What is the Purpose of a Facial Chemical Peel? A chemical peel is a procedure that is typically used to improve the appearance of your skin. Chemical peels are performed by a dermatologist, plastic surgeon, or other licensed medical professional. The goal of a chemical peel is to remove damaged layers of skin and expose fresh new skin underneath.
Chemical peels can be performed on any area of the body where you want to improve your appearance. Chemical peels are most commonly used on the face, neck, hands and forearms. They can also be used on other areas including the chest, abdomen and buttocks. Chemical peels can be used to treat acne scars or wrinkles caused by aging.
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What is the purpose of a facial chemical peel
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A chemical peel is a restorative cosmetic procedure that may help reduce the signs of aging on your face.
During a chemical peel, a dermatologist will apply a chemical solution to your skin. This solution peels away damaged skin cells, allowing healthy skin to grow in their place.
This may help improve common skin concerns, such as:
- uneven skin texture
However, the exact results will depend on many factors, including the severity of your skin issues and the type of peel you receive.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the different types of chemical peels, their benefits, and what to expect during recovery.
What to know about different types of chemical peels
Your dermatologist can work with you to help determine whether a light, medium, or deep chemical peel is best for your skin and the concerns you’re looking to treat.
Light chemical peel
A light chemical peel, or superficial peel, will lightly exfoliate your skin. It only removes the epidermis, which is your topmost skin layer.
A light chemical peel is usually used for:
- fine wrinkles
- uneven skin tone
- dry skin
This treatment uses mild chemical agents, so it’s usually safe to get light chemical peels every 2 to 5 weeks.
Medium chemical peel
A medium chemical peel is slightly stronger than a light peel. It removes your epidermis plus the top layer of your dermis, which lies beneath the epidermis.
A medium peel is typically used for:
- uneven skin tone
- acne scars
You may need several treatments to get the results you want.
Deep chemical peel
A deep chemical peel removes your epidermis, along with the upper and middle layer of your dermis. It uses very strong chemicals, so you may need a local anesthetic before the procedure. This will help prevent pain and discomfort.
A deep chemical peel is best suited for:
- deeper wrinkles
- deeper scars
- precancerous skin patches
The effects of this peel can last for 10 years, so it’s done only once. You won’t need repeated treatments.
What are the benefits?
Chemical peels can improve many skin issues. Let’s look at some of the most common ones that chemical peels may help treat.
Acne is a common inflammatory skin condition. It’s often treated with topical products or oral medication, but chemical peels may also help.
The procedure can:
- break down comedones (plugged hair follicles)
- decrease oil production
- kill bacteria
- reduce inflammation
- increase absorption of topical treatments
Light and medium chemical peels are usually used to improve acne.
As acne heals, the skin creates new collagen fibers in an attempt to repair lesions that have been created by inflamed skin.
The production of new collagen fibers can create hypertrophic scars, which are bumpy and raised, or atrophic scars, which create depressions in your skin.
A chemical peel can help by exfoliating the top skin layer, which removes excess collagen. Medium chemical peels are typically recommended for acne scars.
Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition that causes redness, swelling, and red bumps. If it also causes acne-like breakouts, it’s known as acne rosacea.
Sometimes, a chemical peel can help relieve these symptoms. It’s typically recommended for mild or moderate rosacea.
Chemical peels may reduce signs of aging, including:
- fine lines
- age spots
- uneven skin tone
- liver spots
When skin grows back after a chemical peel, it triggers the production of collagen and elastin. This can help make your skin supple and strong, reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
The new skin that grows back is also smoother, which helps decrease roughness and dryness.
Chemical peels aren’t recommended for removing deep wrinkles, however. It also won’t tighten sagging skin.
In addition to acne scars and age spots, chemical peels can improve other forms of hyperpigmentation, such as:
- uneven skin tone
- surgical scars
- scars due to injury
- discoloration due to sun damage
If you have a dull complexion, you may benefit from chemical peels.
The treatment allows new skin to resurface, which may help your complexion look brighter and healthier.
Actinic keratoses are rough skin patches caused by years of sun exposure. They’re known as precancerous growths, since they can potentially turn into skin cancer.
A deep chemical peel can remove these growths and decrease your risk of skin cancer.
Who’s a good candidate for a chemical peel?
Like other cosmetic treatments, chemical peels are not appropriate for everyone.
You might be a good candidate if you have:
- generally healthy skin
- mild scarring
- superficial wrinkles
- a lighter complexion
On the other hand, it’s best to avoid chemical peels if you:
- have sagging skin
- have deep wrinkles or scars
- frequently develop cold sores
- have a history of abnormal skin scarring
- have psoriasis or atopic dermatitis
- have a darker skin tone (higher risk of hyperpigmentation)
- have recently taken an oral acne treatment
- are pregnant or breastfeeding
- have a compromised immune system
- have undergone radiation therapy or recent surgery
- have heart disease (if considering deep chemical peels)
What’s the recovery process like?
