Chemical Peel: How it Works

Chemical Peel: How it Works

You know the way your skin looks after a steamy romp? All vibrant and glowy? Too bad it only lasts about five minutes. A chemical peel can help you get that same lit from within radiance with a few major differences: it really lasts and comes with none of the agony of obsessing over when he’ll call.

Read on to learn about the different types of chemical peels and find out which one is best for your skincare needs.





Don’t let the term “chemical peel” scare you away: This isn’t the same acidic stuff that turned Batman’s Joker into the villain he is today. A chemical peel refers to the general category for a number of chemical treatments used to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin. In fact, most don’t even peel the skin. “Peels is a misnomer,” says Eric Bernstein, MD, of Ardmore, Pennsylvania. Bernstein. “Lighter peels are really treatments,” that help skin look smoother and brighter, decrease pore size and can even help with acne, he explains. An added bonus is that peels will also help your favorite serum and moisturizer penetrate deeper and be more effective.


Stronger peels, such as a Jessner’s and TCA peels, work by triggering your skin’s wound healing response by dissolving the upper layers of the skin. “As the tissue is removed, a wound is created on the skin which stimulates the body’s healing response, causing new tissue to emerge,” says Bernstein. Just like with superficial peels, the depth and strength of the peel varies based upon the strength of the chemicals used and the length of time the solution is applied.


Banish Acne and Get Your Glow On: Alpha Hydroxy Acid, Salycilic and Beta Hydroxy Peels

Skip grabbing a salad with the girls and get a lunchtime peel, aka an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) Peel, instead. It gives you the same results as an extraction session with your favorite facialist without any of the painful squeezing. By dissolving the top layer of skin, pores are instantly unclogged and black heads are erased nearly instantaneously and the glowing results last for up to a month.


When getting an AHA (or any type of peel, for that matter) remember that not all peels are created equal. Even though they are considered to be mild peels there are two thing that really matter: the concentration of the peel and if it is neutralized or not. “You can have a 70 percent peel but if you neutralize it, it’s not going to be so intense,” says Dr. Bernstein.


Wake Up to Smoother, Clearer Skin: Jessner’s Peel

To up the ante and erase areas of discoloration and acne scarring, try a Jessner’s Peel, a trio of resorcinol and lactic and salicylic acids. It is normal to have flaking and occasional crusting up to two to four days after the peel and mild redness and swelling may last a week or more. The reward? Smoother, clearer, more even toned skin within seven to 10 days.


Ciao, Wrinkles!: TCA Peels

For a peel that has similar results to a laser, indulge in a TCA peel. “The TCA peels really work by their acidity and they basically burn away the surface of the skin similar, to the way a superficial laser would,” says Dr. Bernstein. These peels range in concentration from a mild 30 percent to an intense 50 to 70 percent.


These more intense peels require one to two weeks of downtime until crusting heals so don’t plan one the day before a big date or for that matter a beach vacation as you’ll need to be vigilant with staying out of the sun immediately after the treatment. The payoff: Smoother, younger, clearer more vibrant skin.


Words of Warning

Be cautious about getting any type of peel if:

  • You’re on Retin-A or using a retinol product. “Peels are going to have a much stronger effect and may even cause crusting, peeling and scabbing,” says Dr. Bernstein. Discuss with your doctor, nurse practitioner or aesthetician before hand if you’re using one of these products.
  • It’s winter and your skin is dry. In the colder months, peels are going to have a much stronger effect and may cause adverse affects if you’re not careful.
  • You have a rash. A peel can aggravate the condition.
  • You’re a constant hat wearer. Putting on a hat immediately after a peel can cause the peel no to neutralize and you could wind up with a scar.

Chemical Peel Cost Calculator

Generic pricing information is almost always inaccurate and can range from $200-$1000. Your costs can be much lower based on your personal details and where you live. Use the calculator below to get better estimates per session.

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