Chemical Peels Overview

What is a Chemical Peel

It might not have the most pleasant sounding name in the world, but a facial chemical peel is a safe, commonly used method for treating acne, age spots, brown spots, large pores, fine wrinkles, bags under the eyes, and uneven skin pigmentation. The traditional chemical face peel procedure involves the application of a chemical solution designed to smooth and exfoliate skin while removing its damaged outer layer.

The formula for a chemical peel varies, depending on your skin, but usually involves a combination of different types of trichloroacetic acid (TCA), alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), beta-hydroxy acids (BHA), and sometimes phenol.


Many of the compounds used in chemical peels are found in nature, such as Glycolic acid (of the alpha-hydroxy family), which is derived from certain fruits and plants. It assists in the skin treatment by stimulating new collagen and skin growth while allowing dead skin cells to fall off naturally.

  • Glycolic acid, a type of fruit hydroxy, is found in most at-home chemical peels. It is the strongest type available for a moderate to strong superficial peel.
  • Lactic acid is a milk-derived acid that helps retexturize the skin and stimulate cell renewal.
  • Salicylic acid is a simple organic fruit compound that is commonly found in acne medications and topical products. It helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and is usually quite mild. Salicylic acid is an effective acne scar chemical peel and also works for oily and acne prone skin, by increasing cell turnover.

The Peel Process

Most chemical peels take only 10-15 minutes to perform, and the majority of patients report only a mild stinging from the chemical solution. With the less invasive chemical peels mentioned above, the recovery time is quick, with most redness and dryness subsiding within a week’s time. There are chemical peels that require much more downtime because of the blistering that occurs after treatment.

[sws_yellow_box] Chemical peel side effects may include severe redness and flaking of skin, facial swelling, or dry skin.[/sws_yellow_box]

Length of Chemical Peels Results

You will need to have a number of treatments (usually a minimum of 3) to see lasting and noticeable results. Of course chemical peels can’t stop the natural aging process, but if you adhere to the prescribed number of treatments, you can notice long lasting or permanent results in the area that was treated.

Chemical Peels Recovery Time

[sws_pullquote_right]”That’s why most people have a chemical peel on a Friday so that they have the weekend to recover.”[/sws_pullquote_right]Most chemical peels don’t require recovery time; however the redness and peeling may make you want to stay inside for a day or two. That’s why most people have a chemical peel on a Friday so that they have the weekend to recover.

For more invasive chemical peels, you may need up to two weeks to be able to apply makeup and feel comfortable in public. Chemical exfoliants are an intense variety of exfoliant for the face that work by breaking up and shedding the outermost layers of the skin to reveal younger, healthier skin beneath. It can help reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, acne scare and may improve mild skin discoloration.

[sws_yellow_box]It is very important to note that chemical peels, while perfectly safe, are NOT for everyone. Because they involve the application of strong chemicals to delicate facial skin certain people should avoid using these products, namely those with active acne, sensitive and/or fragile skin.

Also note that chemical peels are best suited for those with light to medium skin, and less suited for dark skin. If you have any doubts about whether a chemical peel is right for you, consult your dermatologist.[/sws_yellow_box]

Chemical Peel Types

There are three levels of chemical peel: superficial, medium and deep.

Usually deep and medium chemical peels are done under the care of a professional dermatologist since the formulas are very concentrated and result in a long recovery period (from one week to over a month), while superficial peel kits for at-home use are mild and result in little to no recovery time.

[sws_green_box box_size=”709″]Most people with mild to moderate wrinkles or scarring can consider one of the many reasonably priced home kits, excellent anti-aging products that produce visible results in a relatively short period; something most anti-aging treatments cannot offer. For anyone with severe scarring, discoloration or deep wrinkles, a professional treatment would be best. [/sws_green_box]

How Chemical Peels Work

[sws_frames_custom imageurl=”×200.jpg” imagealign=”sws_right” imagesize=”200″ imagemaxheight=”” lightbox=”” album=”” video=”” borderwidth=”0″ borderstyle=”” bordercolor=”” borderpadding=”0″ imgbackgroundcolor=”ffffff” borderradius=”2″ shadow=”0″ shadowcolor=”333333″][/sws_frames_custom]Chemical peels are applied directly to the skin, usually in liquid, gel or cream form. Once applied, they begin to break up the top layers of the skin. In the following hours or days (depending on the product’s strength) you will notice some redness and/or peeling as the dead skin comes off.