As your skin heals, you may need to apply a protective ointment. You’ll also need to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun.
The recovery process is different for each type of peel. Let’s take a closer look at what recovery may be like for the different chemical peels.
Light chemical peel
After a light chemical peel, you may experience mild irritation and dryness. You can typically wear makeup the following day and resume your normal skin care activities, like cleansing and moisturizing .
It will most likely take between 1 to 7 days for your skin to fully heal.
Medium chemical peel
The most common side effects of a medium chemical peel include:
In most cases, you can safely wear makeup within 5 to 7 days.
The recovery process typically lasts 7 to 14 days. You may have some redness for several months, though.
Deep chemical peel
The most common side effects of a deep chemical peel include:
- severe redness
The swelling can last for 14 days, while the redness may last for 3 months.
It may take up to 14 days for your skin to grow back. During this time, you’ll need to wear a surgical dressing and take medication for the pain.
You can typically start wearing makeup after 14 days.
Although rare, deep chemical peels can be associated with more severe side effects and complications, including:
- delayed wound healing
- reactivation of herpes simplex virus
The bottom line
A chemical peel is a cosmetic treatment that removes the top layer of your skin. This can help minimize wrinkles, dullness, hyperpigmentation, and scarring. It may also help skin disorders like acne and rosacea.
However, a chemical peel can’t treat deep wrinkles and scarring. It also won’t tighten loose skin or reverse sun damage. To determine whether a chemical peel is right for you, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider.
Best chemical peel for hyperpigmentation on black skin
Can people with dark skin even get chemical peels?
A friend, family member, or even your dermatologist may recommend a chemical peel to clear up a troublesome skin condition. Chemical peels are cosmetic treatments that are applied to the face and neck to remove damaged skin cells. Your board-certified dermatologist will combine different acids to create a solution suitable for your skin concern. The solution is then applied in a simple procedure. The result is smooth, blemish-free skin, based on the type of peels used.
Chemical peels slough off dead surface skin, so there needs to be care when using the treatment. There’s a common misconception that people with dark skin cannot get chemical peels. It’s understandable since there are some cases of damaged skin and a condition called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark spots). However, these are the exception and not the norm. In a study, only 4% of African American patients received some unwanted side effects.
It all boils down to the type of peel and your doctor’s experience in dealing with dark skin. At Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics, we perform hundreds of chemical peels every year, particularly on dark skin. So in this article, we’ll cover the type of chemical peels available and how they can impact Skin Of Color. We’ll also give you some tips to make the process as smooth as possible.
Key uses of peels
Why would you use a chemical peel anyway? There are hundreds, if not thousands of skincare products on the market to deal with almost every skincare concern. So is a peel really necessary? Most skincare products send ingredients to the surface level of your skin. These can work over a long period, but the results may not be as expected. That said, chemical peels treat several conditions, which include:
- Acne and Acne Scars: Some skin care products can clear our acne but is powerless to stop some of the scars left behind. A chemical peel can help break up and remove acne scarring.
- Wrinkles and fine lines: Over time, our skin stops producing collagen, which helps with elasticity. That lack of elasticity creates wrinkles and fine lines on the top layer of our skin when we frown. Chemical peels can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, by stimulating new collagen formation.
- Uneven skin tones, also called Hyperpigmentation: Our skin is exposed to external and internal stressors like pollution, sun damage, hormones, or a skin injury. These changes can impact different parts of our face, giving the appearance of an uneven skin tone. A chemical peel can produce smooth, even skin.
- Melasma: Melasma is a skin condition that causes dark patches on the cheeks, forehead, or chin. People with dark skin tones are more likely to have melasma. It is also sometimes a result of pregnancy, stress, or thyroid conditions. Chemical peels can even skin tones while you work on the underlying cause of melasma.
A chemical peel gives your skin a reset by removing the outermost layer of your skin. Think of a snake shedding its skin, revealing a new, beautiful layer.
Why there’s a major concern with dark skin
People of color, dark skin or the many beautiful shades of brown make up roughly 1/3 of our population. While skin looks different on the outside, the genetic makeup of skin is about the same on the inside.
We all have the same melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin.
However, people of color produce far more melanin at the surface level. Melanin is the compound that determines hair color and skin color. But it also protects the skin from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.
One significant advantage is that darker skin tones are far more protected from ultraviolet light than lighter skin tones (which could be the reason why many POCs believe that sunscreen is not necessary. Hint, it is.)
