A Complete Guide to Chemical Peel Types

Have you done chemical peel treatment before? Or is it your first time? In any case, you deserve the best, and exfoliating can bring your skin back to life after abusive long-term sun exposure. There are three types of chemical peel available in the market, ranging from superficial to deep solutions. Keep reading to find out which one might fit your needs.

What is Chemical Peel?

A chemical peel is an acidic solution applied to the skin to remove the upper layers and stimulate the growth of new cells. After completing a series of treatments, you’ll notice significant improvements. Your skin becomes smooth, firm, and brighter. The old scars and stubborn post-acne marks will finally leave your face, and I bet you won’t miss them. Depending on your age and concerns, the specialist determines the type of peel that would suit you best. As a rule of thumb, superficial peels are used on young skin to improve texture irregularity and even skin tone. A medium peel penetrates into a deeper layer, working with acne scars and wrinkles. Deep chemical exfoliation might be the right choice for mature skin, as it reduces prominent facial lines and sun-damage discolorations.

Chemical Peel Types

Superficial Chemical Peels

If your skin looks dull and dehydrated, you should draw your attention to a superficial peel. It is the fastest way to restore normal water balance and improve textural imperfections. In addition, light peels eliminate minor skin discolorations, smooth wrinkles, and help get rid of acne. The positive aspect of such treatment is that it rarely causes adverse reactions. Many dermatologists call it “weekend peel” because it will take less than a couple of days to recover completely.

The most common superficial peels include 10-30% salicylic acid, 10-30% lactic acid, 30-50% glycolic acid, 40% mandelic acid, and 50% pyruvic acid. They all have slightly different effects and should be used depending on your skin type and concern. For example, if you have sensitive skin, you may try mandelic acid because it is the mildest peel. Glycolic acid suits those who experience dryness and flakiness. People with acne prefer pyruvic acid because it regulates sebum production and provides a keratolytic effect.

Superficial peel only removes the outermost layer of the epidermis because its concentration is relatively low. It ranges from 10% to 50%. The esthetician applies the solution to a well-cleaned skin just for 2 to 10 minutes, followed by a neutralizing agent. This procedure is gentle, but you still have to stick to post-peeling care. Avoid using makeup and washing your face within the first 24 hours. It is generally advised to have a series of five peels to get the full effect of the treatment. However, you can repeat the procedure every four weeks during cold months.

Can I Do Superficial Chemical Peel at Home?

If you don’t have time for in-office procedures, you can perform similar treatment at home. Our team collects the most effective peels you can use on your own.

30% glycolic acid is an excellent choice for aging skin. It hydrates, improves skin tone, and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. The formula is also enhanced by retinol and green tea to fight acne and stubborn imperfections.

10% lactic acid is for those who want to start incorporating peeling into your skincare regime. It gently exfoliates dead cells, smoothes facial lines, and fades dark spots. The product suits all skin types and provides spa-like effects from the comfort of your own home.

Do you struggle with acne and blemishes? Try this peel! 20% salicylic acid helps you flush excess sebum, unclog pores, and weaken acne bacteria.

This product consists of 20% mandelic acid derived from bitter almonds. It provides benefits ranging from exfoliation to enhancing hydration and firmness. Try this peel if you have sensitive skin because mandelic acid is the most gentle acid among AHAs.

Medium Chemical Peels

If you are in your mid-30s with the first signs of aging, persistent pigmentation, or stubborn acne, welcome to the club of medium chemical peel lovers. This type of exfoliation is more aggressive than superficial peel, but it brings more exciting results. The medium peel acts deeper. It affects the entire epidermis and causes a second-degree burn. For your safety, you should undergo this procedure only in a medical setting.

Once you’ve done your pre-treatment exam, your dermatologist may recommend you to use 0.025–0.05% tretinoin for two weeks before treatment. This step is important because retinoids can enhance the healing process and reduce the duration of treatment. For people with darker complexions, a health care provider may advise using 2-4% Hydroquinone to prevent the darkening of the skin during treatment.

The most popular medium peel treatments include 35 to 50% trichloroacetic acid (TCA) alone or at 35% in combination with 70% glycolic acid. The esthetician applies the solution to the skin and leaves it until Level II to III frosting reaction (ashy appearance on the skin). In the end, the peel is neutralized to restore the pH level of the skin. After such a procedure, proper post-care is crucial.

Your skin will likely turn red or brown as soon as you leave the medical office. This is a normal process of desquamation that typically lasts for a week. During this period, you should avoid wearing makeup and follow special precautions in washing your face. Find more detailed information in this article: “How to Wash Your Face After a Chemical Peel?” The effect of the medium-depth peel is quite long-lasting, so it is typically performed as a one-off procedure.

Deep Chemical Peels

Deep peel treatment demonstrates the most impressive results, but it is also traumatic and may cause some unwanted reactions. To be honest, this procedure is gradually losing its popularity. Many clinics have replaced it with lasers, as they have a low chance of complications. Still, we would like to discuss it because deep peel has been used successfully for nearly half a century. 

The treatment is carried out only under anesthesia in a hospital setting. Prior to the procedure, you will undergo a medical examination to determine your health status. It is highly important to inform your medical provider about existing chronic diseases, intolerance, and allergies. The doctor educates you about risk factors and post-peel care.

The most reputable deep-depth solution is the Baker-Gordon phenol peel. It has two methods of application: occluded and unoccluded. In the occluded method, the doctor covers the treatment area with a dressing to achieve maximum penetration. It is beneficial if the patient has deep, furrowed rhytides and severe photodamaged skin. The unoccluded method is gentler and provides less exfoliation. It doesn’t involve covering; instead, the specialist applies more peel solution and does more skin cleansing.

After the procedure, you need to take two weeks off because your skin requires extra care. During this time, your face turns very red because the upper layer of the skin begins peeling off. Complete healing may take up to six months. Your doctor provides you with instructions that you should strictly follow to avoid infection and speed up the regeneration.

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