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Reveal Your Inner Glow: Unveil Radiant Skin

Chemical Peels are medical treatments that remove the top layer of your skin. This can help minimize wrinkles, dullness, hyperpigmentation, and scarring. Phillips Aesthetic Dermatology provides many different peels to treat all skin types. Chemical peels can also help with acne and rosacea. An initial consultation will help determine if a  peel is right for you. 

Reveal Your Inner Glow: Unveil Radiant Skin

Chemical Peels are medical treatments that remove the top layer of your skin. This can help minimize wrinkles, dullness, hyperpigmentation, and scarring. Phillips Aesthetic Dermatology provides many different peels to treat all skin types. Chemical peels can also help with acne and rosacea. An initial consultation will help determine if a  peel is right for you. 

Shed the Old, Embrace the New You…

Chemical peels are the third most popular minimally invasive cosmetic procedure in the country. Only Botox and Dermal Filler treatments precede chemical peels in this list making chemical peels the most popular skincare procedure in the United States. 

What makes chemical peels so popular? Perhaps the fact that they are versatile and customizable procedures that can help address a broad range of skincare concerns like acne, acne scars, hyperpigmentation, dark spots, sun spots, and age spots.

Here, we highlight everything you need to know about chemical peels: how they work, what conditions they treat, and which ones might work best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Chemical peels are acids used to exfoliate the top layer or layers of your skin encouraging skin to rejuvenate by chemical exfoliation. This exfoliation process penetrates deeper in the skin in order for the top layers of the skin to start peeling. This process improves, appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, skin tone, texture, and resiliency.

A peel — whether it’s performed at home or in the dermatologist’s office, exfoliates the skin’s dead, outer layers to reveal newer, presumably younger-looking, skin beneath. Most peeling solutions are keratolytics — meaning they accomplish their effects by chemically breaking down the bonds that hold dead cells (aka corneocytes) together.

Chemical peels (also known as chemical exfoliation) have been around since ancient times: even Cleopatra is alleged to have bathed in donkey milk (a rich source of lactic acid). In the past century or so, many peeling solutions have been developed and proven to be effective for addressing a variety of skin concerns.

Dermatologists evaluate which type of peel to use based on a patient’s skin type and concerns. Chemical peels can address myriad skin conditions, including:

  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
  • Melasma
  • Acne
  • Minor scarring
  • Solar lentigines (aka sunspots)
  • Fine lines
  • Freckles
  • Uneven tone/texture
  • Actinic keratoses (aka precancerous growths)

There are three depths of chemical peels:

  • Light/superficial: removes layers from the epidermis only, to varying degrees
  • Medium: removes the entire epidermis and into the papillary (upper) dermis
  • Deep: removes the entire epidermis, papillary dermis, and into the reticular dermis

The depth of a peel depends on a combination of factors, including:

  • Peeling agent
  • Concentration
  • Solution pH
  • Application technique
  • Duration of procedure (unless self-neutralizing)
  • Skin type + thickness
  • Skin health

Decades of research has shown that certain types of peels work better for particular skin types. Generally speaking, there is a chemical peel solution and depth that works well for every skin tone, from very fair to very dark — so seek out a provider who specializes in your skin type and concern. Though it’s best to have a dermatologist evaluate your unique skin, rules of thumb include:

  • Darker skin tones should avoid medium and deep peels
  • Lighter skin tones can tolerate deeper peeling
  • People who tend to develop hypertrophic, keloid, or hyperpigmented scars should avoid medium/deep peels
  • People with skin conditions like melasma, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis should stick to lighter peels
  • Those taking isotretinoin and certain other medications should not undergo chemical peels
  • Anyone with active herpes virus (aka cold sores) should not peel

The short answer: it depends. There are many different superficial peels available at over-the-counter strengths, addressing everything from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation to dullness. These are generally formulated to be safe and effective, when used as directed (and not too frequently). Check the product labeling for any contraindications for your skin type — and perform a patch test if you’re sensitive.

In between chemical peeling, or to get a feel for some of the ingredients used during a chemical peel, try experimenting with a product like SLMD AHA/BHA Swipes. These cotton rounds contain a solution of glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids to gently exfoliate, clear out pores, and fade excess pigmentation — no neutralizing necessary.

It’s worth noting that while you can easily find medical concentrations of chemical peeling agents like glycolic acid and TCA online, it’s never safe to try deeper treatments at home.

Even very superficial or at-home chemical peels can have side effects, particularly if you have darker skin and/or existing skin conditions — so it’s best to do your homework, and talk to a dermatologist if you have concerns. Definitely do not try the higher concentration peels that are readily available online and promoted on YouTube: you could end up permanently scarred.

After you get a professional chemical peel, you can expect to experience at least a few common side effects, including:

  • Sun sensitivity
  • Erythema (aka redness)
  • Peeling/flaking
  • Purging (temporary increase in acne)
  • Milia (white, cyst-like bumps)

Rarer and more serious complications can occur during or after a peel, like:

  • Infection
  • Blistering
  • Dyschromia (hyper and hypopigmentation, more common in darker skin)
  • Scarring
  • Temporary heart arrhythmia (during phenol peels)

Your dermatologist will walk you through what to expect during and after your treatment, and will likely give you instructions to help prepare your skin for a chemical peel. Depending on your unique situation, these steps may increase the likelihood of a successful result with fewer complications:

  • Retinoids: boosting cell turnover prior to a peel can yield more even results.
  • Skin lighteners: fading hyperpigmentation first can provide more dramatic change.
  • Antivirals: depending on the peel depth, herpes virus medication may be given prophylactically.
  • Medication: certain drugs (including isotretinoin, antibiotics and oral contraceptives) may need to be stopped for a period surrounding the peel.
  • Sunscreen: preventing UV damage both before and after a chemical peel is crucial.

It depends on the chemical peel suggested. Mild chemical peels have no downtime, or no peeling. For deeper, corrective peels you should expect 4-7 days of peeling downtime.

No, they are not permanent. Unfortunately, we can’t stop the process of aging but we can slow down the process of aging and age gracefully with corrective and maintenance chemical peels. We recommend following an at home skincare regimen with medical grade skincare products to help maintain your results. 

Typically a series of 3-6 chemical peels scheduled 3-4 weeks apart is suggested for corrective conditions. Another 3-6 for maintenance treatments with other exfoliation treatments in between is recommended to maintain results. 

Get started by visiting with one of our Master Estheticians to further evaluate your skin concerns and customize a treatment plan for YOU. Product or prepping treatments (mild peels, diamond glow, microdermabrasions) may be needed to prep skin depending on the severity of skin condition. Schedule your complimentary skincare consultation today by calling us.

  • Pregnant and lactating women.
  • Persons who are prone to keloid or hypertrophic scar.
  • Persons who have autoimmune diseases such as lupus, vitiligo.
  • Comorbidities such as cardiac conditions, diabetes.
  • Cold sores.

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