What are chemical peels?
A chemical peel uses a solution that’s painted on skin to remove its damaged outer layers, revealing better tone and texture underneath. Chemical peels range in depth and can correct uneven skin tone, fine lines, age spots and scars.
Types of chemical peels include the following:
- A lactic peel uses lactic acid, a mild acid that’s derived from milk and yogurt. A light, hydrating peel, it’s an excellent treatment for rosacea and sensitive skin, and is best for treating uneven skin tone, acne or fine wrinkles.
- A salicylic peel is a very effective peeling agent and an excellent pore cleanser; it cleans out clogged pores and can improve acne-prone skin.
- A glycolic peel uses glycolic acid, which penetrates the skin well. It helps not only with exfoliation but also regeneration of the underlying collagen; it can treat deeper wrinkles, uneven pigmentation and acne scars.
- A phenol peel, the deepest type of peel, uses a very strong chemical to treat deep wrinkles, sun damage, scars and pre-cancerous skin growths. This type of peel can pose risks for people who have heart problems, so be sure to share your full medical history with your doctor.
- Combination peels may take properties of different peeling agents to achieve optimal results while minimizing side effects.
How chemical peels work
If you’re having a light peel, such as a lactic peel, your face is cleansed, the solution is brushed onto your skin and allowed to sit for a few minutes, and then the solution is neutralized and washed off. These peels penetrate only the outer layer of skin and usually cause some stinging, skin irritation and flaking.
A medium peel, like a glycolic peel, is essentially the same procedure, though the treated area may look whitish after the treatment. The peel penetrates the outer and middle layers of skin, and its after-effects can resemble a bad sunburn: Your skin will start to peel within about 48 hours and will peel for about a week.
A deep peel usually requires up to eight weeks of pretreatment to prepare your skin; its strong chemical penetrates all the way to the middle layer of skin. Before this peel, you’ll get a sedative and a local anesthetic to numb your face. Your face is cleansed and brushed with the solution; after it sits for a few moments, the solution is neutralized, and your skin is covered with ointment to prevent pain and excessive dryness.
Which areas of the body are best for chemical peels?
Although chemical peels are used mostly on the face, they can also be used to improve skin tone and texture on your neck, chest, back and hands.
How soon will you see results with chemical peels?
Chemical peel recovery time and results depend on the type of peel you have. A light peel is sometimes called a “lunchtime peel,” because there’s no downtime. (Your doctor may recommend a series of up to five light peels, spaced two to four weeks apart.) A medium peel results in redness and skin peeling for about a week.
A deep peel usually requires about two weeks of recovery, with swelling, redness and some pain, before you get back to normal activities. You can only have one deep peel procedure.
Frequently Asked Questions About Chemical Peels
A. Your doctor will examine you and talk with you about your goals. A number of factors will help determine what kind of peel will work best for you, including your skin tone and type, the specific issues you want to address, and how deeply the peel will need to work to achieve the results you want.
A. People who have dark complexions, tan frequently or have a history of keloid (raised) scars might not be good candidates for a chemical peel. Your doctor will recommend the approach that works best for your goals.
A. You should always wear high-SPF sunscreen when outdoors and avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible, but this becomes even more important after you have a chemical peel. The new skin layers that are revealed after a peel are extremely sensitive and have to be protected.