Understanding The Different Types Of Chemical Peels: Which Is Right For You?

Last updated on : November 23 2022

She is having facial treatment.


Chemical peels are one of the most popular treatments to make your skin look great. People love them because they can fix problems like hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars, and other issues like signs of aging and sun damage. 

Although they will not remove all problems, chemical peels can give you a brighter look once your skin has healed from the procedure.

What Is A Chemical Peel?

An essential facet of understanding the different types of chemical peels for those who want to address aging and other skin problem involves understanding what a chemical peel does. 

This non-invasive procedure removes the outermost surface layers of skin to reveal newer skin underneath that is brighter and smoother. It involves applying specific agents, usually acids, to remove dead skin cells and dirt. 

In other words, it's a chemical exfoliation that reveals a more youthful and vibrant complexion. Essentially, chemical peels produce a controlled trauma to the skin that stimulates its natural peeling to improve texture in all skin types.

When you select a medical-grade peel, your aesthetician will customize your treatment plan to address your skin conditions and type. Each peel varies in depth of penetration and depth and addresses specific problems, including:

  • Acne scarring and blemish
  • Age spots and dark patches
  • Dull or rough skin texture
  • Melasma
  • Sun-damaged skin cells

After receiving a chemical peel, most people see significant improvement in skin texture and uneven skin tone. 

Three Main Types Of Chemical Peels

Getting treatment

Medical-grade peels fall into three main types: Light, medium, and deep chemical peels. Your doctor will recommend which skin peel type is appropriate for you, according to your specific skin problems. 

Light peels use diluted acids that slough off dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin to treat mild skin problems. Medium peels have slightly higher concentrations to treat more advanced issues like severe acne and hyperpigmentation skin tone. Deep peels remove several layers of skin via strong acids to address severe skin problems. Some patients may require sedation to undergo the procedure.

Your doctor may recommend one of several types of acids to peel your skin to improve your skin's condition. Skin texture, tone, and any problems also determine the strength of the peel. For example, hyperpigmentation requires a different peeling agent than a peel for fine lines and wrinkles. 

Patients with darker skin tones also require more gentle peels than those with lighter skin tones.

Light Chemical Peels

Also known as superficial chemical peels, these chemical peels use alpha-hydroxy acids or other mild agents to exfoliate the epidermis, the top layer of skin. 

During a light chemical peel, your provider will apply the solution with a brush, sponge, cotton ball, or gauze. A wash or neutralizing agent comes next to remove the chemical peel from your skin. Additionally, your doctor may apply a soothing ointment to protect the skin

A superficial chemical peel is ideal for those who want to improve rough skin and mild skin discoloration. You can also select a superficial peel to treat your neck, hands, or chest in addition to your face.

Here are the most common types:

Alpha Hydroxy Acid Peels

Alpha hydroxy acids peels are the gentlest type of superficial peel. AHA peels come in different forms, including citric acid, magic acid, lactic acid, and tartaric acid. The most popular is a mild form of glycolic acid that varies in strength to address sensitive skin and exfoliation.

Beta Hydroxy Acid Peels

Also known as BHA or salicylic acid, these superficial peels are ideal for those who want to reduce the appearance of blemishes or acne-prone skin. BHA peels penetrate the deeper layers of the epidermis by attaching to the body's natural oils. Thus, salicylic acid is excellent for oil control. It also clears out the pores, minimizes bacteria, and minimizes irritation from acne breakouts.

Jessner's Peels

These chemical peels can vary by strength and may be either superficial or medium, according to their concentration. Jessner's peels can also include mandelic acid to provide anti-inflammatory properties, phytic accident for sensitive skin, or lactic acid for brightening and hydration.

Vitamin C Peel

This treatment is sometimes called the peel with a difference. As one of the best-known defenses against free radicals, a Vitamin C peel neutralizes pollution, cigarette smoke, and UVA and UVB rays to prevent them from oxidizing. 

This peel also has anti-bacterial properties, making it ideal for acne sufferers, and it acts as a bleaching agent to help fade blemishes and restore skin tone.

