Chemical Peels: Fact vs. Fiction

by Brigitta Melendy

If you’ve been looking for an effective way to rejuvenate and refresh your skin, getting a chemical peel might be the complexion fix you’re looking for. I have attached a list of myths and facts to help in deciding if a chemical peel is right for you.   Chemical peels work well for both men and women, at any age and are the ideal treatment for anyone who wants to restore a more youthful, healthy glow to their skin.  Everything from sun exposure and aging to acne and clogged pores can leave you with uneven skin tone, fine lines, scarring and a lacklustre complexion. If you want your skin to look smoother, younger and most importantly, vibrant, a chemical peel can make a significant difference.

(Continue)  Depending on what you want to achieve – a clearer complexion, smoother skin, minimized scarring, etc. there’s a perfect peel to suit your needs.  Peels formulated with Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and Betahydroxy acids (BHA) are the mildest form of peel (referred to as superficial peels).  Superficial peels are great for improving the appearance of sun-damaged skin or acne-prone skin, especially before big events.

A chemical peel isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment.  The term is a general classification for a number of chemical treatments used to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin. But regardless of the type you get, a chemical solution will be applied to the skin, and works by dissolving the upper layers of the skin (though typically during a chemical peel nothing actually “peels” off). As the tissue is dissolved, a wound is created on the skin which stimulates the body’s healing response, causing new (younger-looking) tissue to emerge, With a chemical peel you get some tightening of the skin, reduction of fine lines, improvements in brown spots, and a general resurfacing of the skin.  The depth and strength of the peel used varies based on the strength of the chemicals used and the length of time the solution is applied. The formula used will be adjusted based on your needs and skin type.

At-Home Chemical Peels -Glycolic acid and alpha hydroxy acid peels are some of the most common, and these are often sold for in-home use – just in lesser-strength concentrations than what you would get from a professional or a doctor’s office.  At-home chemical peels do offer convenience and a lower price tag, and some are effective at treating superficial skin concerns, but there is no substitution for the results you get with a professional. Done right, chemical peels provide exfoliation, skin rejuvenation and general skin tone improvement.  These results might sound great, but they aren’t guaranteed with an at-home treatment. A professional can do a much better job choosing a chemical peel that matches your skin type and the results you want to achieve. Something you buy over the counter may not be suitable to your skin type resulting in irritation, or worse.

 Chemical Peels: Biggest Benefits

  1. Diminishes fine lines, wrinkles: Creams, serums and lotions can only do so much. Chemical peels offer a fast-track to smoother, line-free skin.
  2. Confidence booster: There’s no quicker path to confidence than a smooth, glowing complexion.
  3. Minimal cost: Unlike spending hundreds of dollars on the newest anti-aging products, chemical peels offer concrete results at a reasonable price.
  4. Fast: Sometimes referred to as the “lunch time peel” chemical peels requires minimal down time, i.e. you can get one, and get back to your life without worrying about recovery.
  5. Reduced appearance of sun damage and melasma: Sun damage and melasma are two of the hardest skin concerns to treat, but chemical peels stimulate the skin to heal itself by dissolving the surface layers of skin. Through this process you trade damaged skin and dark spots for even tone and a smooth appearance.
  6. Improves texture: Chemical peels gently exfoliate the skin, increasing cell turnover, which leads to improved texture.
  7. Enhances collagen growth: Through the exfoliation process brought on by chemical peels, collagen production and cell renewal are stimulated, resulting in younger-looking, healthy skin.
  8. Vibrant skin: One of the fastest routes to a brighter, glowing complexion is a chemical peel.
  9. Acne and acne scarring: A mild chemical peel can help reduce the effects of acne on the skin and even minimize blemishes themselves.


  With any peel there are potential side effects.

