Administered by skincare professionals, chemical peels work by exfoliating the skin’s surface to reduce the appearance of blemishes, smooth skin texture, improve radiance, and restore skin health. They are most effective at enhancing cell turnover and improving the appearance on the surface of the skin.
Chemical peels come in many different strengths and acidic formulations ranging from superficial to higher penetrating peels. Some common acids in chemical peels are alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), and trichloroacetic acid (TCA). AHAs are often used to treat signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles, dullness, and uneven texture. BHAs are often used to treat problematic skin concerns such as blemishes, large pores, and uneven texture. TCA is often used to treat more advanced visible signs of aging and discoloration caused by sun damage, acne, or hormones. It is important that chemical peels are performed by a Licensed Aesthetician with access to high-performing peel solutions that are clinically proven to deliver results. Your skincare professional may also recommend take home skin care products for optimal, extend results.
The Fitzpatrick Scale
The depth and type of chemical peel used by a skincare professional depend on the condition of the skin, the skin’s Fitzpatrick type (skin color and likelihood to burn), and the skincare habits of the client. In general, the higher the Fitzpatrick skin type, the more caution should be exercised to avoid triggering a pigment response. For extremely sensitive skin and skin experiencing barrier dysfunction (eczema, psoriasis, etc), chemical peels are generally not recommended.
What does your skin type mean for you?
- If your skin type is 1 or 2, you have a high risk of sun damage, skin aging from sun exposure, melanoma, and other skin cancers.
- If your skin is type is 3 to 6, you still have some risk of skin cancer from sun exposure, especially if you’ve used an indoor tanning bed. You should still use sun protection even though your risk is lower than people’s with type 1 or 2 skin.
Types of Chemical Peels
The type and depth of chemical peel administered will depend on your skin type, concern, Fitzpatrick type, and skincare habits.
Chemical peels are categorized by how deeply they penetrate the skin:
- Superficial – Superficial peels penetrate only the uppermost layer of the epidermis. They are often performed in a series to treat fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes and mouth. For acne prone skin, medium peels can help to reduce acne blemishes and help prevent future breakouts. For those looking to diminish fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin tone and radiance, also known as the red carpet peel, can be customized to suit your skin needs.
- Medium – A medium-depth peel is more effective for patients with moderate skin damage, including age spots, freckles, and actinic keratoses. It is often coupled with laser treatments to maximize effectiveness.
- Deep – Deep chemical peels are quite aggressive and affect the skin down to the reticular layer of the dermis. Traditionally performed with phenol, deep chemical peels are not very common today, as newer laser technology can deliver greater results with more control and less post-procedure discomfort.
Consult with your Licensed Medical Aesthetician to create a customized treatment plan for your specific skin needs and to understand how to maintain results with advanced home skin care products.
How Chemical Peels Work
Chemical peels improve the texture and appearance of the skin by sloughing off the outer layers of the skin. They are effective facial treatments for improving blemishes, fine lines, wrinkles, and skin tone. During the treatment, a pre-determined quantity of the peel solution is applied to the skin for a specified amount of time. This is dependent on the type of chemical peel used, the concentration of the solution, skin type, and skin’s reactivity to the treatment. This solution works by reacting with the upper layer of the skin to efficiently dissolve the bonds that bind surface cells to the skin, ultimately revealing smoother, healthier skin underneath. While some peels are self-neutralizing, most formulas need to be neutralized with a buffering solution or water upon completion of the treatment. The goal is to create a controlled, safe injury to the skin, thereby promoting the skin to naturally repair itself and reveal newer, brighter skin.
The results of a professional chemical peel far outweigh the effect of an exfoliating scrub or brush. Best of all, chemical peels are appropriate for nearly everyone. It is a matter of knowing which chemical is best for your skin type and concerns.
Even a superficial chemical peel may produce a tingling sensation on the skin. However, this mild discomfort will typically subside once the peel solution has been neutralized. Deeper peels can feel quite active and may require the application of a numbing cream beforehand. In general, skin accustomed to the use of acids will tolerate stronger formulations.
A superficial peel can produce some redness, similar to a mild sunburn, which may last 3 to 5 days. The more intense medium and deep peels will result in noticeable redness, swelling, blistering (in the case of deep peels), and/or peeling for 7 to 14 days.
Immediately after a chemical peel, the skin becomes more photosensitive. It is absolutely necessary that a broad-spectrum sunscreen is applied daily post-treatment, and that sun exposure is avoided or kept to a minimum.
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How Often You Should Receive a Chemical Peel
When and how frequently a chemical peel is administered will vary according to the depth and concentration of the peel. Superficial peels can become part of an ongoing monthly skin maintenance program. Medium depth peels are generally done in a series of 3-6, while a deep peel may only be done once or twice a year. Any peel series should be done under the guidance of an experienced medical aesthetician or dermatologist.
During times of increased UV exposure or activity, deep chemical peels, or a series of medium depth peels should be avoided, as they will yield high sun-sensitivity in skin. Superficial chemical peels or lighter exfoliating agents are preferred.
Trust Only Licensed Medical Professionals
Although commonplace, chemical peels are strong and can have the potential for negative and unanticipated results. This may include scarring, swelling, infection, or discoloration. A consultation with a trusted Licensed Medical Aesthetician or cosmetic doctor is the best way to introduce chemical peels into your skin maintenance regimen. Your licensed skin care professional will work with you to determine a chemical peel treatment plan customized to your skin needs and may recommend a pre and post-treatment regimen to help prime and protect the skin.
Set up your consultation with our licensed Medical Spa staff by calling 678.566.7200. Appointments are available in Midtown Atlanta and Alpharetta.