So What's The Difference, Anyway?
This is partially common sense, of course. "A single-acid peel, like a glycolic peel for example, uses just one type of acid, typically to achieve skin-resurfacing," celeb dermatologist Harold Lancer, MD, tells us. Meanwhile, "A multi-acid peel, like a Jessner's peel, combines various types and strengths of acids to more deeply rejuvenate the skin, [and] remove sun damage or excessive pigmentation." [Ed. note: A Jessner peel is the common name for a certain mix of acids, but more on that later.] So basically, the more acids, the better, right? Not always.
A single-acid peel, like a glycolic peel for example, uses just one type of acid, typically to achieve skin-resurfacing.
Selecting a single-acid peel can allow you to effectively target the area of concern, with less downtime or risk of irritation or allergic reaction. (Translation: The more ingredients on your pizza, the more chances one of them will disrupt your stomach or displease your palate.)
There are many types of refined fruit-enzyme [acids] that are gaining popularity among dermatologists and aestheticians for their gentle effects.
Now that you understand a bit about what single acids do, we'll talk about what can happen when they're combined. By blending different acids, a professional can create cocktails that work on different issues simultaneously. However, some acids, when combined, negatively affect each other — so don't think you can start mixing them at home without knowing what you're doing. "It's really sketchy for anyone that's not quality-controlling the batch to put acids together," Benjamin explains. "When you mix two or more acids together, the pH should be adjusted to a safe [level]."
[Mandelic acid] is a great first-time chemical peel because it's less penetrating and irritating, but still very effective for treating damaged skin.
Which is one reason, as Dr. Lancer mentioned above, there are certain blends of acids that are widely used — and even have nicknames, like Jessner's peel. This popular cocktail is a multi-acid concoction "formulated with salicylic acid, which assists in penetration, lactic acid for exfoliation, and resorcinol, which assists the action of the lactic acid," says Dr. Lancer. "This peel can do wonders for someone dealing with the significant signs of aging, dry, dull skin, brown spots, fine lines, and crepe-y skin, but is less effective for treating, say, melasma or general dullness."