Which Chemical Peel is Best For You

Chemical peels are wonderful alternatives to laser facials, which can be costly, and are a quick way to remove dead skin cells, fine lines, small scars, freckles, dark spots and/or skin imperfections caused by aging, hormones and the sun. They are controlled treatments to your face, neck and/or chest, and can be performed safely by a medical esthetician. However, the more intense peels will need to be performed by a physician.  Chemical peels are performed on an outpatient basis, and they are very effective in renewing the skin’s texture. Also, because peels slough off those unwanted dead skin cells, and force brand new fresh skin to the surface, it gives you the appearance of tighter, brighter skin and smaller pores.

There are 3 levels or grades of chemical peels, and it really depends on your skin color, texture, level of skin imperfections and elasticity to determine what chemical acid solution works best for you. In addition, your esthetician or doctor will determine if you need a stronger or lighter solution within each grade of the chemical peel.     

Lowest Grade: Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) Peel or Lactic Peel

These peels are more surface level, and they help with rough/dry skin and texture. This peel can also be mixed with skin bleaching agents to lessen dark spots or skin discoloration due to sun damage, hormones and aging. AHA peels take about 10 minutes, and you basically end up with what looks like a sunburn; the skin will be red, dry and you may or may not peel. It takes about 2 - 5 days to heal but you can go about your normal life without any real downtime.

Medium Grade: Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) Peel

This type of peel is used to treat fine lines, surface level acne and slight skin imperfections. The TCA peel takes about 15 minutes, and for darker skin, you may need two or more treatments spaced out over several months. After having this procedure, you can expect mild swelling, redness, crusting/scabbing and peeling. The downtime can be anywhere from 5-10 days depending on how quickly your face heals. 

 Higher Grade: Carbolic Acid or Phenol Peel

This peel is for coarse, deep wrinkles, and deeper darks spots and skin imperfections. The phenol peels are intense and can only be used on the face as it can scar the neck and other parts of the body. This peel needs to be performed by a physician because it does require general anesthesia and a sterile technique. Post-procedure, you will have heavy swelling; the eyes may even be swollen shut and you may need bandages that can be removed within 2 days. You will probably need some kind of pain medication, and you will not be able to wear makeup for two weeks. It is imperative that you stay out of the sun for at least 3 weeks as the skin is very susceptible to sun damage.