Biorevitalizaton Peels

These peels, also known as PRX-T33, use trichloroacetic acid (TCA) to make your skin look younger. These chemical peels are proven versions of TCA peels often used to treat sun damage, fine lines, and wrinkles.

Medium Depth Peels

Medium-depth peels penetrate the epidermis along with the top portion of the dermis, the middle skin layer, to remove damaged skin cells. 

Doctors apply medium-depth peels using glycolic acid or trichloroacetic acid with gauze or a cotton-tipped applicator. A medium chemical peel treats fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, freckles, and moderate skin discoloration. They're also great for treating rough skin, actinic keratosis, and other precancerous skin growths. 

Once your doctor completes a medium peel, you may have a cool compress applied to your skin to soothe it. Your doctor might also recommend over-the-counter painkillers to manage pain.

Here are the most common types:

Retinol Peels

This form of vitamin A encourages the growth of new skin cells. As a form of alpha hydroxy chemical peels, it penetrates deep into your skin, where cells grow. 

Choose this chemical peel if you want to rejuvenate, hydrate and refresh your complexion. Retinol can help unclog pores and reduce acne breakout, allowing the skin to heal. It's also great for fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging.

VI Peels

This peel helps correct signs of aging by helping to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, dark spots, and acne scars. A VI peel is also gentle enough for use on the chest and back, using ingredients that include TCA, salicylic acid, and phenol. 

Patients with all skin types can get a VI peel as frequently as every four weeks. Among the ingredients used in a VI peel are:

  • TCA
  • Phenol
  • Vitamin C
  • Salicylic acid
  • Tretinoin

Deep Chemical Peels

More vital agents like phenol and trichloroacetic acid are used in deeper peels to penetrate your skin's middle layer to remove damaged skin cells. 

You will receive sedation via IV fluids during a deep chemical peel before your doctor applies the solution to your skin. The treatment involves using the acid on your skin at intervals of 15 to 20 minutes, turning the skin white or gray. 

Full facial deep peels generally take about 90 minutes. Once the deep peel finishes, your doctor will apply a watertight dressing to the skin and may also prescribe more potent painkillers.

Deep peels can only be done once on the face and not on other areas of the body because of the strength of the acids used. They are ideal for treating deeper wrinkles, shallow scars, freckles, and precancerous growths. 

Deep peels often provide dramatic results because of their penetration into the deeper layers of the dermis. 

Here are the most common types:

Glycolic Acid Peel

Glycolic acid, a form of alpha hydroxy acid, penetrates the most deeply into the skin because of its small molecular structure. It does the most thorough exfoliation, can remove sun damage, and brings a healthy glow to aging skin. 

Glycolic peels come in different intensities. All result in a smoother skin surface with clear pores and are the best choice for patients who want thorough exfoliation.

Phenol Peel

These chemical peels use carbolic acid as their peeling agent and produce the most dramatic results. Salicylic acid or resorcinol can combine with carbolic acids to reach the deeper layers of the skin. 

A board-certified doctor should only administer a phenol peel for safety and efficacy.

TCA Peels

Although it is also commonly used for medium peels with other agents like salicylic acid, trichloroacetic acid is used as a deep chemical peel when the percentage exceeds 20%. 

A deep TCA peel should only be administered by a medical professional. They target pigment irregularities, sun damage, deep wrinkles, acne scars, and precancerous skin growths.

Chemical Peel Healing And Aftercare

Superficial peels are the most commonly performed chemical peel procedures as they are the gentlest types resulting in significant improvement to your skin. 

Discuss the best chemical peel for your problems and skin type with your medical provider. Dramatic facial rejuvenation doesn't always need a medium-depth or deeper peel.

Note that the deeper the peel, the more recovery time you will need, along with a more significant after-care regimen. 

Healing time for chemical peels ranges from one to seven days for superficial peels. Medium-depth peels take seven to 14 days for healing, while deep chemical peels take 14 to 21 days, with bandaging often required initially. 

Always consult your medical provider if you have questions about understanding the different types of chemical peels.

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