Chemical Peel Benefits: The Different Types and Their Effects

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cheemical peel benefits

You have probably tried conventional peels at home. They will give you smooth and pure skin in a short time, even after only one application.

Chemical peels go one step further and are more effective in reducing scars, pigment spots, enlarged pores, and giving the skin a fresh and vigorous appearance.

But what are the greatest chemical peel benefits for face and what results should you expect after each type of treatment?

Chemical peels explained

Your top layer of skin renews about every 28 days - all by itself. You can support your skin in this process with chemical peels. The formula used in this procedure not only removes dead skin but also cleanses your pores, stimulates blood circulation, and ensures a radiant appearance. That's why chemical peels belong to every healthy skincare routine.

In brief, chemical peels are the application of acidic agents to the skin. They are mostly used on sun-damaged skin or thickened surfaces. The acids should lead to your collagen production being set in motion, which will result in a firmer skin texture after the regeneration phase.

What are the benefits of chemical peels?

Chemical peels have the ideal basis for skin which offers many great results that cannot be obtained through other procedures. Here are the main chemical peel benefits:

  • Dead skin cells are removed so that the peeling ingredients can work intensely.
  • By removing dead skin cells, pores will stop clogging, which will also prevent impurities from developing.
  • With the correct formulation of acids, chemical peels can work milder than mechanical peels (rub-off peels, cleaning brushes) and are therefore also ideal for sensitive skin types and those affected by rosacea as well as people who suffer from inflammatory impurities.
  • Most chemical peels for sun damage are effective in reducing melasma, pimple marks, pigment spots, etc.
  • Enlarged pores will return to their original size and appear finer and smaller.
  • Fine lines are optically minimized after only one session.
  • The lack of dead cells will give your skin a "glow" effect.

Types of professional chemical peels

Light peeling: Patients who just want fresher, more radiant skin are well advised to use a light peeling option. This works more on the surface of the skin. The treatment is usually carried out with fruit acids or glycolic acid (AHA acid).

 With a fruit acid or glycolic acid peeling, the top layer of dead skin cells is removed so that the underlying skin cells can regenerate. The skin is better supplied with blood, determining new layers of skin appear.

In addition, light peeling treatments stimulate the formation of new supporting connective tissue. As a result of the treatment, the skin becomes tighter and firmer, and is better able to retain water, so it is supplied with moisture, which is one of the greatest chemical peel benefits.

The light chemical peeling treatments with glycolic acid also have different levels. There are glycolic acid preparations of different strengths. The correct dosage for the particular skin type is examined prior to treatment and assessed by the attending physician.

This chemical peel should be repeated at regular intervals for a lasting improvement in the skin's appearance. Light peeling procedures with acids should be done every ten to fourteen days, because the effect increases with increasing frequency of treatment.

Medium-depth peeling:  Anyone who has a deeper skin issue - for example scars or pigment disorders - should try a chemical peel that affects the dermis. In contrast to the rather superficial method, medium peels also affect the inner layer of the two main layers of the skin.

It can compensate for acne scars and irregularities in pigmentation. Impurities and acne are also removed or at least greatly minimized with such a medium-depth chemical peel. The medium-deep peeling treatment is carried out with trichloroacetic acid (TCA).

Depending on the acid concentration, the preparations can penetrate deeper into the skin - 10% to 15% of TCA solution causes superficial peeling of the epidermis. A 15% to 35% TCA solution, on the other hand, penetrates deeper. The doctor is the only one who can decide the concentration of TCA, depending on the complexion and the problems that need to be treated.

With a TCA peeling, the skin is subjected to what is known as "frosting". The skin turns greyish-white after applying the solution. Not only does the intensity of the solution vary, but also the strength of the application pressure. The whiter and thicker the "frosting" in the sequence, the greater the effect that results from the depth of penetration.

Is a chemical peel safe when using TCA? Even though for the most part this substance is harmless, there are still some contraindications. Patients with an acute inflammation of the skin areas to be treated - a herpes infection or a tendency to keloid (proliferating scarring) - are excluded from a peeling treatment with TCA. This moderate peeling procedure is also not indicated during pregnancy and breastfeeding, or after extensive sunbathing.

