Let’s talk skin

What Is Chemical Peeling Of The Skin? – What You Should Know!

Spread the love

Does the thought of a chemical peel fill you head with all kinds of horrific scary images? For some people they think of it as peeling off a layer of their skin and taking all the bad things with it, revealing a new them beneath and they can’t get enough of them but for others it sounds like the stuff nightmares are made of.

Maybe it’s something you’re interested in but would like to know more, so what is chemical peeling of the skin? Does it really hurt? Are you going to loose half your face and come out looking like something of Nightmare on Elm Street! Read on to find out all you need to know.

What Is A Chemical Peel?

A chemical peel is a treatment used to improve your skins texture and tone.

An acid is applied to your skin to lower the PH, which loosens the connections between dead skin cells, inducing exfoliation and stimulating new cell growth.

This process causes superficial layers of dead skin to peel off, revealing a smoother and more radiant complexion.

Chemical peels can also thicken the epidermis, (the top layer of our skin) increase dermal volume (the middle layer of our skin) and stimulate collagen.

Chemical peels have been used dating back to ancient Egypt when Cleopatra used sour milk to improve the appearance of her skin, according to some sources.

Lactic acid(an alpha hydroxy acid) is the active ingredient in milk.

What Chemicals Are In A Chemical Peel?

Some common peeling ingredients include alpha hydroxy acid (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), and retinol.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) include glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid and mandelic acid.

Salicylic acid is the only beta hydroxy acid BHA.

The strength of a chemical peel is determined by the type of ingredients used, their concentrations and the PH of the formulation.

AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acids)

These acids work on breaking down the bonds that hold the dead skin cells together, they increase cellular turnover, simulate collagen and elastin production leading to firmer looking skin.

Lactic acid derives from milk and helps reduce skin inflammation.

Glycolic acids naturally found in sugar cane penetrates rapidly into the skin.

BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) Salicylic Acid

Related to aspirin is anti inflammatory, oil soluble and great for oily acne skin.

Trichloroacetic Acid TCA

This can come in various strengths and any TCA peel above 10% is considered a medium to deep peel, this should only be performed by a medical professional.


This is a deep peel and requires anasthetic and sometimes sedation.

Is Chemical Peeling Good For Your Skin?

As we age our skins natural cellular turnover slows down, having regular chemical peels is a great way of speeding this up.

They exfoliates the dead surface cells bringing the healthy new cells to the surface.

Peels also boost the skins natural collagen and elastin production which slows down as we age thickening the skin.


What Are The Different Types Of Chemical Peels?

Chemical peels are classified as light (superficial), medium, or deep, depending on the depth of penetration of the ingredients used.

Light peels exfoliate to various levels of the epidermis.

The skin may gently peel for a couple of day but you can wear makeup as normal the following day.

Medium depth peels penetrate through the papillary dermis and deep peels to the mid reticular dermis.

You will experience red/brown scaling of your skin that will peels away over a week sometimes more depending how deep.

Deeper peels require more down time and increase the chances of side effects. Recovering from a deep peel can take weeks.


What Are The Benefits Of Chemical Peels?

Peels can improve skin texture and firmness, decreasing fine lines and wrinkles.

Peels also even out skin tone, improve acne prone skin and reduce the appearance of pore size.


What Are The Side Effects Of Chemical Peels?

Following a chemical peel it is normal to experience

  • slight redness
  • mild flaking
  • tightness
  • dryness
  • itching

Possible Complications

  • Extreme swelling
  • Allergic reaction
  • hyper pigmentation
  • hypopigmentation

Can Anyone have A Chemical Peel?

Chemical peels are not recomended for anyone;

  • Currently taking Roaccutane
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding
  • That has a coldsore or herpetic breakout
  • Skin infection
  • Open wound
  • Sun burn
  • Had a chemical peel in last 14 days
  • had laser hair removal in last 14 days
  • Had Botox® in last 7 days
  • on prescription retinoids

Why is your skin colour classification important when having a chemical peel?

Instead of classifying skin as oily or dry, the Fitzpatrick Skin Classification uses skin colour and hereditary background to determine a persons tolerance level and what treatments will work best on their skin type.

While a lighter skin type at the top of the scale is more sun sensitive, they are more resilient to exfoliating treatments because their skin produces less melanin than darker skin types.

This means skin types at the top of the scale can generally tolerate more aggressive treatments, whereas skin types at the lower end of the scale require more gentle treatments to prevent hyper pigmentation.

It would also be advisable to avoid too much sun exposure, use a high protection SPF and products containing melanin suppressors before and after a chemical peel if you have a skin type of Fitzpatrick IV or above.

How Long Does A Chemical Peel Last?

Results from a superficial peels can give an instant glowy, dewy appearance but you may need to repeat every 3-4 weeks to maintain, a medium depth will last longer and a deep peel although will have a long recovery time results should be long-lasting.

Are Chemical Peels Painful?

A superficial to medium depth peel shouldn’t be painful, you might experience a warm feeling on the skin which soon subsides.

Deep Phenol Peels and deep TCA peels on the other hand are in a completely different league and these do require an anesthetic and even sedation.


Can You Chemical Peel From Home?

You can do your own chemical peels from home and there are some pretty goods ones, if you are looking for a natural way to make your own chemical peel click here for more information.

Enzyme peels can be great to do yourself from home.

Like a chemical peel an enzyme peel is also used to improve skin texture and appearance.

Enzymes are applied to the skin which loosen the connections between dead skin cells, inducing exfoliation and stimulating new cell growth.

Enzyme peels both nourish and exfoliate the skin and are usually made from fruit enzymes like papain found in papayas and bromelain found in pineapple.



Final Thoughts

If getting a chemical peel is something you’ve been considering, I hope this has helped, never go to a practitioner that isn’t properly trained in the procedure and find out what their credentials are prior to your appointment.

Anything deeper than a superficial peel should be carried out by a health care professional.

If you’re wanting to avoid the Nightmare on Elm Street look, I’d probably steer clear of the Phenol peel but a superficial to medium depth isn’t at all scary or painful.

Please leave me your thoughts and experiences, have you had a chemical peel before or are you considering having one? Let me know in the comments below.