  • AHA & Glycolic peels tend to be milder and the risk of side effects are usually just some mild redness and irritation following the treatment. If someone is using Retin-A or Retin-A like medications, including Retinol it will make a peel have a stronger effect, so you should tell your practitioner if you are using them.
  • TCA Peels will increase sensitivity to sunlight and avoidance of sun exposure is usually advisable for several weeks after the treatment. Wearing a sunscreen with a physical block is highly advisable following any chemical peel. There is also a risk of hypo and hyperpigmentation with TCA Peels, either a lightening or darkening of the skin.

Some common reasons for sensitivities are:

  • Client is premenstrual (7-10 days before cycle)
  • Client’s home care includes Retin A, Retinols and other exfoliators, including scrubs or enzymes
  • Client is on medication that slows the oil or sweat glands (ie: antihistimines and Accutane)
  • Client is allergic to aspirin (applies only to Salicylic peels)
  • Client consumes caffeine 2 hours prior to service
  • Client worked out 1 hour prior to treatment

Do note though, that the stronger the peel, the higher the chances for discomfort, redness and recovery time.  Your esthetician will work with you to find the perfect complexion perfecting concoction for you.  The desire for smooth, healthy, vibrant skin is universal, but achieving it doesn’t have to be daunting (or seem like a lost cause).

We know the words chemical peel can seem scary – here is a list of common myths:

Myth #1: All chemical peels are the same

Not all peels are created equal. “Chemical peel” is actually just a general classification for a number of chemical treatments used to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin. Some are stronger than others and they provide varying results depending on the skin-saving effects you’re after.

Myth #2: Getting a chemical peels means lots of downtime

Post-peel recovery time depends on the type and strength of peel you’ve had, but many don’t call for downtime. For example, the common alpha-hydroxy and glycolic acid peels have little or no recovery time.

Myth #3: Chemical peels don’t really do anything

If you think chemical peels are just another skin care promise that doesn’t deliver, think again. After all, Cameron Diaz, Halle Berry and the other bevy of Hollywood stars who reportedly love them can’t be wrong. Chemical peels can be effective for photo-aging, such as age spots and wrinkles, improving acne and modest acne scarring, and they’re also very effective at exfoliating and smoothing the skin, as well as improving skin texture.

Myth #4: Chemical peels are bad for you

The word “chemical” might not sound like something you should ever associate with your skin, but when performed correctly chemical peels are a safe way to improve your skin. Many chemical peels actually use naturally occurring acids found in fruits in the case of alpha hydroxy acid, and other foods like sugar cane in the case of glycolic peels.

Myth #5: Chemical peels hurt – If a peel is unbearable, then of course remove it.  Be sure you consult with your practitioner BEFORE you have a chemical peel.  There are certain circumstances that can cause discomfort.  (see above: ‘Some Common Reasons For Sensitivities’)

 Myth #6: You should only get one if you have skin problems

While there are chemical peels that specifically target acne, acne scarring or sun spots, the most popular use of chemical peels is for facial skin regeneration (i.e. getting your glow back), and they’re ideal for anyone who wants to improve the look of their skin.

Myth #7: They cause your skin to literally “peel off”

Contrary to what you might think, nothing actually ‘peels off’ during a chemical peel. A chemical solution is applied to the face, and works by dissolving the upper layers of the skin. As the tissue is dissolved, a wound is created on the skin which stimulates the body’s healing response, causing new tissue to emerge, which is smoother and has improved texture.

Myth #8: At-home chemical peels work just as well

There are some effective at-home options available, but the treatment you get in a physician’s office will typically be more concentrated and last longer.

Myth #9: Anyone can perform a chemical peel

Chemical peels are often performed at spas, but keep in mind that the person administering the treatment might not be as experienced as they should be. Any skin treatments should be performed either by or under the guidance of a board certified physician with knowledge of the skin to ensure optimal results and a safe procedure.

Myth #10: They take a long time

No time? No problem. Generally a chemical peel won’t take more than 20 minutes. The skin is cleansed and a chemical solution is applied. The specific amount of time your treatment takes will depend on the type and strength of peel, but the procedure is not usually a lengthy one.