The chemical peel is one of the best anti-aging tools in an aesthetician’s arsenal. Professional peels not only enhance the texture and tone of the skin—they also help the skin to look and act younger over time.
During a professional peel, a chemical solution is applied to the skin to remove its outer layers. As dead skin is sloughed away via the chemical exfoliation process, new skin cells emerge resulting in a luminous, healthy glow. Peels also help to diminish a host of visible skin imperfections including fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, acne bumps and even scarring.
Light chemical peels typically contain a combination of glycolic, salicylic and beta hydroxy acids to resurface the skin’s uppermost layer, while heavy peels often rely on trichloroacetic acid to reach a greater level of depth in the skin.
I may recommend a lighter peel for a patient looking to address the appearance of acne, fine lines or uneven skin tone; however, I prefer heavier peels because I can really see a rapid improvement in my patient’s skin.
A deep chemical peel is more appropriate for someone battling severe wrinkles, sun damage or scarring. These peels penetrate deep into the dermis in order to trigger substantial change in the skin. Accordingly, deep peels often require a significant healing period.
Professional peels also offer ample room for customization. I can control the intensity of a peel by altering the number of passes on the skin or by instructing the patient to apply a topical retinol pre-procedure (which helps speed cellular turnover and enhance the peeling process).
With proper knowledge and experience, peels can be performed in conjunction with other treatments to boost their results. I love to combine dermaplaning—a resurfacing procedure that abrades layers of dead skin—with a mild peel, especially on patients with active acne.
The strength of a peel can be decreased based on the client’s sensitivity and comfort level or how many days they want to “peel.” It is important to ask as many questions as possible about a patient’s lifestyle before the procedure, such as whether they have an upcoming event where they don’t want to look red, or if they are planning a vacation where they will be in the sun.
Though they are considered non-invasive procedures, chemical peels require diligent post-procedural care. Patients should wear an SPF of 30 or higher—and if possible, avoid the sun altogether—in the days following their peel to prevent redness, burning and irritation.
As with many skin treatments, chemical peels are best left in the hands of a professional. Though at-home versions may contain similar ingredients and tout comparable benefits, the concentrations are too low to be truly efficacious. Proper knowledge and experience are needed when applying chemicals to the skin, and an experienced skin care specialist can recommend a peel that targets your specific skin concerns to ensure you get the best results.