What is a Chemical Skin Peel?

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what is chemical peel

Chemical Skin Peel” is a general classification for a number of chemical Peel treatments used to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin. Typically during a chemical peel nothing actually “peels” off. A chemical solution is applied to the Chemical Skin Peel, 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.

The depth and strength of the ‘Chemical Skin Peel‘ varies based upon the strength of the chemicals used and the length of time the solution is applied. Some chemical peels are so strong as to be able to remove the whole surface of the skin, in a manner similar to CO2 or Erbium lasers.

These are the deepest forms of chemical peeling, which, in my opinion, are not used as often as they had been. These forms of peels have generally been replaced by laser treatment as laser provides a greater and more precise level of control to the practitioner. Most peels today are less destructive and more superficial.

Type of Peels

There are a variety of different types of chemical skin peels, as there are a variety of chemicals used, each with their own properties. Phenol peels consist of a deeper solution which may remove the upper layers of the skin. TCA (Trichloroacetic acid) peels are another common peel which can vary in concentration. Glycolic acid and alpha hydroxy acid peels are also quite common, often sold for in-home use in lesser-strength concentrations than you can receive from a physician.


With a chemical peel you get some tightening of the skin, you get improvements of pre-cancerous and brown spots, and a general resurfacing of the skin.

Glycolic Acid Peel

Glycolic acid, which is derived from sugar cane, is probably the most popular grade of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) used by physicians for facial peels. Glycolic acid peels are effective, yet they tend to produce the minimum of side effects.

Most of the glycolic acid formulations used by physicians contain acid concentrations of 50 percent or higher. (By comparison, over-the-counter cosmetic AHA products contain only 3 to 10 percent glycolic acid, percentages with questionable usefulness.)

What does it do?

Like other AHA peels, glycolic acid peels removes the top layer of dead cells on your skin, revealing a new layer that is smoother-textured and more vibrant-looking. These peels help with fine lines, minor skin discolorations (such as “age” spots), and dry patches known as solar keratoses. They’re also useful for treating acne and for removing or minimizing old acne scars.
Glycolic acid peels are also believed to stimulate the growth of collagen, a protein that helps give skin its structure. The loss of collagen due to aging and sun exposure is one of the factors involved in the formation of lines and wrinkles.

To increase the effectiveness of the peel, your physician may recommend that you combine it with another treatment that removes the top micro-layer of skin: microdensitometer.

Treatment with Glycolic Acid

In physician offices a glycolic acid peel may be administered in concentrations from 20% to 80%. The stronger the concentration of the peel, the deeper the peel will dissolve tissue.
If someone is using Retin-A or Retinoid-like medications it will make a glycolic peel have a stronger effect, so let your practitioner know if you are using such medications.

Side Effects

For a few days after treatment, your skin will look slightly reddened, and it may peel a bit. It will also be dry–a side effect that can be relieved with a moisturizer.

You’ll need to wear a sunscreen for several weeks, as your skin will be more vulnerable than usual to sunburn. As with other types of AHA peels, certain people–particularly those using the acne drug Accutane or those with active cold sores–should not have this particular skin-rejuvenation treatment.

Going through a physician’s office will help ensure not only that you’re a candidate for a glycolic acid peel, but also that you’ll receive safe and effective care.

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