Botox and fillers may be the minimally invasive cosmetic procedures of our time, but the chemical peel is still going strong.
In simple terms, chemical peels use acid (there are different types) to break down the top layer, or layers, of skin to help diminish the look of fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin tone. Believe it or not, chemical peels have been around since the mid-1800s, though they really seemed to gain mainstream popularity in the late ’90s and early 2000s.
Chemical peels run a range of different types of products that can be used, and there’s a big difference in how deeply the chemical that’s being applied affects the skin
There are three types of chemical peels ― superficial, medium-depth and deep-depth.
When people refer to chemical peels,they’re usually talking about superficial peels (sometimes referred to as “lunchtime peels”). These are the mildest of the bunch, as they require little downtime. You may experience some redness for 20 minutes to half an hour afterward, and you may experience some dryness or flaking over the course of a few days, but otherwise, you can get back to business as usual. Typical acids used in superficial peels include glycolic, salicylic, kojic acid and malic acid, Yagoda said. Superficial peels are good for treating fine lines and wrinkles, large pores and dark spots, and to help tighten the skin.
If you have a big event, doing a light chemical peel a few days before is spectacular.
Medium-depth peels generally use trichloroacetic acid at concentrations of 35 percent or less. These types of peels usually use a pure form of the acid that isn’t neutralized, and they aren’t typically made available for spa facials. Medium-depth peels can help treat skin that has a significant amount of photodamage, sun spots, mild to moderate acne scars, crepey skin under the eyes or dark circles.
The downside is the recovery period, which runs anywhere from five to seven days. The skin is left raw and red, and needs to be constantly covered with ointment, though it shouldn’t be painful.
The deepest peels, which target more serious skin issues such as severe acne scars, excessive sun damage or looseness of the skin, also uses trichloroacetic acid, though at concentrations starting at 50 percent to 70 percent, or phenol acid. The deep-depth peels may not be suitable for those with darker skin tones, as they could result in scarring or hypopigmentation. Typical downtime is about seven to 10 days, but could even last two weeks.
For those who regularly get peels, the strength of each peel can be increased each time. As a result, the person’s tolerance increases, and over time, patients are able to get stronger peels with decreased downtime.