Published on July 28, 2023
But with so many options to choose from, how do you know which is the best chemical peel for you?
As you know, chemical peels come in different types and intensities. There’s no one-peel-fits-all kind of chemical peel. And if somebody tells you so, they’re probably trying to sell you something.
Mild skin concerns like dryness, acne, and uneven tone require light chemical peels. While more serious ones like deep acne scars and pre-cancerous growths may need more intense peeling.
To help you determine what type of chemical peel best suits your needs, you first need to understand how they work.
How Do Chemical Peels Work?
As the name suggests, chemical peel treatments use chemicals (typically acids) to exfoliate the skin surface and reveal the younger skin underneath.
You see, our skin’s surface is a depository of all the dirt, bacteria, and pollutants that you encounter every single day. They’re the first in line against the sun’s harmful UV rays too. Not to mention all the dead skin cells that accumulate in your pores.
Because of these factors, our skin’s surface layer tends to look older than the skin underneath. Most of the skin issues we have are also more visible on the skin’s surface.
Thus, peeling away the surface layer not only exposes the younger skin underneath. It also reduces the appearance of hyperpigmentation, acne, scars, and other skin issues.
As mentioned, there are different types and depths of chemical peels. You need to consider various factors like your skin tone and skin concerns to determine the best chemical peel for you. Different substances and chemicals can also be combined to maximize their effects.
Types of Chemical Peels
Here are some of the most common types of chemical peels and the skin conditions they can address:
1. AHA Peel
Best for dark spots, dry skin, and uneven skin tone
Alphahydrolic acid (AHA) is an umbrella term for a group of acids commonly used to exfoliate the skin. This includes glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid.
Often classified as superficial peels, AHA peels provide gentle exfoliation. It works by breaking down the gluey substance that’s holding the skin cells together. This, in turn, loosens the top layer of the skin, making them easier to scrub off.
This exfoliating effect encourages the production of new skin cells. As a result, you’ll get better skin texture, reduced blemishes, and generally smoother, younger-looking skin.
Since it’s milder than other chemical peeling treatments, AHA peels are generally recommended for those with sensitive skin.
2. BHA Peel
Best for acne and sun damage
Often marketed as salicylic acid peel, Betahydroxy acids (BHA) peels go deeper into your skin than AHAs. They help empty your pores of dirt and dead skin cells and dry out excess sebum. They’re also known for their antibacterial properties, which can help decrease inflammation.
Because of this, BHA peels are ideal if you’re trying to:
- get rid of acne
- regulate sebum production
- improve keratosis pilaris
- reduce rosacea-related redness
With long-term use, BHA peels can also help shrink your pores and prevent acne breakouts. Their drying effect also makes them more suitable for oily and blemish-prone skin.
3. TCA Peel
Best for hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and light acne scars
TCA peels use trichloroacetic acid, a type of acid similar to acetic acid. It’s considered a medium peel as it can penetrate deeper into your skin than AHA or BHA peels.
When applied to the skin, TCA works by coagulating and modifying the structure of the cells in your epidermis – the topmost layer of the skin. Though, depending on the amount applied, it may also reach the dermis – the layer underneath the epidermis.
With their cellular structure destroyed, your skin will start to disintegrate – eventually falling off after a few days.
This type of peel requires a few days of downtime, though. So you may want to plan your schedule in advance if you’re planning to get one.
4. Phenol Peel
Best for acne scars, severe sun damage, and pre-cancerous growths
Known as a deep peel, phenol peel penetrates more deeply into your skin than other types of chemical peels. It typically uses carbolic acid, an acidic yet sweet-smelling organic compound.
Since it can penetrate the deepest layers of your skin, getting a phenol peel usually requires weeks of pretreatment. It can also affect your skin’s ability to tan. As such, it poses a high risk of scarring and hyperpigmentation, especially for people with darker skin tones.
