Chemical Peels: Types And Do They Really Make A Difference?

thA56UXJSR    If I were to walk into a spa today and be offered any service on the menu absolutely free – I would choose a chemical peel. Fortunately, as an esthetician and past business owner my personal supply of peeling agents is well stocked, but if it were not, without a doubt I’d be getting that peel.

Chemical peels are wonderful! During the years I ran my spa business, I probably did more chemical peels than any other service that I offered. After just one chemical peel treatment clients were immediately able to see results – there was always that WOW moment, I loved that! But just what is a chemical peel? What does it do? Which type of peel should you choose?  Let’s discuss!

As we age, dead skin cells do not slough off easily as when we were younger, causing the skin to appear dull. Light, medium and deep chemical peels are a popular cosmetic treatment used to peel away the skin’s top layer to improve sun damage, unevenly pigmented and wrinkled skin. Improving the evenness of color and texture in your skin creates a youthful look and restores a luminous and radiant appearance.

Chemical peeling involves applying a chemical solution to the skin to remove its outer layers. How much skin they remove and how deep they penetrate will depend on the type of peel used, its strength and how long it is left on. There are three types of peel: superficial, medium and deep. These have varying percentages of active ingredients and different PH levels. The percentage of a peel just indicates how much of the peeling agent is contained in the peel so a 15% glycolic acid peel has less glycolic acid than a 50% glycolic acid peel. What really matters when it comes to peels is their PH level. This indicates how deep the peel will penetrate into your skin and how much irritation you will get. The thing to remember is; the lower the PH, the deeper the peel. Anything above a 3 IMO is pretty much a waste of money, if being done by a professional. I’ve seen some spas charging upwards of $100 for a 20% glycolic peel with a PH level above 3 – that’s ridiculous. Now that you know what to look for, don’t be afraid to ask the percentages of the peel.

When to Consider Chemical Peels

  • If you have wrinkles or sun-damaged skin
  • If you have skin discoloration, blotchiness or brown spots
  • If you have scars that have made the service of your skin uneven
  • If you have certain precancerous skin growths.
  • Adult acne

Peeling Agents

Glycolic acid is the most common peeling agent. It comes in different strengths (30% – 90%) and different pH levels (levels of acidity) which will determine how deep it penetrates and how much peeling you get. It can be used to treat fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage, improvement of skin texture, skin brightening.

Salicylic acid is unique amongst the hydroxy acids in that it can penetrate deeper into the oil glands causing exfoliation even in the oily areas of the face and scalp, making it ideal for treating acne and oily skin.

Lactic acid occurs naturally in human skin and is also found in milk. It is less irritating than other AHAs and has a natural moisturizing effect on the skin. It is ideal for skin brightening. It can be used to treat pigmentation, dry or dehydrated skin, sensitive skin, rosacea.

Fruit enzymes can also be used as peeling agents. Commonly used fruit enzymes come from fruits such as papaya, pineapple, pumpkin and cranberry. They are anti-bacterial, promote cell renewal and can digest oil from spots (sebum) and dead skin. They can be used to treat acne, rosacea, dehydrated skin, hyper-reactive and sensitive skin.

Tartaric acid comes from grapes and is a less irritating alternative to glycolic acid for a milder exfoliation of the skin. It can also help increase hydration. It can be used to treat acne, photo damage, rosacea, superficial pigmentation, eczema.

Malic acid comes from apples and pears and like tartaric acid is a weaker AHA than glycolic acid. It can be used to treat acne, photo damage, rosacea, superficial pigmentation, eczema. Citric acid comes from lemons and oranges and works in the same way as tartaric and malic acids. It can be used to treat acne, photo damage, rosacea, superficial pigmentation, eczema.

TCA or trichloroacetic acid is a stronger acid than glycolic. It penetrates deeper into the skin and is usually used for medium depth or deep peels although it can be used at a lower concentration in combination with other acids for a milder peel. It can be used to treat skin tightening, fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars, large pores, hyperpigmentation.

Carbolic acid is found in Phenol peels and is the strongest type of peeling agent available. It is used for very deep peels. It can be used to treat deep lines and wrinkles, scarring, severe sun damage.

If you do decide to have a series of chemical peels completed, be sure to protect your skin from the sun, during and after treatments for a period of time. Refrain from using Retin-A products of any kind and all forms of exfoliation, during the series entire duration. (Retin-A, should not be used at all days prior to a chemical peel treatment).

If you have any questions on the subject, feel free to comment or send me an email @

*Don’t forget to follow Skin Chatter on FB 😉


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s