The Benefits Of Chemical Peels For Your Skin

Sometimes, a good skincare routine isn’t enough to fight the signs of ageing. When this happens, it is tempting to start thinking about skincare treatments that are stronger than anti-wrinkle creams. The hope is that they can offer you better results for longer. Chemical peels are one such popular aesthetic treatment that many people turn to when they want to enhance their skin. However, beyond the hype, do chemical peels actually work and what benefits do they have on your skin? In this guide, we explore everything you need to know about chemical peels and benefits they can give.

What is a chemical peel?

Although very common in modern aesthetic treatments, chemical peels date back to Ancient Egypt, when women would cover their skin in sour milk to help rejuvenate their complexion. While they may not have known why it worked, it could have had some visible results as sour milk contains lactic acid — an alpha hydroxy acid which can help improve your skin. 

These days, we don’t use sour milk in our chemical peels — but we do use acids to help exfoliate the skin. A chemical peel is essentially a mixture of different chemicals that are applied to the skin. The aim of this is to take off the top layers. This is then reveals the brighter and healthier skin underneath. That’s why they can work well for people who want to treat uneven skin discolouration, smooth rough texture or reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They can also help in the treatment of acne and acne scars

Types of chemical peels

There are three different types of chemical peel — superficial, medium and deep. Each one works slightly differently. This is because the ingredients used in the peels will change depending on how deep the peel needs to go. 

Superficial chemical peels 

Superficial chemical peels work at the top layers of the skin and can contain low concentrations of:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Glycolic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Mandelic acid
  • Phytic acid

Medium chemical peels

Medium-depth chemical peels work a little deeper than superficial feels and hence are better for addressing skin concerns like acne, hyperpigmentation, texture and ageing. The most common types of medium depth peels often include:

  • Trichloroacetic acid
  • Jessner’s Solution — this is a mixture of different chemical compounds such as lactic acid, salicylic acid, and resorcinol
  • Alpha Beta Peel – this is a mixture of alpha and beta hydroxy acids
  • Higher concentration salicylic or glycolic acid peels

Deep chemical peels

Deep chemical peels are the strongest peel you can get. They usually contain Phenol which is sometimes also called carbonic acid. This is usually a one-off treatment but you need to have it done under sedation. As such, these should only be done by qualified and experienced doctors such as plastic surgeons or dermatologists.

How do superficial peels work?

Superficial chemical peels are the least strong of all the peels. This is because they involve gentle low-concentration acids like glycolic and lactic acid. These are both alpha hydroxy acids, which won’t penetrate the skin as deeply as medium or higher-concentration peels but can still target the surface layers to help improve your complexion. For oily skin, beta hydroxy acid peels containing salicylic acid work best as they dissolve in the oil and so can reach pores. Enzyme peels such as papain and bromelain are great if you want a gentler less irritation option. 

The healing process isn’t as long or intense as other peels, as the surface layer of your skin can repair itself pretty quickly. There may be a little redness which usually goes down in a few hours.

The ingredients of a superficial chemical peel can help to boost your hydration and lessen the appearance of wrinkles. Many people often notice that their skin has a healthy glow about it after having a superficial chemical peel, as well as seeing an improvement in the dryness of their skin. 

Because superficial chemical peels only treat the surface of your skin, you may need multiple sessions to get your desired results and make them last longer. 

How do medium peels work?

Medium chemical peels reach slightly deeper than superficial peels because the ingredients used are stronger. Trichloroacetic acid and Jessner peels need to be applied by a registered medical professional. This is because these peels can cause skin damage if not done correctly. 

As trichloroacetic is quite strong, it’s not always recommended for people with sensitive skin. Even greater care has to be taken with medium to deeper skin tones to avoid post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and burns. However, it can be beneficial for those wanting to improve signs of skin ageing, scarring and hyperpigmentation of the skin. Similarly, Jessner peels are great at targeting the same problems that TCA peels can but are also effective against acne.This is because, in both types of peels, the acids will reach deeper into the skin and cause stronger natural exfoliation.