5. Retinol Peel
Best for skin rejuvenation
Retinol is a form of vitamin A typically found in most beauty products. Unlike most chemical peels, retinol peels don’t contain any type of acid.
But contrary to popular belief, retinol is not an exfoliant. It’s actually an antioxidant that helps repair and restores your skin. That’s why a typical retinol peel formulation also contains other exfoliating substances like AHA and BHA. Adding retinol enhances the rejuvenating effects you get from both exfoliants.
How to Choose the Best Peel For You
There are a lot of factors that can affect the effectiveness of a chemical peel. Here are some of the factors you need to consider to get the best results:
1. Your skin tone
You may not know this, but your skin tone matters when choosing a chemical peel. It can significantly impact the safety and effectiveness of the procedure.
People with darker skin tones (Fitzpatrick skin types IV-VI) have a higher risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) following a chemical peel. PIH happens when the skin produces more melanin in response to inflammation, leading to darker patches on the treated area.
Healing and downtime can also vary depending on your skin tone. Darker skin tones may take longer to heal and resolve redness than lighter skin tones, especially for deep peels.
Some types of chemical peels may also have more noticeable results on lighter skin tones than darker ones due to the contrast in pigmentation.
If you have a darker skin tone, it’s generally recommended to opt for superficial or medium-depth peels, as deep peels can cause more significant side effects, such as scarring and uneven skin tone.
2. Your skin type
Different skin types have varying sensitivities and responses to chemical agents used in peels. Some chemical peels can be too harsh for certain skin types.
For instance, people with sensitive skin tend to experience redness and irritation even with light chemical peels. While those with normal skin can better tolerate even aggressive types o peels.
To optimize your chemical peel results while minimizing the risk of any side effects, you can also opt to tailor the treatment to your skin type.
3. Your skin concerns
As I said, the skin concern you’re trying to address also matters when choosing a chemical peel.
Mild discolorations like light acne scars and dark spots can improve with AHA/BHA or TCA peels. So do other concerns like dryness, uneven skin tone, fine lines, and wrinkles. While severe skin damage like melasma and rolling acne scars require more aggressive treatments like phenol peels.
If you’re suffering from melasma and you opt for a glycolic acid peel, you probably won’t see any results. The same goes if you are trying to get rid of light acne scars and you booked a phenol peel. Instead of improving your skin, you’ll only be subjecting it to unnecessary damage.
4. Certain health conditions
Since chemical peels use acidic and sometimes very harsh substances, they’re not for everyone. Doctors generally advise against it if you:
- are pregnant
- have a tendency to develop keloid scars
- experience frequent and severe outbreaks of cold sores
- are taking or have taken oral anti-acne medications
- are diagnosed with auto-immune diseases
5. Your schedule
Obviously, the more aggressive a chemical peel is, the longer it will take for your skin to heal. Sometimes, it can take a couple of days to a couple of weeks. In most cases, the peeling and redness will only become more noticeable a day or two after the procedure and will continue for several more days.
This means you need to commit to it, especially if you’re considering a medium or deep chemical peel. You need to clear out your schedule for a few days or even weeks to allow your skin to heal properly. Besides, going out in public with strips of skin literally falling off your face isn’t exactly a sight to behold.
Make the Most Out Of Your Chemical Peel
All in all, when considering the best chemical peel for you, be sure to select one tailored to your individual skin concerns. Do your research and consult with a professional aesthetician. Also, be sure you understand what kind of pre and post-treatment is necessary for the type of chemical peel you’re going for. This will help ensure successful treatment outcomes and beautiful results!
At Aesthethouse, our experienced staff has decades of combined experience helping others find the right chemical peel solution for their needs. We offer a variety of peels customized to every client’s budget and expectations. So why wait? Book a consultation with us today and put your best face forward!
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About The Author
Judy Ponio has been writing about health and beauty topics for years. As an experienced writer, she makes sure to only use information from reputable sources and peer-reviewed studies. Her writing has also appeared on various US-based sites.