There is no debating how amazing modern-day beauty treatments are, but not many stop to realise how strange they actually sound. We’ve seen some of the weirdest (albeit coolest!) innovations in the past few decades alone – light beams entering your face, subjecting yourself to needle pricks, sporting a face mask that looks straight off a Star Wars film – all these things done in the name of beauty. We’re pretty sure our ancestors would never have imagined these things happening! Surprisingly enough, all these seemingly unusual treatments actually work wonders for the skin. Underneath all the complex rituals are simple skin processes doing their natural thing to bring about newer, smoother, brighter, overall better skin. Another perfect example – chemical peels!
Unlike IPL skin rejuvenation, microneedling, and LED light therapy, a chemical peel treatment doesn’t involve any of those fancy devices or advanced technology. Quite the opposite, it has all the makings of a traditional treatment with just you, your dermatologist or skin therapist, and some skin care products. However, what happens afterwards (and inwards!) is when the real magic begins – peeling, peeling, and more peeling, revealing a new layer of fresh, soft, and blemish-free skin!
For people who have tried this type of treatment, the peeling process itself is extremely satisfying (therapeutic even!), and the aftermath is more than rewarding. But for skeptical eyes and worried faces, the combined thought of chemicals and peeling may sound less than appealing. To that, we say: Keep an open mind and read this article! Here we share everything you need to know about chemical peels – the benefits, the side effects, and the different variations you can explore for certain skin types. You may just end up convinced to book a session for yourself!
How Do Chemical Peels Work?
Chemical peel treatments use a special solution that works to enhance the skin in many ways. They come in different types, either in the form of a single solution or a combination of several. Whatever the case may be, they offer distinct benefits related to skin tone, skin texture, and skin impurities in your clogged pores. Once applied over your face, so begins the slow but sure process of skin renewal. The chemical solution will exfoliate the top layer of your skin – the epidermis – where dullness, discolouration, and uneven texture happens. By sloughing off this skin layer, the chemical peel gets rid of acne, blackheads, whiteheads , shallow sun spots, and dry skin. More intense peels will penetrate to deeper skin layers, addressing more serious skin issues like scarring, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation.
The entire procedure takes around 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the type of chemical peel you get. Some people may experience slight stinging and discomfort especially for deeper peels, but they should subside within the day. Plus, you’ll be given soothing products to keep your skin calm after the process. The next few days will mostly be a waiting game – you’ll see visible changes in your skin’s texture and colour, which are all positive signs of the beauty that’s to come! As your skin goes through its natural regeneration, you’ll start to shed your old skin cells, giving way to new and better quality skin! Pretty cool concept, don’t you think?
These days, anyone can get their hands on at-home chemical peels offered by popular skincare brands. Although they are effective, remember that they are also very potent, and applying them at strong-enough concentrations leaves little room for error. In other words – be wary of over applying and subsequent irritation! The best and safest option would be to get your chemical peel done by a professional. For starters, we encourage you to book a consultation with our skin therapists to discuss your specific skin condition before getting your treatment. That way, we can recommend the type of chemical peel and solution suitable for you – and that brings us to this next section.
Chemical Peel Types and Benefits
Chemical peeling treatments are classified into three types: Light, medium-depth, and deep. Knowing the difference lies in two main factors: (1) The acids and enzymes used, and (2) strength of their ingredients.
First off, it is important to note that not all peels contain the same ingredients. They are typically made of a combination of enzymes and acids, which serve unique purposes. Enzymes work on the outer surface of the skin to target dead skin cells and deliver immediate results. Acids, on the other hand, penetrate the pores to address deeper skin problems, the results of which take longer to manifest. Depending on your skin goals, your skin therapist will customise a combination and concentration of these ingredients. Here is a quick overview of the most common ones:
- Fruit enzyme: Used in light peels
- Glycolic acid: Used in light and medium peels
- Salicylic acid: Used in light and medium peels
- Tricholoacetic acid: Used in medium and deep peels
- Phenol or carbolic acid: Used in deep peels
In terms of strength, the rule of thumb is this: The higher the concentration of ingredients, the stronger the peel. Thus allowing you to experience more benefits, but also more side effects. This can range from mild with zero downtime for lighter peels – to more intense changes with deeper peels, which often require the use of anesthetics and antibiotics, and days to weeks of recovery.
Now that you’re more familiar with the basics of how a chemical peel works, here is a comprehensive rundown of the different types:
Light Chemical Peel
A light peel penetrates the topmost layer of the skin to enhance its appearance superficially. It is recommended for those who want to rejuvenate their skin without the downtime. Light peeling solutions are usually made of natural enzymes or light solutions with low concentrations of salicylic acid or glycolic acid. This type of professional peel is so quick and non-invasive that you can get it in between office hours!
Benefits of Light Chemical Peels
- Reduces blemishes
- Addresses uneven skin tone
- Sloughs off dead skin cells
- Controls pimples and breakouts
- Salicylic acid peels, in particular, help control sebum production to prevent acne
- Recommended for: All skin types
Side Effects of Light Chemical Peels
- Downtime: Minimal to zero, with no need to take time off your usual activities
- Risk of infection: Low
- During treatment: Sensation ranges from very mild heat to minor stinging and discomfort
- After treatment: Mild peeling, slight sensitivity, and temporary redness, which will disappear after a few hours to a couple of days
- Recovery period: A few days to a week at most
- If you have sensitive skin: Side effects are more evident, but they shouldn’t take long to subside
Medium Chemical Peel
Medium chemical peels go a little deeper than light peels, seeping through the papillary dermis to address skin conditions the latter can’t resolve. People who will benefit most from medium chemical peels are those with slightly more jarring skin issues, such as melasma, shallow acne scars, and superficial signs of aging.