On the flip side, dark skin is more likely to react negatively to skin damage with conditions like melasma, hyperpigmentation, textural changes, and much more. In addition, since chemical peels essentially damage and remove layers of skin, there is a belief that you could get an unwanted reaction.
There is also a concern that people of color are not properly represented in the dermatology space. So many would choose to avoid certain procedures due to a lack of experience, taking the ‘better safe than sorry approach.’ There have been significant strides to address this issue. Today, more and more doctors and aestheticians understand how to help darker skin tones. Furthermore, there is a growing contingent of dermatologists of color. Now, your dermatologist would be able to choose the right peel for your skin concern.
Types of chemical peels
Before you get a chemical peel, it’s essential to understand both the types of peels and what’s in your peels. This knowledge will help you to understand what’s happening during your peel and if what your provider is suggesting is right for you. Chemical peels are classified as superficial peels, medium-depth peels, and deep peels.
- Superficial peels target the uppermost layer of your skin called the stratum corneum or epidermis. These peels can go all the way to the top of an area called the papillary dermis.
- Medium-depth peels impact the middle layer of your skin, called the dermis. This layer starts at the papillary dermis and goes to the middle of the reticular dermis. Medium-depth peels are much more potent at removing dead skin cells and breaking up scars.
- Deep peels get deep into the middle layer of your skin and can break up deep acne scars and hyperpigmentation. Anyone opting for deep peels do so under the advice of a board-certified dermatologist. These peels have long healing times and must be done with caution.
Your peel will be an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHAs) or a beta-hydroxy acid (BHAs). AHAs are acids derived from plants and animals. At different concentrations, these can exfoliate your skin, brighten your skin, increase blood flow and collagen production. BHAs are oil-based organic compounds that can unclog pores, reduce oil, clear acne, and much more.
Superficial Chemical Peels
Your superficial peels will contain AHAs or a combination of AHAs and BHAs. Glycolic acid and salicylic acids are the most common types of superficial peels. These ingredients are in many skin care products. However, your dermatologist will use a higher concentration in the chemical peel. Other types of superficial peels include tretinoin or Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) between 10% to 30% strength. Some dermatologists may perform a low concentration Jessner’s peel, which is a combination of lactic acid, resorcinol, and salicylic acid.
Medium peels contain stronger versions of AHAs or BHAs to reach dead skin cells and uneven skin tones. These peels start with stronger TCA, between 35% to 40%. Glycolic acid and Jessner’s solution also work for medium peels at stronger concentrations. Phenol peels, a combination of powerful acids, can also help. This special peel is used at lower concentrations since it’s often reserved for deep peels.
Deep Chemical Peels
These peels help in special cases of severely damaged skin, deep wrinkles, or blotchy skin. Phenol is a popular choice for deep peels. Some deep peels may also comtaIn 50% or higher TCA. These peels require preparation in the weeks before to ensure faster healing and better success.
Here are the best chemical peel for dark skin.
So which one of these peels is best for dark skin? As we mentioned, people of all shades can get chemical peels. Darker skin, pigmented skin, or People of Color need the right peels to effectively tackle their skin concerns while being safe to use.
Superficial peels are the best options for dark skin. Your doctor may first try low levels of glycolic acid and salicylic acid. Studies show glycolic acid and salicylic acid are safe and effective. These, along with retinol and Jessner peels, have the lowest skin complications with the best results. Research shows that TCA peels at 25% and above caused the most damage to dark skin. If your doctor is using TCA peels, it will be likely at a lower concentration to test your sensitivity.
Sensitivities still exist
Even with surface peels, the sensitivity levels vary from person to person. Skin complications are possible with glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or Jessner. Using the lowest concentration first can help the dermatologist gauge your sensitivity to the acid. Over several weeks, your dermatologist will perform three or more peels, slowly increasing the concentration of acids each time. You should see the best results with the lowest chances of side effects using this method.
Medium depth peels must be used with caution.
Medium peels can be used in specific circumstances. Lighter brown skin types, for instance, can see significant improvement in conditions like scarring, melasma, and hyperpigmentation. Like superficial peels, doctors will first try the peel at a lower concentration then increase the potency in future sessions. Darker skin is at significant risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and scarring. Hyperpigmentation and other issues tend to improve after three months with your dermatologist’s help.
Avoid these peels at all costs.
Deep peels or phenol peels should not be used on skin of color. There i a high risk of scarring and hyperpigmentation. If there is deep scarring or skin damage, there are other solutions your dermatologist can use which are both safe and effective. For peels of all types, discuss any concerns you may have. Your doctor will outline the risks and steps needed to address them.