Deep chemical peels: In some cases, the superficial and medium-depth chemical peeling procedures are not enough to achieve the desired effects. Therefore, the deep chemical peeling process is able to achieve a profound effect even in the lower layers of the skin.

The most commonly used ingredient for deep peeling treatment is phenol, a very powerful acid that penetrates into the lower layers of the skin. Sometimes a single treatment is enough to smooth out deep wrinkles. However, with this comparatively aggressive method, the suitability must be checked individually. Anesthesia is mandatory with a phenol peel.

Is a chemical peel safe when using phenol? The answer is yes - but only for those who have been recommended for a deep peel by their doctor. There are various contraindications for which a deep peeling of the whole face with phenol must not be carried out. These include severe heart disease, liver and kidney problems and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. A peeling treatment with phenol is also not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

In addition, the treatment method is not suitable for dark skin types. Phenol has a lightening effect, which is why it must never be used on these skin types. Otherwise, the peeling will significantly lighten the entire skin of the face.

The different types of acids and their effect

Your skin type plays a vital role in you choosing the right chemical peeling procedure, and it is crucial for the ingredients used. Therefore, because they can have a slight, superficial, or medium to deep effect, the acids used for peeling can be roughly divided into three categories:

1. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA)

The group of alpha-hydroxy acids include fruit acid, lactic acid, or mandelic acid. The size of the molecules of the acids is decisive for the effectiveness of your peeling.

Fruit acids have the smallest molecule size and therefore exfoliate the most thoroughly. On the other hand, lactic acid and mandelic acid have larger molecules and therefore cannot penetrate as deeply into the skin.

Peels that use AHA acids improve the skin's texture, stimulate collagen production, bind moisture for more freshness and elasticity and reduce brown spots and delicate acne scars. To see an improvement in the complexion here, you have to use this method regularly. AHAs are natural acids obtained from food, and come in different forms:

  • Lactic acid
  • Glycolic acid (found in sugar cane)
  • Citric acid (from citrus fruits)
  • Malic acid (from apples)
  • Mandelic acid (from bitter almonds)
  • Tartaric acid (from grapes)

2. Beta hydroxy acids (BHA)

BHA acids basically have the same effect as AHA ones. However, they mostly consist of salicylic acid, which has lipophilic properties. This acid will cleanse your skin pore-deep and frees it from blackheads, old sebum, and fat. With regular use, it should even be able to prevent the pores from clogging completely.

Thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties, BHA acids are often milder than fruit acids. So if you have sensitive skin, this variant is better for you. Although the most common form of BHA is salicylic acid, there are also a few derivatives of it used in chemical peels:

  • betaine salicylate
  • sodium salicylate
  • beta hydroxybutyric acid
  • willow bark extract
  • tropic acid
  • trethocanic acid

3. Polyhydroxy Acids (PHA)

PHA acids are even more lipophilic than salicylic acid and, at the same time, are great antioxidants that reduce light sensitivity and can even absorb UV rays. While PHA has practically the same anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties as BHA, it does not penetrate as deeply into the skin. There are three most common types of PHAs acids:

  • gluconolactone
  • galactose
  • lactobionic acid

PHA acids are very suitable for sensitive skin and are particularly effective against impurities.

Recovery for each type of chemical peeling

After a light peeling, the skin needs between 1 and 7 days to regenerate. The area of ​​skin treated may temporarily be lighter or darker than the surrounding skin.

For a medium-depth chemical peeling, it takes about 48 hours for the skin to begin peeling. This process can last up to 7 days. It takes about 7 to 14 days for the treated area to recover. Redness of the skin can last for weeks or months, but it can be hidden with make-up.

After a deep peeling, the skin begins to die off after about 3 days. It turns brown, peels, and crusts form. To avoid scars, they should not be removed manually. After a few weeks the skin has regenerated.

It usually takes 2 weeks before you can go back to your normal everyday life. The reddening of the skin lasts for about 6 to 8 weeks, but can be hidden beforehand with proper make-up products. After about 6 months, recovery is complete.

