Chemical Peel, Overview: Risks, Benefits, Aftercare, Types

Chemical Peel

Learn about chemical peels in our chemical peel overview: what it is, what to expect, peel types, benefits, aftercare and much more.


Do you want to learn about chemical peels?

Are you wondering how a great chemical peel treatment could help your complexion?

How do they work? What are they exactly? ...and most importantly, WILL THEY WORK FOR YOU?

If any of this sounds familiar, you're definitely in the RIGHT PLACE. Read on!

The facial care industry is huge business. This is because people don’t like to look old, and the most obvious signs of aging appears first on the face. You get those little wrinkles around the eyes and forehead, and your skin gets slack and rough.

Even when you’re still young, you can have acne scars or uneven skin tone from exposure to the wind, sun and free radicals in the air. Father time will always be nipping at our heels and before you know it, you may also be feeling a bit aged yourself!

Thankfully, skin enhancement technology will always be here to give us a little push in the right direction. One of the most effective non-surgical procedures for improving the skin’s appearance is through face peels.

Your beloved sage has always pondered about the technique in the past and I will do my very best to focus on giving you all a closer look into the basics of the chemical facial peel in this article.

So, grab on to those sagging cheeks of yours as we go on another EPIC journey through the magical world of the modern Chemical Peel!​

What is a Chemical Skin Peel?

A chemical facial peel is not as bad as it sounds. It is a procedure designed to smooth the surface of the skin and improve its overall look by removing the dead skin cells of the face.

The idea of peeling facial skin may seem barbaric, but it does not actually entail any mechanical face peeling. The facial chemical peel uses certain solutions that soften the outer layer of the skin where the dead cells are, which then become easy to remove.

After the chemical peel treatment, the face looks fresher and smoother because the new skin is exposed. Chemical peels for face range from light to deep, depending on the skin type.

In general, chemical peels are not recommended for people with darker skin complexions. The chemicals in the solutions often trigger acne breakouts, hyperpigmentation, or hypopigmentation in certain skin tones. Uneven coloration is often permanent and difficult, if not impossible to reverse.

REMEMBER! Chemical peeling is most
effective in people with lighter skin complexion.

Types of Chemical Peels

It is very easy to do permanent damage to the face, which is why it is important to consult with a qualified health professional to determine what type of chemical peel will be appropriate. Some skin types require just superficial treatment, while others require deeper penetration.

Light Chemical Peel

Medium Chemical Peel

Deep Chemical Peel


Mild Penetration

Considerable Penetration
(2nd degree burn is caused)

Deep Penetration
(Passes numerous skin layers,
2nd degree burn is caused)


All Skin Types

Fair/Light Skin

Fair/Light Skin

Peeling Agents

Dilute Glycolic Acid, 
Dry Ice (solid CO2)

Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA)


Recovery Time


5 - 7 Days

3 Weeks - 2 Months

Why is it Called a Skin Peel?

glycolic acid peel

Skin consists of multiple layers of cells. The outermost layers are made up of tough dead cells that serve as a safety barrier for the softer, living cells underneath.

When the skin is young, the top layers fall off regularly and replaced. The problem is when the skin cell production slows down and the top layer turns flaky and ashy, and makes wrinkles deeper and more pronounced especially on the face and neck.

Peeling skin on face is also an indication that there is an excess of dead cells. Regular exfoliation and moisturizing can help keep the skin looking younger, but sometimes the skin needs just a little more help. 

A skin peel procedure does actually mean peeling face layers off using a special chemical solution. This is why it is called a chemical skin peel.

What Does a Chemical Peel Do?

A chemical peel gets rid of imperfections on the face and neck, and makes wrinkles and acne scars less noticeable. It is not a question of do chemical peels work, but how well. One chemical peel session will not make the skin perfectly smooth; it will require several sessions to get the best results.

Chemical peel benefits are numerous. It improves the appearance of the following:

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    Fine lines in the under-eye area and around the lips
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    Loose skin due to aging and sun damage
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    Light scars, if any exist on face
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    Skin Tone
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    Dark patches on skin caused by pregnancy
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    Sun-related freckles and spots

Chemical Peel Before and After

Before deciding to go for the treatment, it would be best to take time to understand and see what the chemical peel results will look like. The best way to do this is to consult with a good dermatologist and ask about what to expect.

Ask about chemical peel side effects while you are at it. Chemical peeling side effects will vary depending on different skin types.

Common chemical peeling side effects include:

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    Persistent redness of the skin
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    Skin Darkening
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    Lighter than desired skin color
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If you can, ask a few people you know that have already undergone this treatment and get some feedback.

You can also search online for chemical peel before and after pictures. Deep acne scars, in particular, respond well to chemical peeling.

Here are some drastic chemical peel before and after comparisons I found in a quick Google Images search:

Pretty significant, right? If there is one thing for sure, chemical peel treatments are super effective at what they do... 

Chemical Peel for Acne Scars

One of the major reasons for a chemical peel is to deal with acne scars. A chemical peel for acne scars is an option for scars that are too deep-rooted for over-the-counter medications. In general, the best chemical peel for acne scars is phenol or TCA-based peels because it requires deep peeling. However, it will still depend on the skin type. Some do not respond well to strong peeling agents. Check out some of the more popular types of chemical peeling.

Glycolic Acid Peel

glycolic acid products

Glycolic acid chemical peels are widely used by people who want to rejuvenate their skin. A glycolic peel is milder than other treatments, and you can expect your skin to recover quickly.