The more powerful the treatment and the higher the concentration of chemicals, the deeper down into the skin the product can reach. AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) or BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) are the basis of a chemical exfoliant. In relatively low chemical concentrations they can be used on a daily basis (around 4%) whereas 8% to 10% is common for a mild home peel to be used once a week. Anything less than 4% is not effective as an exfoliant.

Chemical peels remove damaged outer layers of skin on the face to smooth texture, reduce scarring, and remove blemishes and pre-cancerous growths to produce healthy, glowing skin. The body creates new cells to replace the ones that the peel removes.

Many medical specialists believe that new collagen is also generated following the peel procedure. In a chemical peel, we apply an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) to cleansed skin. The acid is left on for a short time (this depends on the condition of the skin, your tolerance level, etc.).

Chemical peels are used to treat facial discoloration such as brown, mottled or muddy pigment usually from the sun or the combination of sun and hormone treatment. They also help tighten the facial pores and smooth fine lines and wrinkles. Chemical peels can also improve whiteheads and blackheads that are seen with acne.

A whole host of chemical peels exist to refresh skin, treat disease, and turn back the aging process. A chemical peel can be superficial, which only removes the very top surface of the skin. These superficial peels can be performed monthly and often contain the “fruit” acids, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, nutrients and vitamins. There is usually no recovery time needed.

Benefits of Using Chemical Peels

Our skin has something called a skin renewal factor. When we are young, our skin renewal factor is fast. The old dead skin cells are being replaced with healthy new cells, which is why kids have such soft, beautiful skin. The older we get, this process starts to slow down. Chemical peels help speed up the skin’s renewal factor. It helps to remove the dead cells so the body can generate new cells to replace them.

  • If you have oily skin, there is a chemical peel that is designed to eat away the oil.
  • It also helps acne prone skin because it has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial ingredients in it.
  • It can be beneficial for those who have had bad acne, and now are left with acne scars. Chemical peels will help soften the skin. As older cells are being replaced, the new cells will help plump up the skin causing the scarring to get less and less visible.
  • If you have extremely dry skin there is a chemical peel that can actually hydrate and moisturize the skin. Do you have calluses on your feet? Chemical peel treatments on your feet can help shed off the callus, making your feet feel soft. So no matter what your skin type, there is a chemical peel for you!

First Time Use

We recommend our Level 1 products for beginners. These include the Salicylic/20, Lactic/35 and the Glycolic/35 chemical peels.

Who is the Best Candidate for a Chemical Peel?

If you want to improve the texture and pigmentation of your skin without surgery, a Chemical Peel may be very appropriate. Keep in mind, however, your skin type and color, ethnic background and age will be factors in determining which type of peel is right for you. You must be free of active skin infections, including most kinds of acne and any type of cold sore, including herpes simplex.

Just about anyone can enjoy the benefits of a chemical peel. In general, the best candidates are people who:

  • Understand the procedure.
  • Who do not smoke.
  • Are in good health.
  • Have not taken Accutane in the last 18 months.
  • Free from unusual scar formation, such as keloids.
  • Realistic in their expectations.
  • Want to look younger and more refreshed.

Common First Time Questions

What Will it Feel Like?

Upon applications, the chemical peel sensation can range anywhere from “tingling” to a “warm feeling”, much like that of a sunburn. Some people have also described an “itchy” sensation while the acid is in contact with the skin.

How Long Will it Take?

Our chemical peels may take between 1-8 minutes, depending on the peel and how well it is tolerated. Deeper peels that have to be performed by a doctor may take between 1-2 hours.

How Many Treatments are Needed?

We recommend a treatment schedule of one peel a week for six weeks, followed by a one-month break.

How Long Before I See Results?

Results of chemical peels should be immediately visible, although multiple treatments are usually required for full effect. Superficial changes are usually noticeable as soon as 2 weeks, while more dramatic changes, such as those to skin tone, wrinkles and texture, are usually noticeable in 4 to 6 months. In order to maintain your results, it is important to continue the chemical peel regimen and avoid sun damage.

When Should I Use a Peel?

It is important to make sure the condition you are trying to improve is one that can be treated by a chemical peel. They are most effective at improving the appearance of the following: wrinkled, sun damaged facial skin; fine wrinkling around the mouth/eyes; and brown spots or blotchy skin coloring.

The minimum age limit for a chemical peel is usually early teens. They can be performed at any time of the year, but we recommend winter because it is easier to avoid sun damage.

This entry was posted in . Bookmark the permalink.