Do you have acne scars, fine lines or enlarged pores?
Just about anyone, male or female, can see a few complexion problems creep up over time. Unless your skin is the impossibly dewey product of a 25-step Korean beauty regime, chemical peels are still your best go-to.
“I’m afraid of having red skin a-la Samantha on Sex And The City.”
“I’m avoiding chemicals these days, thank you.”
Whatever your hesitation, you might be missing out on beautiful, natural benefits of these facial peels.
With this overview, we want to let you in on the customizable gentleness of a tried and true skincare secret.
Chemical Peel Treatments Can Help You Save Face
While many people are drawn in by marketing terms like ‘pure, natural and gentle,’ the word ‘chemical’ may seem off-putting.
Luckily, not all chemicals are harmful. Everything from the food you eat to the grass under your feet consists of chemicals.
For targeted complexion care, we want naturally-derived, effective but gentle ones.
Made from natural acids and sugars, peels exfoliate older, dead skin cells to reveal plump, fresh new ones.
In this guide, we’ll cover chemical peel facials offered by medical aestheticians and other professionals like dermatologists. The “peels” you see at the drugstore can be useful, but at-home versions are much milder, providing less dramatic or consistent results.
Cosmetic clinic facials using chemical peels usually fall into one of three categories:
You and your skin specialist can choose from solutions designed to reduce irregular pigmentation, smooth skin texture, combat fine lines, shrink pores and clear breakouts.
Here are a few skin conditions that may benefit from chemical peels:
- Facial scarring, including acne
- Wrinkles and fine lines
- Hyperpigmentation, age spots and sun damage
- Smoker’s lines and crows feet
- Large, visible pores
- Blackheads and whiteheads
- Dull complexion
- Acne breakouts
- Excess oil production
Why are Chemical Peels Needed to Help Exfoliate?
The problem with skin appears over time. Despite a multi-billion-dollar skin-care industry and clever marketing, there isn’t anything on the drug store shelves that can reverse aging.
Your skin stem cells are continually depleted by damaging UV rays and other age-related stressors. They divide less often over time, while essential components for plump skin also fade.
The dermis, comprised of connective tissue, follicles, sweat glands, and blood is located beneath the epidermis. In healthy young skin, epidermis continuously sloughs off as the dermis below supplies bouncy, young cells. It exfoliates itself. The process is called desquamation.
Chances are, you won’t give it much thought until it changes.
What happens when cell turnover slows down? Bad news for your complexion.
Can you relate? People of all ages note:
- Increased acne breakouts
- Pigmentation blotches
- Dull, dry skin
- Enlarged pores
- Fine lines
- Even extra oil production
Gentle, daily exfoliation is a good thing. It helps keep gunk and debris out of your pores, removes damaged, dry cells and allows quality moisturizers to soak in deeply.
So, should you scrub and rub the skin? Not really… especially not if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. There’s something better.
Enter the beauty of chemical peels.
All Chemical Peel Facials Are Not Created Equal
Just as there are different skin conditions, various peel formulations are designed to penetrate differently, for various intensity and diverse results.
A perk is that they’re very customizable. When you select a skilled, experienced aesthetician, they’ll choose the best treatment for your needs.
There are three main categories for chemical peels:
1. Superficial/Light Peels
As the name suggests, these treat the surface layer of skin– epidermis– and are known as “glow & go,” with no downtime or skin “peeling”. For acne, melasma, dyschromia (abnormal pigmentation), photodamage and generalized dullness, these light formulas are excellent if you don’t have time to lay low for a few days.
- Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHAs) are frequently found in store-bought products and light chemical peels. Comprised of sugar, fruit or milk-derived acids, they’re gentle but effective.
It may seem paradoxical that a chemical peel could be anti-inflammatory, but AHAs work wonders for blemished and sensitive skin. They target acne bacteria and gradually fade acne scars.
- Glycolic acid is in the AHA family and suitable for all skin types. Typically used to combat breakouts and fine lines, They’re also fantastic to flush out pores and reduce oil. Glycolic chemical peels can be layered to boost concentration if desired.
- Salicylic acid (you may recognize it in acne products) is popular for unclogging pores, removing dead skin cells and debris. This peel is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, perfect for soothing red, reactive complexions.
- Lactic acid peels are derived from milk and a favorite for first-time chemical peel clients. They naturally balance Ph levels and are optimal for mature, dry skin.
- Complexion bonus*** Medium depth peels exfoliate substantially, but they also stimulate your own collagen and elastin. These crucial components supply that smooth, firm quality we’re all striving to maintain as we age.
