Types of Chemical Peels

by Amy Pusey
(last updated December 11, 2017)

Imagine looking years younger and having facial skin that is glowing, unblemished, and with barely visible fine lines. Those are exactly the goals of chemical peels, a facial technique developed by dermatologists. Treatments involve the application of a variety of chemicals directly to the skin surface that essentially burn off the dead skin cells. These chemicals are typically derived from sugar and fruits, as well as vinegar.

Chemical peels can be harsh to sensitive skin, and although home kits are available, you are better off having them administered by a medical professional. An improperly applied chemical peel can leave you with second degree burns, or permanent scarring. The best approach to getting a chemical peel is to first have a consultation with a dermatologist. A medical professional will explain in detail the benefits and risks of chemical peels. They will also determine the type of chemical peel best suited to your needs based on the evidence of imperfections and overall sensitivity.

While chemical peels will greatly improve the appearance and texture of your face, they are not a cure-all for problematic or already severely damaged skin. Some of the factors chemical peels will not do include:

  • Act as a face lift
  • Eliminate the presence of surface blood vessels
  • Effect total pore size, although they may improve
  • Remove keloidal (red, raised fibrous tissue) scars

There are three categories of chemical peels available for consideration. The peel should be selected with the guidance of a professional according to your skin care needs. They include:

  • Superficial Peels. These are typically rather mild and designed for use with all skin types. Generally, the peel involves the use of a weaker acid, such as glycolic acid.
  • Medium Peels. These are stronger and more penetrating than superficial peels. They intentionally cause second degree burns to the skin surface. Usually, trichloroacetic acid is used in these peels.
  • Deep Peels. Penetrating several layers of the skin, these peels also cause second degree burns. The acids used are very strong and used only on the face. As they have been linked to other health conditions, many professionals will not perform these peels.

The acids used for administering chemical peels can be defined by four specific groups, and include the following:

  • Alphahydroxy Acids: The mildest of acids available for use in chemical peels at present. Usually conducted in a short treatment, and is often referred to as the 'lunch hour' peel.
  • Betahydroxy Acids: Oil soluble acids that are best suited for improving conditions caused by bacteria, such as acne, inflammations, and certain forms of dermatitis.
  • Trichloroacetic Acids: This is a stronger acid used in medium peels. They are very effective and results are longer lasting than the mild peels. Healing may take one to two weeks.
  • Phenol Acids: These are harsh and deep penetrating chemicals. Due to certain health risks, they are used infrequently. Question your dermatologist rigorously about safety concerns if this is the type of peel recommended to you.

Chemical peels have a lot of benefits to offer. The goal is to do your homework and discuss your options with a certified dermatologist. The last thing you want to do is to obtain a chemical peel without knowing the specifics of each type, as well as what reaction the chemicals will cause once applied to your face. After all, it is your face and if you use the wrong peel you are the one who will have to walk around for a few weeks looking like a cherry tomato. So, be safe, learn the facts, and choose wisely according to your needs.

Author Bio

Amy Pusey

With over 18 years experience in operations and human-resource management, Amy Pusey uses her skills in her consulting and freelance writing activities. She is a freelance writer for Tips.net, as well as a resume writer for GreenThumbResumes.com. ...


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