Benefits of Medium Peels
- Lightens and brightens discolouration caused by sun damage
- Helps to address hyperigmentation issues like melasma
- Smoothens out shallow acne scars
- Reduces wrinkles and fine lines
- Recommended for: Those with more specific skin issues
Side Effects of Medium Peels
- Downtime: You must avoid sun exposure, public pools, and heavy exercise during recovery
- Risk of infection: Higher than light peels but manageable overall
- During treatment: Stinging, burning, and discomfort, which ultimately depend on your skin sensitivity and pain tolerance
- After treatment: Peeling, redness, itching, crusting, and swelling in treated areas
- Recovery period: A few days to two weeks
- If you have sensitive skin: Side effects may be more bothersome, in which case it is important to consult your dermatologist or skin therapist about the right skin care products for your skin type
Deep Chemical Peel
While light and medium peels can be done in beauty salons and spas, deep chemical peels must only be performed by a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon. It is considered an invasive procedure as it penetrates the deeper layer of your dermis, also called the reticular dermis. The benefits of a deep peel are particularly appealing to those with severe skin issues like deep-set scarring, sun damage, and skin aging. However, they do come with huge risks, therefore requiring sedation during the procedure, and maintenance medication afterwards.
Beyond cosmetics, a deep peel is sometimes recommended to remove precancerous growths on the skin before they become problematic. If a deep peel is not possible to address your skin issue, your dermatologist might suggest laser therapy.
Benefits of Deep Peels
- Treats severe acne scars
- Treats deeper levels of skin aging that cause wrinkles, crow’s feet, and marionette lines
- Reduces discolouration from severe sun damage
Side Effects of Deep Peels
- Downtime: You must avoid sun exposure, public pools, and heavy exercise during recovery
- Risk of infection: High, which is why you are typically advised to take antibiotics and antiviral medication post-treatment
- During treatment: Intense stinging and burning sensations
- After treatment: Peeling, redness, severe swelling, continuous pain or throbbing in the treated area
- Recovery period: Two weeks for new skin to surface, but full recovery may take up to 6 months as this new skin is still sensitive to sun exposure
- Not ideal for those with sensitive skin
For a more in-depth guide on chemical peels for specific skin conditions, feel free to check out our articles below!
Are Chemical Peels Bad For You?
Now, let’s address this common misconception. Chemical peels are definitely not a bad thing! It’s pretty obvious by now that they pose a slew of benefits for a variety of skin conditions – from brightening the complexion to improving more serious skin texture problems. If performed by a professional, you should have nothing to worry about. However, while it is generally not bad, it is not always the RIGHT treatment. That said, the bigger issue is knowing if it is the most suitable option for your skin type, which unfortunately for some people, isn’t the case. Here are some indicators to determine whether you’re an ideal candidate or not.
Who Should Get a Chemical Peel
Chemical peels are most ideal for people troubled with the following issues: Uneven skin tone, sun damage, dark spots, discolouration, acne scars, fine lines, and wrinkles. That’s not to say that chemical peels are limited to those with problematic skin. Light enzyme peels can be a good monthly treatment for anyone looking to gently exfoliate the skin and give it a boost!
Who Should NOT Get a Chemical Peel
Deep chemical peels are not recommended for people with darker skin due to their high levels of pigment, the protein that gives their skin color. When exposed to strong acids, they may experience new skin that is lighter in colour versus their original complexion. Those with extremely sensitive skin may also want to opt for a treatment with more gentle ingredients, or at the very least, a lighter peel that targets only the surface.
Now, keep in mind that these are just general guidelines to follow. As always, the safest approach would be to get a personal assessment from a professional before any treatment. With all things considered, let’s end with a mandatory list of do’s and don’t when it comes to chemical peels. These tips will help you maximize the benefits while lowering the side effects as much as possible.
Do’s and Don’ts Before and After a Chemical Peel Facial
- Prepare your skin at least two to four weeks before treatment, depending on the type of peel you are having. During your consultation with us, we will provide you with instructions on what to do before your treatment. As an added measure, make sure to let us know if you are allergic to anything. That way, we can prepare our treatment plan as well!
- Inform our skin therapist if you’re experiencing any allergies or discomfort during the procedure.
- Follow the advice of our skin therapists on the right way to care for your skin after a treatment.
- Always use a professionally recommended sunscreen and reapply every 2-3 hours when exposed to the sun. Better yet, wear a wide-brimmed hat, too!
- Don’t try to perform a chemical peel procedure at home. While it may seem easy, you are dealing with potent products.Trust us professionals to do what they do best!
- Don’t expose yourself to the sun, heat, pollutants, and other harsh environments.
- Don’t pick at peeling or crusting skin. Just let it run its course to prevent scarring and injury.
- And lastly, don’t overdo it! You may have an enzyme peel weekly if you wish, but medium peels should be done at least a month after while deep peels should only happen once a year at most.
Book Your Chemical Peel Facial
Our skin therapists at Lovoir Skin Body & Beauty are at your service! We offer a variety of Skin Therapy Facials that make use of O Cosmedic Peels, each varying in ingredients and concentrations to address different skin types and conditions. If you’re ready to take the plunge, start by booking a consultation with us and we’ll be happy to create a treatment plan for you!