- That means if you use chemical peels consistently, the effects of collagen loss and dehydration won’t hit you so hard. You can be one of those people with an impossibly dewy glow, minus the 25 steps!
Generally speaking, superficial chemical peels are suitable for a broad spectrum of sensitivities and pigment. If you’re worried about effects on darker skin, your skincare professional can help you to select the right formulation for your skin tone.
2. Medium Peels
Considering something bolder? Some issues go beyond the superficial, and you can too.
Pigmentation problems like dyschromia, multiple keratoses, and severe acne scarring often respond well to a peel that packs more punch.
Medium-depth peels may involve both glycolic and trichloroacetic acid (TCA). They are more aggressive than their AHA counterparts but produce quicker dramatic results. With a little time set aside for temporary skin flaking, TCA chemical peels do wonders for age spots, sun damage, fine lines, and enlarged pores.
3. Deep Peels
The heavy hitters. If you’ve seen surprising chemical peel before and afters, they might have been related to these. A deep chemical peel is often used to target established wrinkles, pitted or severe scars, serious photoaging and in some cases, pre-cancerous skin lesions.
They affect the reticular dermis—the lower layer of the dermis– comprised of connective tissue with collagen fibers.
As you might guess, these chemical powerhouses aren’t ideal for everyone. You’ll need a detailed consultation and an experienced medical professional.
What Can I Expect After a Facial Peel?
Epidermal regeneration takes 3 to 5 days following a superficial peel. This relatively quick turn-around provides a great introduction to chemical peel benefits.
The skin reveals fresh cells fast with minimal redness, and you can apply concentrated, nutrient-packed serums for maximum penetration. Book one 3-4 days before a special event to be red-carpet ready.
While non-surgical, a medium-depth facial peel requires some time commitment. It will take roughly 7 days for your skin to slough off the old and reveal the new. You’ll appear as if you have a sunburn, then see thin sheets of skin flake away.
Don’t try to speed it up- Your practitioner will let you know how to soothe and support the process. It doesn’t usually hurt, and you can carry on with most regular activities, but avoid makeup for a week.
Post-treatment care instructions must be followed at home and will be provided. If you go this route, you must accept looking “pink” before you look radiant. But you certainly will, which is why this is still one of the best, non-surgical ways to transform skin.
How Long Does a Peel Last?
The impact depends on the type of peel you have. The deeper the peel, the more extensive the restructuring, thus longer-lasting results.
Deeper isn’t always better, and some changes can’t be rushed. Therefore, your specialist may recommend a series of lighter peels to gradually unveil your brightest look.
You can space these one month apart until desired results are achieved, then maintain with a few treatments per year. Many people book a chemical peel with the change of each season.
How Can You Find The Perfect Chemical Peel For You?
An experienced medical aesthetician, dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon will provide an in-person consultation. They can tailor treatment with appropriate peel depth and monitor your recovery. Though complications are rare, it’s essential to work with an expert- especially for intensive exfoliating facials.
The best way to avoid problems and love your results is to work with a reputable practitioner you feel comfortable with.
Share your concerns, and by all means- ask plenty of questions! You should feel at ease and understand the peel you choose before beginning. After, reaching out by phone, email, or in-person is sometimes helpful in the early days.
Are You Ready for a Chemical Peel Complexion Reset?
In plenty of big, and tiny-but-awesome ways, you’ll be glad you got in on the magic of chemical peels.
When was the last time make-up smoothed on without settling in lines and pores?
How about selfie filters- do you rely on them?
Imagine going make-up free! Yes, that’s something plenty of people who have regular peels can do.
There are only so many topical anti-aging beauty products can achieve. If your skin is sitting stagnant, you need to up the exfoliation in your routine, safely and gently.
Go for a light chemical peel and dip a toe in the water. The return on investment is not only tone, texture, and vibrancy, but all those pricey products will start working better for you too, naturally.
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 Milstone LM. Epidermal desquamation. J Dermatol Sci. 2004 Dec;36(3):131-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2004.05.004. PMID: 15541634.
 Rendon MI, Berson DS, Cohen JL, Roberts WE, Starker I, Wang B. Evidence and considerations in the application of chemical peels in skin disorders and aesthetic resurfacing. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010;3(7):32-43. Milstone LM. Epidermal desquamation. J Dermatol Sci. 2004 Dec;36(3):131-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2004.05.004. PMID: 15541634.