All about peelings – The different peelings and how they work

Exfoliation knowledge

What types of scrubs are there? What is a chemical peel and how does it work on the skin? What results can be achieved? What is the treatment procedure and what complications can occur? Find out everything you need to know about peeling.


What are peelings?

A peel is a cosmetic or aesthetic dermatological treatment that leads to a peeling of the epidermis (top layer of skin) and stimulates the body’s own regeneration and renewal processes throughout the skin. This process can effectively treat signs of ageing such as wrinkles, cornification, pigment changes and acne scars.

What types of scrubs are there?

The world of peels is wide-ranging and includes various types – from cleansing enzyme peels from the drugstore and professional fruit acid applications to medium-depth and deep chemical peels in a doctor’s surgery or clinic. But what are the differences?


Mechanical peeling

Mechanical exfoliation is probably well known. It usually consists of small particles (e.g. apricot kernels, pumice, olive stone particles, etc.). which have an abrasive effect on the skin. The application supports the natural desquamation and renewal of the skin, promotes blood circulation and removes old skin cells. However, caution is advised when using mechanical exfoliation – especially on the face. Many of the so-called scrub peels have coarse abrasive particles that can cause micro-tears in the skin. Mechanical exfoliation should be avoided, especially if you have sensitive skin, acne or rosacea.


Enzyme peeling

An enzyme peel is much gentler than a mechanical peel. Unlike classic chemical peels, enzyme peels do not contain acids, but enzymes extracted from fruits and plants (e.g. papaya). The skin is freed from dead skin cells solely by the enzymes it contains. This gentle mode of action makes the enzyme peeling suitable for sensitive skin. An enzyme peeling can be easily incorporated into the skin cleansing routine. It ensures that the pores are not clogged and is not too irritating, even in the case of minor inflammations. However, the enzyme peeling does not have a deep anti-aging effect.


Chemical peeling

Chemical peeling is a cosmetic or aesthetic dermatological treatment that leads to peeling of the epidermis (top layer of skin). and stimulates the body’s own regeneration and renewal processes in the skin. This process can effectively treat signs of ageing such as wrinkles, cornification, pigment changes and acne scars.

Overview of chemical peels

Intensities of chemical peeling

The term “chemical peeling” includes fruit acid peeling at home or at the beautician (AHA, BHA, PHA) as well as medium-depth (TCA) and deep peeling (phenol) in the doctor’s office or clinic. All these peelings have one thing in common: they cause a more or less strong peeling of the upper skin layers and initiate the regeneration processes of the skin, partly in the dermis. However, they differ fundamentally in terms of indication, downtime and anti-aging effect.

A brief overview:


Superficial peelings

Fruit acid peels, which mainly consist of alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), beta hydroxy acids (BHA) or polyhydroxy acids (PHA), belong to the superficial peelings.

Basically, fruit acid peels promote the removal of dead skin cells – in other words, the horny layer is gently removed. After exfoliation, the skin looks fresh and subsequent active ingredients can penetrate better. Depending on the size and concentration of the molecule, fruit acids can even stimulate collagen synthesis.

Salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid, is used for blemished, oily skin. The BHA peeling cleans out the pores and promotes the exfoliation of the outer skin layers. Thanks to its keratolytic effect, salicylic acid is ideal for treating enlarged pores, acne, cornification disorders or psoriasis.

PHAs are a newer generation of hydroxy acids. Thanks to their large molecules, they do not penetrate as deeply into the skin, which prevents irritation. PHA acids are therefore ideal for sensitive skin types that are prone to irritation.

Chemical peeling

Fruit acid peelings are used both in cosmetic institutes and in dermatological-aesthetic practices. At Muggenthaler Ästhetik, we use light peeling solutions primarily for HydraFacial treatments or for skin conditioning.

Comparison of AHA and BHA peeling

Difference between AHA and BHA peeling

Medium-depth peelings

Medium-depth peels include Jessner and TCA peels (trichloroacetic acid) and glycolic acid peels in high concentrations. Compared to superficial fruit acid peelings, medium-depth peelings work in deeper layers of the skin, i.e. in the dermis. This already stimulates tissue synthesis to a certain extent. Superficial scars, pigmentation disorders, age spots, fine wrinkles and sun damage can be corrected relatively well. However, it should be noted that medium-depth peelings cause significantly more skin irritation than fruit acids, for example. The skin needs about a week to heal completely. During this time and also after healing, continued care including sun protection is essential.


Deep phenol peel

Phenol peeling is the strongest of all chemical peelings and is one of the most effective skin rejuvenation methods of all. In contrast to superficial and medium-depth peels, the Phenol Peel can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin and act on the elastic and collagen fibers there. Phenol peeling drastically reduces even deep wrinkles, corrects pronounced pigmentation spots and improves skin elasticity. The skin rejuvenation effect of a phenol peel cannot be compared to any other treatment, but the treatment is relatively complex and involves several weeks of preparation and a long healing phase.



By loading the video, you agree to YouTube's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

More information on phenol peeling

Depth of effect of chemical peels

Chemical peeling can have a light, superficial or medium to deep penetrating effect. The following principle applies: the deeper the penetration depth into the skin, the greater the effect, but also the greater the effort, risks and side effects.

Peeling penetration depth into the skin


Personal advice

Medical peeling opens up very individual treatment options thanks to its variety and different intensities. In our practice, we will be happy to answer your questions about chemical peeling or other aesthetic medical treatments personally at any time.