Possible risks and side effects

As with any procedure, performing a peeling carries certain risks and has some contraindications. A chemical peel should not be carried out if there is a tendency to impaired wound healing, an acute herpes infection, pregnancy, oral treatment with vitamin A acid preparations or recent cosmetic operations.

In general, the skin heals very nicely after a peeling. In very rare cases, despite all caution, some side effects can occur, which must then be treated appropriately.

  • Scarring
  • Temporary pigmentation disorders
  • Inflammation
  • Increased sensitivity

Severe redness and irritation are also common after this treatment. If irritation persists or if severe pain occurs, you should definitely consult your doctor.

How to get the most out of chemical peels

The correct use of chemical peels, especially for beginners in matters of skincare, depends on several factors. Here are some application and aftercare rules for chemical peels to get the most out of their positive effects:

  • If you have never used acids before, start with the lowest concentration (around 2-5% for glycolic acid, 5% PHA) and increase it slowly.
  • Slowly means starting to use chemical peel every 3rd day. After about 2-3 weeks (depending on the degree of sensitivity of your skin), increase the frequency to every other day.
  • Your skin will tell you for itself whether daily use of chemical peeling makes sense - redness or burning is a sign of 'too much'. In such cases, you can either reduce the concentration or the frequency of use. Daily chemical peeling is usually not necessary, unless you are using a very weak formula.
  • With this in mind: watch your skin! If it is irritated, reduce the frequency or concentration of the exfoliating agent immediately and wait. If the skin calms down, start with point 1.
  • Use chemical peels only in the evening.
  • In the same skin care routine, do not combine chemical peels with other potentially irritating products, such as retinol.
  • Sun rays are the number 1 cause of premature skin aging, which is why using SPF protection is always recommended. An anti-aging care program without a daily application of sun protection is therefore pointless. If you regularly use chemical peels, this will slightly reduce the skin's own protection from UV light.


If you want to avoid surgical interventions, injections or lengthy laser therapies to combat wrinkles, enlarged pores or acne, you can improve your skin with a chemical peel.

All things considered, chemical peel benefits are numerous and may vary depending on the treatment used, skyn type, and aftercare. Before attempting any type of chemical peel, it is important to go through a consultation with your doctor to find out which one is right for your skin. This way you will avoid the side effects and you will enjoy the desired long term effects.


How dangerous are chemical peels to use at home?

The first time you use a chemical peel at home, be aware that even mild products are powerful acids. In the event of improper use, permanent skin damage such as severe chemical burns, irritation, pigmentation disorders, flaky skin areas, or extreme dryness can occur. It is therefore advisable for beginners or those with skin problems to consult a professional in advance.

How often can you get a chemical peel?

A new treatment is possible after a few weeks or months, depending on the peeling, and in many cases it is also useful to achieve further improvements. However, in the case of deep chemical peels, a single application should be enough.

 What should be considered after the peeling?

In the first 3 hours after the peeling, neither water nor cosmetics should get onto the peeled areas, especially vitamin A supplements. Avoid the sun during and up to two weeks after the procedure or, if necessary, apply a highly effective sunscreen (sun blocker, at least a 20 SPF, better higher). After the recovery period, it is recommended that you have follow-up treatment with special care products (for example, with low-concentration glycolic acid) to maintain the success achieved.

 Can you combine the peeling with other methods?

In many cases this is possible and even beneficial. Pretreatment with botulinum toxin can be useful when using a peeling to smooth out wrinkles. A wrinkle injection after a peeling can further improve the result achieved.

When can I go back to my usual activities?

A regeneration period of a few days or up to 2 weeks is necessary after a chemical peel. Visits to the sauna and solarium should be avoided for a few weeks. Moreover, after a chemical peel, strict light protection is necessary for a certain period of time.


Dr. Sidhu
Dr. Ramandeep Sidhu

Author - Dr. Ramandeep Sidhu

SPECIALTIES: Percutaneous aneurysm repair, endovascular treatment of peripheral arterial disease, treatment for varicose veins, open vascular surgical procedures, deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism treatment and aesthetic services.


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