Try a Chemical Peel for a Clearer Complexion
Don’t worry, chemical peels aren’t as scary as they sound — and they might just be the key to a smoother complexion.
Ever wish you could shed your blemished skin in exchange for a flawless complexion? Well, we might have a solution for you: the chemical peel, a process that uses chemicals to remove damaged skin and kickstart the skin cell regeneration process.
While they can be extremely effective in revivifying complexion, especially for people with light acne scars and wrinkles, chemical peels aren’t for everyone. We’ll walk you through the basics, and help you determine if this process is right for you.
What Are Chemical Peels?
Essentially, a chemical peel is a procedure that speeds up the skin’s natural exfoliation process through the application of — you guessed it — chemicals. An aesthetician will apply a chemical solution to the skin’s surface, inciting controlled tissue death, and then will wipe the solution from the skin. Stronger chemicals, naturally, will result in more damage. Following the peel, the skin regenerates as younger cells rise up from the skin’s deeper layers. Afterwards, patients can expect their skincare products to work more effectively without the dead skin cells that had been impeding their penetration.
Chemical peels have come a long way in recent years. Aestheticians are now able to concoct customizable chemical solutions to address specific concerns. There are even salicylic acid peels especially for patients with acne, which leaves traces of the acne-fighting ingredient for long-lastingly clear pores. In addition, whereas in the past people with light hair and skin were the only ideal candidates for peels, there are now products that are safe to use for every skin shade.
Since the procedure involves highly concentrated chemicals, peels are best done by a professional. That comes with a (wide-ranging) pricetag: a peel can cost anywhere between $65 and $1,500 per session, and some patients need several treatments depending on the strength they choose.
Choosing a Chemical Peel
Typically, chemical peels come at three different strength levels, each with a different chemical agent to induce peeling. A peel’s pH level indicates how deeply the peel will penetrate into your skin — the more acidic the peel, the more irritation you can expect to see following the procedure.
Superficial or light peels use the gentlest chemical solution to minimize fine lines, wrinkles, sun damage, and acne. With an active ingredient of alpha hydroxy or beta hydroxy acids, superficial peels only remove the top layer of skin and thus result in minimal recovery time — usually just a tingling sensation and mild flaking of the skin easily disguised with makeup. Most patients undergo a series of treatments to achieve noticeable results.
Using trichloric acid to peel deeply, medium depth peels produce more immediately dramatic results than light peels — but are accompanied by increased discomfort and at least a few days worth of swollen, itchy skin. Since they use stronger chemicals, these peels penetrate into the lower layer of skin (the dermis) and can combat sun damage, pigmentation, and wrinkles. Unlike superficial peels, medium peels tend to hurt during application — providers often use cold compresses and fans to cool the burning sensation.
It follows that deep peels, the strongest type of chemical peels available, come with even more dramatic side effects and recovery time. Deep peels use phenol to remove skin cells from the epidermis and deeper into the mid-to-lower layer of the dermis. To deal with the pain of a deep peel, patients are given oral sedatives, pain relievers, or even general anesthesia.
Remember: a skin peel isn’t a cure-all. While peels are helpful for improving skin tone, texture, and hyperpigmentation, they must be accompanied by a robust skincare routine. If you’re considering a one-time deep peel, be sure to consult a qualified dermatologist to be sure you’re a good candidate for the procedure.