Ready-For-Spring Facial Peels

Ready-For-Spring Facial Peels

Spring is (thankfully) right around the corner, and we thought it would be lovely to create some gentle skin peels to get our skins ready for the new season. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been slathering on the oils and moisturisers in an effort to keep my skin from the winter dryness, but now it’s time to peel and renew our skins!

I’ve shared a few recipes before for serums containing acids, which are the chemical peeling agents. However serums and peels are not the same: serums tone and moisturise the skin, while peels exfoliate the top layers of the skin, sloughing away old skin cells to allow the new ones to surface, making your skin look brighter, and treating various skin issues.

At Home Peels

If you’ve ever had a skin peeling treatment done, the dermatologist will have explained the strength of the peel to you, and it will likely have been in the 20-70% acid content range. However for home use, I don’t recommend going above 15-20% acid content or you could damage your skin. I would actually stick to around 10% acid, so the recipes below are all 10%. 

If you have very sensitive skin, please consider reducing the acid amount even further to 5%, or foregoing a peel altogether. If you go ahead with an at-home peel, be sure to have some baking soda in water solution ready in case you need to neutralise any allergic reaction. Experiencing a little redness, warmth or tingling during and post-treatment is normal though.

pH: as always the pH of a product is vitally important. At pH 2, all of the acid will be available to work on your skin, but this also makes it harsher. Raising the pH of the product makes it more mild, as it reduces the availability of the acid (called free acid). I recommend raising the pH of your peels to at least 3 so you get a more gentle peel.

You will likely not experience too much skin peeling post treatment. These are at-home peels and not designed as intense professional peels. Real skin peeling is caused by high strength peels that penetrate the skin to a few layers deep, and these should be done under the supervision of a professional.  But that doesn’t mean at-home peels don’t work!

The Acids

Chemical peels make use of classes of acids called alpha and beta hydroxy acids (shortened to AHAs and BHAs). Here are a couple of them:

Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid has the smallest molecular size of all the alpha hydroxy acids, allowing it to penetrate the skin more deeply than the rest. It is excellent for hyperpigmentation, acne scars and fine lines, increases collagen production, and improves skin texture.

Lactic acid

Lactic acid is good for dry skin in low concentrations as it is used as a humectant. It can help improve hyperpigmentation, and can help stimulate collagen and strengthen the skin, which equals fewer fine lines and wrinkles. Lactic acid tends to be less irritating than other acids. 

Malic acid

Malic acid is one of the larger sized molecules in the alpha hydroxy acid family. Because of its larger molecular size, it can’t penetrate the skin as deeply, making it more gentle. It acts as a skin exfoliant, removing dead cells, encouraging cell turnover, brightening skin and helping to keep pores unclogged.

Citric acid

Citric acid is also a large molecule, making it one of the more gentle and safe acids. Recent research has found it to be particularly effective in skincare, even more so than glycolic acid.

A 10% citric acid solution can be used once a week to good effect.

Ascorbic acid

Ascorbic acid or Vitamin C is very bioavailable, and excellent for brightening and reducing signs of aging in the skin. However it oxidises fast so only make it up as you need it.

Salicylic acid, the Beta Hydroxy Acid

Salicylic acid is a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agent used in skincare to combat acne and provide exfoliation, and in hair care to combat dandruff. It reduces sebum production, dissolves skin debris that clogs pores and causes acne, and breaks desmosomes apart to allow new cell growth. It is great for oily skin types.

A 2% salicylic acid solution is usually quite sufficient, as it tends to be a little irritating and drying in higher concentrations. 

Basic Peel Solutions Using Different Acids

Peels don’t have to have a long list of ingredients. If you are making them up as needed you can simply combine your acids of choice with a liquid such as water, hydrosol or aloe vera gel, plus a humectant like glycerine or propanediol.

10% Lactic Acid Peel

12.5%  lactic acid 80% 

85.5% water,  aloe or  hydrosol of choice

2%  propanediol

Combine everything in a beaker, spritzer bottle or pipette bottle. Use once a week in the evenings. Apply with a soft fan brush, and leave on for the time period best suited to your skin (more on this later on in the blog).


10% Glycolic Acid Peel

14.3%  glycolic acid 70%

83.7% water,  aloe or  hydrosol of choice

2%  propanediol

Combine everything in a beaker, spritzer bottle or pipette bottle. Use once a week in the evenings. Apply with a soft fan brush, and leave on for the time period best suited to your skin (more on this later on in the blog).

10% Citric/Malic Acid Peel

10% citric acid or  malic acid

88% water,  aloe or  hydrosol of choice

2%  propanediol

Combine everything in a beaker, spritzer bottle or pipette bottle. Use once a week in the evenings. Apply with a soft fan brush, and leave on for the time period best suited to your skin (more on this later on in the blog).


You can make a peel using two or more acids. Just be sure to calculate the acid content so it doesn’t end up being too strong!

You can also include other ingredients into your peel:

Botanical infusions, water based botanical extracts,  hyaluronic acidhydrolyzed proteins.

Some may enjoy a slidy, glidy peel, and this requires a gelling agent. Reduce the liquid amount by 0.5% and add in 0.5%  xanthan gum. You will need to mix the propanediol with the xanthan gum first to create a slurry and then blend in the liquid part until smooth. Lastly, add in the acid.

Please read our  blog on dilutions to educate yourself on how to correctly dilute our lactic and glycolic acids, which come in concentrations of 80% and 70% respectively. If you want to make other peel concentrations, there is a formula in there to calculate it.

How To Use A Peel At Home

First prepare your skin by washing your face and removing any makeup. You may even apply a cotton pad of alcohol or witch hazel to remove oil from your skin; this allows the acids uninhibited access to your skin.

If you have any open wounds on your skin, please avoid applying the peel to the area. You can cover the area with an oil or vaseline so that the peel can’t penetrate.

Have your peel treatment ready made and get a fan brush to gently apply the peel to your skin:

If you have sensitive skin or have never done a peel before, start out small to allow your skin time to adjust. Start on a 5% acid solution for 30 seconds-1 minute and increase this by increments weekly, working your way up to 5 minute leave-on times. If your skin is fine with this and you feel like doing a little higher strength peel then increase to 10%, 15% and so on, also doing the weekly time increments.

After your leave-on time is up, neutralise the peel with a baking soda solution. Baking soda is alkaline and will cancel out or neutralise the acid. You can make a baking soda solution with 10%  baking soda and 90% water. Apply on top of the peel once your leave-on time is up, and let it neutralise for 1 minute, then rinse your face well with water.

Post peel:

Avoid retinoids as well as other products containing more acids. Apply gentle and soothing serums, hyaluronic acid, and moisturise well. Wear sunscreen and avoid tanning or too much sun exposure on your freshly peeled skin.

Enjoy your smoother, brighter and younger looking skin!

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Hi Anna, if you’re wanting to give it a shelf life then yes, is is advised to add a preservative.

If you’re simply using it up at home over the course of a week or so it’s fine because the acids create a low pH environment that is hard for bacteria to breed in.


Hi. Do we need to preserve this peel?


Hi Abigail, ascorbic acid/Vitamin C is an alpha hydroxy acid just like the other acids listed here so it can work the same way :)


How does ascorbic acid work in a peel? I’ve seen it often in leave-on products, such as moisturizers and serums. Does it have a different effect in a peel than in a moisturizer?


Hi Lindie, oh no I’m so sorry that happened. I’ve never heard of that happening before, but it’s possible your skin is more sensitive to baking soda. In this case don’t try neutralise the acid with it, rather just rinse the peel off with water.