DIY: AHA Acid Peel At Home

DIY AHA Acid Peel At Home

   Winter is the best time to treat your skin to Alpha Hydroxy Acids, and already I have a couple of sessions behind me. In this post I talk about the why and how of AHAs, and about how you can to an acid treatment at home.

   I wanted to add some pictures of how I mix my acids, but I cannot get to them because my husband is busy reinstalling the main computer.
   A beautician told me that of all the treatments she offered, acid peels (and aromatheraphy) were the most effective. She saw acne scars fading and the skin looking much better. Acids can remove fine lines, deal with impurities, lighten scars and remove discolourations, they make the skin firmer and fresher. And though you can get them professionally done, it is not that hard to do them at home. I will now explain how.
   Acids sounds like a scary word. I have explained it a bit here and want to add a few words about safety. AHAs natrually occuring chemicals in fruit and other food products, and are allowed by natural cosmetic certificates. However they are not recommended for pregnant and nursing women. Skin Deep rates most AHAs at around 3-4.

When to do acids:

   The cold season is the best time to do acid peels (except mandaleic acid which can be used all year around), as they make the skin sensitive to sunlight. To avoid damage and discolourations apply the peel in the evening and use sunscreen during the treatment. Absolutely no tanning allowed!
   After four months of using acids you should take a break, since the skin will get used to it.

    There are two kinds of treatment that you can do at home: an AHA toner for everyday use, which can be used alone or as a preparation for the AHA peel. The toner is pH neutral and gentler. I have written a bit on how to DIY and use AHA toners. The peel has a very acidic pH, and is a strong treatment that can cause the skin to peel.


   This is really easy to make. The ingredients and procedure is the same like that of the AHA toner, except that you won´t be adjusting the pH level at the end.
 On choosing an Alpha Hydroxy Acid: Which acid you choose for the treatment is up to you, however if you are an acid virgin then mandaleic acid is a good choice. Mandaleic acid is great for blackheads and whiteheads , and salicylic acid works against acne, flycolic acid is great against discolourations and wrinkles and big pores. I do not recommend AHAs for couperose skin (except mandaleic acid), broken skin, acne.

You need:

  • AHA of your choice
  • A precise weight (I got mine online, it should be able to calculate half a gram).
  • Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
  • Distilled water (drugstore) or demineralised water (gas stations) or a hydrolate of your choice
  • Litmus strips
  • (Optional) moisturising ingredients like hyaluronan
  • Container for the ready toner, made out of dark glass
  • A glass beaker with a thick bottom
  • A non-metal spoon for mixing
  • Very exact measuring spoons
  • All of this can be used for several peels and is still much cheaper than a cosmetician.
  • Conservant
     Here I have explained where you can buy all of this. I buy from Zrob Sobie Krem.
    You have to decide what strength you want your peel to be. On the description of the AHA you will see the max strength allowed (in percent, calculated by weight). I suggest 5-10% for the first time. It is better to go for a lower concentration if you haven't tried this kind of thing before, unless you want to risk getting an acid burn.
    I already had malic (apple) acid in my cosmetic ingredient box, I don't remember any more why I chose this particular one. Based on past experiences and the sensitivity of my skin, I decided to go for a 10% strength peel, which simply means that 10% of the peel (by weight) is malic acid. My toner was 50gm so I used 5gm malic acid. The rest (90% or 45mg) can be simply water, or you can be fancy and use a hydrolate (I used rose water). Mix.
   Tip: I made both the peel and the toner at the same time, first without the baking soda. I poured away a little bit into a small bottle and labeled it as the peel, and neutralised the pH of the rest. Which was now the toner.

How to use:

    You should have been using an AHA toner for a week or two to prepare your skin. To peel, first cleanse your face with a cleansing product. Protect the delicate skin around the eyes and lips with a rich cream, oil or vaseline. Apply the peel with a cotton wool, avoiding the eyes and mouth.
   Keep on the peel for 10-15 minutes, then wash off with a normal soap (it is basic and will neutralise the acidity). The peel will make the skin sting and turn reddish, this is normal. However if you feel your skin is reacting really strongly, wash the peel off immediately, better safe than sorry.
   I like to wipe my face with a pH-neutral toner (usually rose water) to completely restore my skin's natural pH. Now, apply a rich moisturising product. A bit of hyaluronan mixed with a drop of oil works really well. You will need to moisturise your skin several times a day for a few days. After 2-3 days your skin might start to peel or flake, this is perfectly normal. Don't scrub off the flakes, just moisturise more. If it looks bad you could try chemical exfoliation. Many women plan their AHA peels around Thursday, so that the skin flakes over the weekend.
   I didn't flake and my skin takes the 10% malic acid really well, but I am hesitant of trying higher concentrations for fear of irritating my fragile capillaries. The colour of my skin evened out, discolourations have faded, and I think I don't remember ever having such clean pores.


   DIY acid peels are advanced, and need to be done correctly if you don't want to damage your skin. I'll repeat the warnings: start off with a lower concentration. Calculate and measure everything very precisely. Wear sunscreen, and do the peel in the cold season. All this also goes for peels done professionally, even if your beautician forgets to tell you about this.

   Have you ever had an acid peel done, or are you curious to try one out? Any product with AHAs that you´d recommend?
Image via aarontyree

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