Chemical Peels 101 - Things to Know Before Getting a Chemical Peel.

As we transition into cooler weather, many patients begin to ask how they can address the damage done to their skin from the summer sun. Chemical peels are the third most popular cosmetic treatment performed in the world and are one of the most popular treatments in our office for sun damage and pigmentation.


Chemical peels use an acidic solution that is applied to the skin to remove the damaged top layers, speed up cellular turnover, and boosts collagen growth for a brighter, more even-toned complexion. By creating a controlled injury at a specific depth, chemical peels stimulate new skin growth to improve the skin's texture and appearance. Chemical peels use an acidic solution that is applied to the skin to remove the damaged top layers, speed up cellular turnover, and boosts collagen growth for a brighter, more even-toned complexion. By creating a controlled injury at a specific depth, chemical peels stimulate new skin growth to improve the skin's texture and appearance.


Peels can effectively treat issues such as acne, acne scars, age spots, melasma, hyperpigmentation, rough skin, sun damage, fine lines, and wrinkles. Though primarily for the face, they can be applied to the neck, décolletage, and the top of your hands.

Chemical peels exfoliate the skin by dissolving the bonds between old skin cells, allowing them to shed. This in turn makes way for fresh, new skin cells and helps thicken skin by encouraging healthy growth.


So, how much does one peel when they get a chemical peel done? The extent of chemical exfoliation depends on the type of acid used and its concentration. Chemical peels typically fall into three main categories: superficial, medium, and deep peels.

Superficial peels

These peels are ideal for first-time peelers and people who have delicate skin. These peels lightly exfoliate - typically with a low-strength lactic, salicylic, and/or glycolic acid - to clear pores, smooth the skin and give it a radiant glow.


Medium Peels

Medium peels affect both the epidermis (surface layer of the skin) and the upper layers of the underlying dermis. These peels are best for treating pigment irregularities, acne scars, and moderate sun damage, including deeper wrinkles. In our office, we offer the Perfect Derma Peel

and the Enlighten RX peel.


Deep Peels

While we don't perform deep peels in our office, a deep chemical peel is phenol-based formulas that penetrate down to the lower dermal layers to address severe sun damage and scarring (including acne scars) and tighten skin. Deep peels can be rather painful and usually require local anesthetic plus sedation. They also come with an extensive downtime - about two weeks of swelling, peeling, crusting, and oozing. Skin sensitivity will be heightened, so strict sun avoidance post-peel is a must. Despite being painful and the uncomfortable side effects of deep peels, the results can be transformative.

  • Example of a deep peel is the Phenol Peel

  • Instead of doing deep chemical peels in our office, we provide an alternative treatment called Co2 Laser Resurfacing.


Perfect Derma Peel Before and After

There are many different types of chemical peels on the market that are designed to address a wide range of issues, meaning there is bound to be a chemical peel out there the can benefit most people. In a private consultation with Dr. Chaudhary, she will recommend an acid solution with the strength and depth best suited for your specific skin concerns and skin types.


It's important to note that chemical peels aren't a suitable option for all skin times. Patients with a darker skin tone are not good candidates for chemical peels as these can hyperpigment, or worse a serious burn. Instead, we have our patients with darker skin tones pretreat their skin with hydroquinone and Retin A to prevent hyperpigmentation.



You should begin to see improvements in your skin ton and texture as post-peel symptoms subside. Your complexion will continue to improve over time, with final results visible within about three months. Depending on the strength of the peel you receive and your at-home skincare habits, your results could last anywhere from several months to around 10 years (after a deep phenol peel).


Generally speaking, you can get a superficial peel once every few weeks until you achieve your desired results. Medium peels require more downtime in between, but follow-up treatments can both improve and prolong the results, whereas Deep peels can only be performed every two to three years.


A lot of the exfoliating acids featured in chemical peels are available in over-the-counter products, which tend to be milder than in-office versions. Typically the strength of an at-home chemical peel depends on the concentration of the acid solution itself and the overall pH of the product. There currently are no regulations governing the maximum allowable percentages of acids that are used in at-home skincare products. Still, current recommendations from the CIR - The Cosmetic Ingredient Review, a panel of scientists responsible for determining ingredients safely in the U.S. - advise using 10% of less glycolic and lactic acids and no more than 2% salicylic acid in DIY peels.


Unfortunately, we've had patients go online and buy more potent acids meant for professional use, and end up burning themselves and causing irreversible scarring. When you are online, for safety's sake, purchase only products that are sold specifically for at-home use, and never leave chemical solutions on for longer than instructed.


According to the American Academy of Dermatology, combining other aesthetic treatments with chemical peels can lead to better, longer-lasting results.


We know that the peeling process can be stressful to go through, so our office recommends getting a Signature HydraFacial MD treatment post chemical peel to help remove dead skin and rehydrate. Getting treatments such as Dysport/Botox or dermal fillers in conjunction with a chemical peel is also very common among aesthetic practices. Peels treat the skin's surface, while injectables are placed deep within it or even below it, resulting in no interference.


If you're considering having a microneedling treatment in addition to a chemical peel for overall skin resurfacing, space those treatments out at least two weeks apart. Applying chemical solutions to microneedled skin is risky because the tiny channels that have been created from the mirconeedling would let the acid penetrate more deeply than it should.



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