Remember Samantha’s red-faced nightmare in SATC? The chemical peel had left her skin so raw, it hurt just to look at it. Sam made the most of it, but the rest of us were left wondering, is a chemical peel worth it?
Yes, yes, yes! If it’s younger-looking skin you’re after, a chemical peel can get you there. Without making you look like a burnt lobster.
Sam’s reaction to the peel was extreme (drama makes good TV). When done by a professional, a chemical peel is one of the safest procedures you can have.
Here’s the complete guide to chemical peels, including what to expect before, during and after:
What Is A Chemical Peel?
A chemical peel is an exfoliant on steroids. They use exfoliating acid, like lactic and glycolic, to remove dead cells, unclog pores and rejuvenate skin.
What sets peels apart from OTC exfoliating serums and toners? For starters, they contain higher percentages of acids. You’ll rarely find more than 12% glycolic acid OTC, but in a chemical peel, it can be as high as 70%!
The pH is different, too. Chemical peels have a pH of around 2, low enough to allow these acids to penetrate skin deeper and exfoliate better. The catch? Low pHs are more irritating. For this reason, it's usually best to have your first peel performed by a professional.
What Does A Chemical Peel Do For Your Skin?
A chemical peel makes you look younger. Once those pesky, damaged dead cells are off your skin, your complexion looks smoother, brighter and sexier.
Here’s what a chemical peel can do for your skin:
- It fades away dark spots and hyperpigmentation
- It helps treat some types of acne
- It improves skin texture and tone
- It minimizes the appearance of acne scars
- It reduces fine lines and wrinkles
- It unclogs pores
What Are The Different Types Of Chemical Peels?
You can divide chemical peels in three families based on their strengths:
- Superficial peels: You probably know them as “lunchtime peels” - you can do them in your lunch break because there's no downtime. They use low strength salicylic and lactic acids that only penetrate the superficial layers of your skin to exfoliate away minor imperfections, like mild discolourations. Our 40% Lactic Acid Chemical Peel is a good example.
- Medium peels: They use medium strength glycolic acid to penetrate more deeply into the skin and fade away wrinkles, dark spots and superficial scarring. Our 50% Glycolic Acid Peel is considered a medium strength peel.
- Deep peels: The most aggressive type of chemical peel, they use much more invasive types of acids, such as TCA, to reach the deeper layers of your skin where collagen is made. This means they not only remove the dead surface cells, but they also take a little bit of the living cells beneath. But they really boost collagen production, reduce deep wrinkles, fade away dark spots and even treat severe scarring. They definitely cause irritation, peeling, even scabbing, and have the longest downtime. We do not recommend doing deep peels at home yourself, you should always use a professional for these types of peels.
What’s In A Chemical Peel?
So, what ingredients can strip away dead cells and perform this peeling magic? Here are the most common:
- Lactic acid: The gentlest member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) family, this exfoliant smoothes out newly formed wrinkles and fades away minor discolorations. It’s suitable for all skin types, even sensitive.
- Glycolic acid: The smallest member of the AHA family, it penetrates skin deeper than lactic acid. This makes it more effective, but also more irritating. Glycolic acid is the best at-home type of peel for increasing collagen production, brightening the skin tone and reducing acne scars.
- Salicylic acid: This oil-soluble exfoliant goes where the other acids can’t… Inside your pores. Ideal for oily skin, it unclogs congested pores, gets rid of blackheads and whiteheads and helps treat acne.
Do Chemical Peels Have Any Side Effects?
Yes and no. It depends on the strength and type of peel you use.
With a superficial peel, you’re unlikely to experience any side effects. At the moment, you can expect a little redness. It’ll fade away within a few hours.
Medium and deep peels can cause peeling and redness for up to 10 days. Don’t schedule any important meetings/events right afterwards… unless you don’t mind attending them with a red face (literally!).
FYI, all types of peels can cause a little tingling. That’s totally normal and easy to tolerate. If the tingling turns into stinging and starts to hurt, tell your aesthetician/doctor immediately.
How Do You Prepare For A Chemical Peel?
A couple of days before you have a chemical peel, go back to basics with your skincare routine. Cleansing, moisturizing and sunscreening (is that a word?) are ok.
Active ingredients are not. Stay away from retinoids (including prescription tretinoin), Vitamin C or any kind of exfoliation.
These actives can make your skin more sensitive to the peel and increase the chance of side effects.
What Can You Expect During A Chemical Peel?
A chemical peel is a simple procedure. Here’s how it goes:
Step 1: Cleanse your face to remove every trace of makeup, dirt and anything else that can prevent the peel from penetrating your skin. If needed, you can follow up with toner.
Step 2: Apply a small amount of the peel to cleansed skin. Leave on for as long as your skin can take it. Depending on how sensitive it is and how strong the peel is, one or two minutes is more than enough.
Step 3: Rinse off with cool clean water to neutralize the peel. Pat dry (don’t rub skin now!).
Step 4: Apply a gentle moisturizer, like our Pure Emu Oil, to protect and soothe skin.
How Do You Take Care Of Skin After A Chemical Peel?
After a peel, you can’t go straight back to your skincare routine. Your skin’s been through a lot and feels really delicate. You need to be extra gentle with it. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Wear sunscreen: Stripping away all those layers of dead cells makes skin more prone to sun damage. If you skip the sunscreen now, you just did the peel for nothing. Pile it on!
- Go back to basics: Keep your skincare routine as basic as possible. A cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen are all your skin needs now.
- Avoid harsh ingredients: Yes, this includes retinol, Vitamin A and any exfoliant/scrub. Give your skin a few days to recover from the peel before you add these antiaging superstars into your skincare routine.
Wrapping It Up
A professional chemical peel helps you fade away acne scars, wrinkles and dark spots. Just remember to treat your skin gently before and after to maximize results.