Protecting yourself before and after your peel.
If you have acne, scars, hyperpigmentation, or other skin concerns, you can benefit from a chemical peel. People with dark skin, however, should focus on superficial peels. To minimize the risk and improve the effectiveness of your peel, your doctor will provide some instructions to prepare your skin before your session.
Your dermatologist will prescribe a combination of a skin-lightening agent, including hydroquinone, kojic acid, arbutin and glycolic acid (between 5% and 10%). Sunscreen is vital during this time to protect against further skin damage.
After your chemical peel, you’ll need to do some work too:
- After the peel, you’ll feel some redness, burning, dryness, and minor swelling. These are normal symptoms and should resolve within a few days.
- Make sure to apply a dermatologist-recommended sunscreen and moisturizer twice daily. Use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser to clean your face.
- As your skin begins to peel, it’s sensitive to sunlight and damage, so protect it at all costs.
- Avoid picking or pulling the peeled skin since you can transfer bacteria onto your face. Let it slough off naturally.
- Avoid exfoliants and makeup while your skin heals for the best results.
- You may break out, which is normal. The acne should resolve during the healing process.
Make sure to take enough time between each session for the skin to heal completely.
Chemical peels for dark skin- Choose the right peel for you.
Remember, chemical peels for dark skin are possible. They are safe and effective but only when administered correctly. Superficial peels are best for dark skin. Your dermatologist will gradually increase the concentration of acids to gauge your skin’s sensitivity. If your doctor believes that you need a medium peel, there will be a gradual increase in potency. For the best results with minimum side effects, follow the instructions before and after your chemical peel.
Anyone with dark skin interested in chemical peels should seek out a dermatologist with expertise in treating skin of color. At Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics, our lead dermatologist, Ife Rodney MD, FAAD, is skilled in providing chemical peels on all skin types. As a dermatologist of color, Dr. Rodney understands what you need to get the best results. Feel free to reach out to us to schedule your chemical peel consultation today.
Strongest at home chemical peel
There’s no question about it: Everyone needs a good dermatologist. Not just for the life-saving skin checks, but for the instant glow of their in-office products and treatments that can be tough to capture at home. One of the most popular of these transformative treatments: the chemical peel. They’re strong, so real chemical peels are only available from the pros—but there are at-home chemical peels that capture the same effects on a smaller, safer scale.
How do chemical peels work?
Chemical peels vary in strength and ingredients, but most aim to deeply exfoliate the skin to reduce fine lines(opens in new tab) and wrinkles, improve brightness(opens in new tab), and lift away unwanted discoloration and brown spots.(opens in new tab)
When choosing a DIY peel, it’s smart to consider your skin type, says NYC-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman. “Look at the acids in the peel, and make sure they target the issue you are trying to remedy.”
How are at-home chemical peels different from in-office treatments?
At-home chemical peels formulas have lower concentrations of the same acids, making them ideal for slathering them on yourself. “In-office peels have stronger concentrations of acids, meaning greater immediate results,” says Engelman. “These need to be administered by a licensed practitioner, because of the potential to burn or irritate the skin,” she says. At-home peels are safer and milder.
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Are there risks to at-home chemical peels?
It’s critical to follow the directions on over-the-counter chemical peel products. Warns dermatologist Dennis Gross, who pioneered the at-home chemical peel: “Due to a wave of how-to YouTube videos and consumer accessibility to professional products through vendors like Amazon, I am seeing more and more instances of serious damage done to skin—all in a patient’s own bathroom,” He notes: “But higher concentrations of acid must be administered by a licensed professional; they can damage skin if they’re not neutralized properly.”
So what concentration of acid is safe? Well, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel recommends that companies use glycolic and lactic alpha-hydroxy acids in concentrations of 10 percent or less, in solutions with a pH of 3.5 or greater, when formulating consumer products. That said, many products feature higher doses.
“The biggest challenge is to not overwork the skin,” says Engelman.” Excessive exfoliation will expose skin, weaken skin-barrier function and trigger inflammation. If the barrier function is damaged, skin becomes vulnerable to infection from microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungus, and leads to sensitivity and irritation.”
During our reporting on at-home skincare treatments, we noted that two chemical peel products labeled with the same acid concentration won’t necessarily affect your complexion in the same way. The benefits, effects, and risks of each product comes down to a range of factors, including the ingredients; whether the acid is buffered with an ingredient to increase the pH level; and how long he product remains on the skin. It should go without saying, but leave the chemical peels that are formulated for salons and spas to the professionals. Also, bear in mind that chemical peels will make your skin more sensitive to sun damage, so make sure to slather on the SPF.