When you have a medium chemical peel, you may notice a lot more dryness and skin flaking during your recovery than you would with a superficial peel. It can take around a week of downtime for your skin to stop peeling but during this period you can apply lots of moisturizer to reduce the visibility of the skin shedding. In addition to brightening and smoothing your skin, the depth the acids penetrate can also help boost your collagen production, allowing your skin to look bouncy and youthful once healed. As with superficial peels, a course of peels 4-6 weeks apart is needed for noticeable results. How many peels you need will depend on your skin concerns, goals and how your skin responds to the treatment.

How do deep chemical peels work?

Deep chemical peels contain a strong active ingredient: carbonic acid. These peels are typically used for more serious skin issues and conditions, rather than for someone simply wanting a little more of a glow. 

For instance, deep acne scarring could benefit from a deep chemical peel as it will reach down into the deepest layers of the skin and cause natural exfoliation from that point. Using carbonic acid can also help to get rid of the damaged skin cells, helping lessen the appearance of scarring even more. 

Deep chemical peels will require a much longer downtime, and your skin will be extremely sensitive for a few months. This means you’ll need to take even greater care of your skin after a deep peel. 

They can also be a bit more uncomfortable than any other peel, as the acid is very strong. You should only ever have a deep peel done by an expert doctor. Also beware that you will likely needs to have this done under sedation. Never attempt these yourself or see an unqualified practitioner. 

Despite the tough process and long recovery, the results of a deep chemical peel can most definitely be worth it. This is especially true for people with severe skin concerns that could not be addressed by superficial or medical peels. The dermal regeneration and collagen stimulation that they offer is second to none, and no other skin peel can provide you with the same results. However due to the risks involved and other options such as skin resurfacing lasers, these peels are less commonly done.

Chemical peels benefits

Chemical peels for the face can offer your skin lots of benefits that you can’t easily achieve otherwise. The benefits can include: 

  • Reduction of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Combat acne
  • Lessen the appearance of acne scars
  • Improve your complexion by evening out your skin tone
  • Help with redness and rosacea 
  • Treat hyperpigmentation
  • Open your pores to allow for better absorption of skincare products
  • Tighten and plump the skin

There are so many ways that a chemical peel can help improve your skin, and your chosen aesthetic practitioner can help you tailor your treatment to target your concerns. 

Skincare alternatives to chemical peels

There are a number of skincare treatments that can act as an alternative to or boost the effects of chemical peels. These can simulate the exfoliating, brightening or skin boosting effects of peels.

Exfoliants gently remove the superficial layer of the skin, stimulating cell turnover. These include physical exfoliants, such as microdermabrasion or chemical exfoliants, like enzymes or acids. In general, chemical exfoliants are a gentler way to achieve this. They dissolve dead skin cells and are particularly good for those with sensitive skin or skin of colour.

Retinoids can accelerate cell turnover, boost collagen and unclog pores. This group includes retinol and prescription treatments like Tretinoin. They can address a number of skin concerns including hyperpigmentation, fine lines and acne. Another good ingredient to look out for is vitamin C. This a powerful antioxidant that protects the skin from free radicals. It repairs damaged skin cells and helps brighten the skin.

For those combatting dark spots, pigment suppressors might be a good alternative. Ingredients like arbutin and hydroquinone can inhibit melanin production. This helps to even out skin tone.

Booking a consultation

Chemical peels aren’t a new skin treatment, but as the science behind them has improved, so have their application and results. If you’re struggling with your skin’s condition and want to see an improvement, book a consultation with a medical professional at a reputable clinic. Be sure to discuss your concerns and goals before agreeing to any treatment. Get a clear idea of the risks, side effects and treatment plan so you know what to expect.

Here at City Skin clinic, we are passionate about personalised skincare. Through our virtual skin clinic, we offer safe and effective personalised skin treatments using actives like Tretinoin and Hydroquinone where appropriate. Our doctors can help you treat skin conditions like acnehyperpigmentationmelasma and skin ageing all from the comfort of your home! Book a virtual appointment or use our online skin consultation form today. The journey towards great skin starts here.