Salicylic Acid Skin Peel – How To Use Salicylic Acid Peel

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) indicated for oily skin prone to blackheads, breakouts, and large pores. It is an effective ingredient used in pore cleansers and as a superficial peeling agent in salicylic acid skin peel. Anyone can learn how to use salicylic acid peel safely at home to clean out clogged pores. It is quite simple and can result in marked improvement in acne-prone skin.


Salicylic Acid Peel – Indications for Use

Salicylic acid is oil soluble and lipophilic, thus it is able to penetrate through the epidermis and clean out sebum filled follicles and clogged pores especially in the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin areas).

Salicylic acid peel blackheads

Salicylic acid is a great choice for:

  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads
  • Large pores
  • Oily skin
  • Pigmentation from blemishes

The dermis, which lies beneath the epidermis, is water-based and thus salicylic acid is unable to penetrate this layer. This makes salicylic acid mini peels safe for at home use. However, care must always be taken to thoroughly cleanse the skin before and after a peel to maintain skin bacteria-free.

DO NOT USE a salicylic acid peel if you are pregnant. It is in the aspirin family. Individuals allergic to salicylic acid and aspirin should refrain from usage.



If you have never had a salicylic acid peel before, it is recommended to perform a patch test at least 24 hours prior to doing the peel to check for allergies or excessive irritation.

Salicylic acid is a very strong acid and the peel is available in a few different strengths. The lowest strength (3%) is suggested for beginners. The 15% solution is highly effective in controlling excess oil output and deep cleansing clogged pores. It should not be used more than once per week.

The 25% solution is a professional peel recommended for bi-weekly advanced treatment by medical practitioners to prevent against product misuse that can result in burns. A series of six to eight treatments are recommended for best results.

If you are using certain medications like Retin-A or Accutane, always consult with your physician or dermatologist before applying a peel. Stop using Retin-A at least 2 days before performing a peel. Never use a chemical peel if you have been/are using isotretinoin (Accutane) in the past 6 months.

Never apply a peel after another facial exfoliating product (scrubs of any type) or to skin that has been waxed or shaved within 24 hours, or within 24 hours of sun exposure. Do not apply to irritated, sensitive skin or skin with open wounds. Never apply another transdermal product during a chemical peel until neutralization is complete.


Directions For Use

Pre-peel Treatment

Before doing a salicylic acid peel, the following pre-peel treatment for at least 2 weeks to exfoliate and prepare the skin is recommended for best results.

1. Washing the face with AHA cleanser such as TDF AHA Facial Wash (for Oily & Acne-Prone Skin).

2. Apply an anti-oxidant such as Vitamin C Serum and an SPF 50+ sunscreen cream each day.

3. In the evening apply Retinol (.10, .20 or .30), or a Glycolic Acid product such as TDF AHA Oily & Acne Solution 8 to gently prime the skin for the peel solution.


Step By Step Instructions

Step 1: Remove makeup

Step 2: Cleanse the skin with a deep cleanser and pat dry.

Step 3: Prep skin with Mild Astringent and let air dry. This will double cleanse the skin and help to remove any oil on skin’s surface for a more even application.

Step 4: Once dry, apply chemical peel as follows:

1. Pour a small amount of peel solution (1-2 mL) into a medicine cup.

2. Fold a gauze pad in half and dip into solution, saturating pad.

3. Fold gauze in half again and give one GOOD squeeze to remove excess solution.

4. Set a timer for desired peel time (see chart below).

Usage Salicylic Acid 15% Salicylic Acid 25%

Application 1:          1-2 minutes 1 minute

Application 2:          1-4 minutes 1-3 minutes

Time may be increased by 1 minute as desired for each additional application.

Recommended Time Schedule

Treatment 1:  1 minute

Treatment 2:  1-2 minutes

Treatment 3:  1-3 minutes

Treatment 4:  1-4 minutes

Treatment 5 and 6:  1-5 minutes

Step 5: Apply the peel solution in a HORIZONTAL motion across the entire face/neck.

The cheek, lip and nose areas are the most sensitive, so they should be done last to avoid excess irritation.

Keep the peel solution at least 1 cm away from the eyes and mucus membranes. *A mild stinging/itching sensation is normal when using the peel solution.

Step 6: Apply the peel again, this time in a VERTICAL motion across the entire face/neck. This is to ensure the best coverage possible.

Step 7: Leave on for 1-5 minutes. Watch for redness or frosting (end-point), if too much redness or pain occurs immediately rinse with cool water.

If severe skin irritation occurs, remove the product by rinsing with cool water and consult a physician.

Step 8: When end-point has been reached or the time has ended, rinse thoroughly with cool water. No neutralizing solution is needed as salicylic acid is self-neutralizing.

Step 9: Pat the skin dry and follow with a good moisturizer and soothing Cream.


Post-peel Care

Slight reddening of the skin may occur for a limited period of time especially with sensitive skin types.

Salicylic acid is a low to medium irritation acid and minimal post care will be required.

Keep your skin well moisturized with a quality moisturizing product. I recommend using hyaluronic acid.

Sunburn Alert

Chemical peels may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun and the possibility of sunburn. Avoid or limit sun exposure for 24 hours after the application of a chemical peel and use a broad spectrum sunscreen with minimum SPF 30+ on a daily basis for adequate sun protection for a week after the peel.

An exfoliant can be used on the 3rd day to help remove any light flakes.

Please feel free to ask any questions or share your experience with salicylic acid peel by leaving a comment below.

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