sun spots, acne scars, and dark circles or crepey skin under the eyes.
  • Deep peel. This type of peel is used to treat deeper-seated problems such as severe acne scars and sun-damaged skin. A deep peel can also tighten your skin more than a shallower peel can.

Where can I get a skin-peeling facial?

You can use the Find a Practitioner tool on this website to find a practitioner who offers skin-peeling facials.

When finding a practitioner, keep in mind the wide variety of skin-peeling facials available, and be clear about the kind of results you are hoping for. Make sure the practitioner is experienced at performing facials and can demonstrate the types of results you’re looking to get.

How much do skin-peeling facials cost?

The cost of skin-peeling facials varies considerably depending on the treatment and the clinic. Here are three examples:

  • The iS Clinical Fire & Ice Treatment, which includes a ‘fire’ mask that uses 18% glycolic acid with retinol, costs £120 upward.
  • The NeoStrata Retinol peel costs £275 per treatment; normally you would have three or four treatments at one-month intervals.
  • The PRX-T33 ‘non-peeling peel’, which uses trichloroacetic acid, costs £850 for a course of three treatments.

How long do skin-peeling facials take?

A skin-peeling facial typically takes from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on how many steps the facial has.

After a medium-depth peel, you will likely need three to seven days of downtime while the new skin grows. After a deep peel, you will need up to two weeks of downtime.

How long do skin-peeling facials last?

How long the effects of a skin-peeling facial last depends on the depth of the peel:

  • A light peel typically lasts from one to two months.
  • A medium-depth peel normally lasts from two to six months.
  • A deep peel can last several years.

Are there any side effects to skin-peeling facials?

If peels are relatively light and superficial, they are unlikely to cause problems beyond a bit of stinging at the time they are done, though it’s always a good idea to be extra vigilant with sunscreen after a peel, to protect your newer skin and reduce any chance of developing hyperpigmentation.

What’s not a good idea is to do too many of the old-style, doctor’s-office aggressive peels, or you end up with a strange, unhealthy, translucent look to your skin. But moderate use of the sort of peels mentioned here will do your skin good rather than harm.

What is it like to have a skin-peeling facial?

What it’s like depends a lot on the type of facial and the acid or acids it uses. For example, I found that the ‘fire’ mask in the iS Clinical Fire & Ice Treatment stung like anything – but it stays on for a maximum of five minutes before the practitioner neutralises the acids. The rest of the Fire & Ice Treatment includes extracting gunk softened by the peel from congested pores; applying a second, soothing and cooling ‘ice’ mask; and then massaging the skin with hydrating serum.

By contrast, the retinol peeling potion used in NeoStrata Retinol peel felt as gentle as a moisturiser. There was no tingling or stinging, and no redness. This potion stays on for eight hours, or overnight if you want to get the maximum result — I left it overnight, of course — and 72 hours later, the peeling began. It was barely peeling, which surprised me. A network of very fine cracks appeared all over my face, and soft, fine scuffs of skin began to lift away. These were so fine that plastering moisturiser over the top damped them down, so no one else would have noticed that I was peeling, unless they got very close. After three days of this light shedding, it stopped, and my skin looked amazingly fresh and clear, with a new radiance to it which lasted for a good week.


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