Skin Peels – A Brief History

Skin Peels: A Journey Through History


Chemical peels have ancient origins, with practices dating back to prehistoric times. Despite advancements, the fundamental concept remains unchanged – resurfacing and rejuvenating the skin. Whether it was using pumice stones followed by soured milk in 4000 BC or modern lactic acid peels, the goal has always been to improve skin texture and appearance.

What is a Peel?

A chemical peel induces a controlled injury to the skin’s surface, effectively removing the upper layers. This process stimulates the skin’s natural healing mechanisms to generate a new, smoother surface, reducing acne scars, fine lines, and discoloration. Depending on the peel type, the extent of skin shedding can vary from minor to significant.

In ancient times, exfoliation or abrasion preceded peels to enhance their effect. Today, the peel solution itself is often sufficient.

Historical Evolution of Skin Peels

  • Ancient Egypt: Egyptians used alabaster, a soft white stone, to abrade their skin, followed by topical solutions made with acids, oils, and salt.
  • Rome and Greece: Pumice stone and resin were used, progressing to sulfur for more intense treatments.
  • Gypsy Populations: They pioneered deep chemical peels, leading to the development of the phenol peel, a medical-grade resurfacing treatment.
  • 19th Century Advancements: Austrian dermatologist Ferdinand Hebra, founder of the Vienna School of Dermatology, led a wave of experimentation, ultimately creating the tincture – a blend of various chemicals with alcohol, which became the prototype for modern chemical peels.

Modern Chemical Peels

Today, common peels involve alphahydroxy (AHA) or betahydroxy acids (BHA), with deeper agents used for specific conditions. Despite modern advancements, many of these acids have roots in ancient practices:

  • AHAs: Derived from lactic, citric, and tartaric acids, AHAs are found in treatments like glycolic peels. These acids are historically linked to the cosmetic use of sour milk, grapes, and citrus juices.
  • BHAs: Used in salicylic peels to control acne, hark back to the ancient Indian practice of using wintergreen, an aromatic plant high in BHA, to control skin oil.

The Future of Skin Peels

Modern skin peels are highly refined, with improved absorption rates, penetration, and minimized aftereffects. While deeper and more complex treatments like retinoic acid-based peels and TCA are 20th-century discoveries, the basics remain unchanged. Our understanding and application of skin peels owe much to the historical evolution and countless experiments of the past.

Why Choose Santi London?

At Santi London, we honor this rich history by offering advanced, safe, and effective skin peel treatments. Our experienced practitioners use the latest techniques to ensure optimal results while minimizing discomfort. Whether you’re looking to rejuvenate your skin, reduce scars, or improve overall texture, Santi London provides tailored treatments to meet your needs.

Book your consultation today and discover the transformative power of our skin peels.