During the glycolic acid chemical peel treatment, the solution is applied evenly on the surface of skin with the help of a spongy foam. This peeling agent is left on the skin for a prescribed length of time, depending on the type of skin problem being treated.

The glycolic acid loosens the layers of dead skin cells as it goes deeper. The duration of glycolic acid peels are determined by how deep the solution has to penetrate into the skin. Once that level is reached, the acid is washed off with water and the loosened layers of skin are peeled off to reveal newer skin underneath.

Glycolic Peel Benefits

Glycolic peel before and after pictures will show superficial improvement of the skin, because it is really a mild solution. The glycolic facial peel is best for:

  • Lightening age spots and freckles
  • Evening out the skin tone
  • Encouraging the production of new skin cells
  • Reducing fine lines and wrinkles

Glycolic Peel Side Effects

There are some side effects with undergoing glycolic acid peeling, but these usually resolved within 24 hours post-treatment. They include:

  • Redness
  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Tingling
  • Sensitivity


If you are trying out a home chemical peel treatment for the first time, it is best to start with glycolic acid.  Glycolic acid peel at home kits are widely available.

One of the best glycolic acid peel products reviewed by customers is the Skin Obsession 40% Glycolic Acid Peel . Users claim that it works as advertised, but to expect a burning sensation upon application.

Though glycolic acid peel reviews of various products will always be a good source of information for choosing a brand. But if you're serious about taking the plunge on your own, I emplore you to take a grain of salt with those glycolic peel reviews before making a decision.

At the end of the day, some of these chemicals may possibly do some real damage of you don't know what you're doing and you should still consult with your dermatologist, just to be on the safe side.

TCA Skin Peel

A trichloroacetic acid peel, also known as a TCA chemical peel, uses a solution that causes skin cells to dry up so that they gradually slough off over a few days up to a week. TCA peeling is considered a medium strength peeling method, but it can be light or deep as well depending on the concentration of the solution. The TCA skin peel process is the same as with glycolic acid peel.

TCA peeling is the preferred method for “spot” treatments such as larger scars, and it can be used on any part of the body. TCA peeling works on:

  • Age Spots
  • Fine Lines
  • Wrinkles
  • Acne
  • Melasma
  • Sun Damage or Sun-Burnt Skin

A typical course of TCA peels includes around 2-4 sessions. The skin may take on a reddish or dark appearance and feel tight for several days. Some patients experience swelling, although these symptoms will typically disappear within a few weeks and your skin will look young and beautiful. However, there are other methods available for general skin peeling.

Salicylic Acid Peel

If you have slight imperfections on the face, a salicylic peel may be ideal. It is a light intensity treatment for managing blackheads, acne, whiteheads, clogged pores and inflammation. It revitalizes and improves the appearance of the skin a little more after each treatment. For at home solutions, purchase a 15% solution of salicylic acid and apply as recommended.

chemical peel for acne scars

Jessner Peel

A Jessner chemical peel is medium intensity treatment used for treating and reducing freckles, acne, discoloration, wrinkles, fine lines, large pores, and melasma. It is a solution of salicylic acid, lactic acid and resorcinol. Home treatment is not recommended because it is easy to overdo it and do permanent damage to your face. It should be administered by a professional.

Lactic Acid Peel

A lactic peel ranging from 40% to 70% in concentration is typically enough to solve common skin issues. These are one of the more popular acid face peel treatments because it is relatively mild and gentle. Regular use can minimize the signs of aging and minimize deep acne scars. Home kits are available, but of course professional administration will be safer.

Brief Overview of Other Chemical Peels

There are actually several other peels out there, all with their own specialty treatments. Check out the table below to find out even more:


Vitalize Peel

This peel is safe and works well on all skin tones. It can handle shallow acne marks, fine lines and early signs of aging.

Mandelic Acid Peel

This is a good one for first-timers because it is a gentle peel. It is effective for acne- and rosacea-prone skin.

Phenol Peel

This is one of the harshest peels available and administered only by a professional. It is used for deep wrinkles, severe discolorations, and serious acne scars. It is only suitable for people with light skin.

Enzyme Peel

This peel is made from fruits and is suitable for people with sensitive skin.

VI Peel

This is actually a TCA peel combined with Retin-A, salicylic acid, phenol, and Vitamin C. It is designed to even skin tone and texture as well as soften lines and wrinkles. It is suitable for all skin types and works gently on skin with almost no pain.

Melanage Peel

The is a light peel solution made primarily of hydroquinone and Retin-A. It is primarily used to treat hyperpigmentation.

AHA Peel

This peel uses alpha hydroxy acid extracted from fruits and other foods and works best for dark spots, fine lines and dry patches on skin.

Body Peel

This peel can be used to treat stretch marks, bumps and for overall skin tightening.

Derma Peel

This peel is quite mild in nature and is suitable for all skin types.

Kojic Acid Peel

This peel is recommended for those with sensitive skin. It is used to treat hyperpigmentation resulting from skin inflammation and melasma.

Some of these common popular peels are made from natural ingredients. A natural chemical peel like a fruit acid peel is typically mild and gentle. It is recommended for home facial peels. Natural acids have no side effects post-treatment unless you are allergic to any fruits or foods. Laser peels are also a viable alternative.

Laser Peel

This is not precisely a chemical peel, but it does pretty much the same thing for acne scars and and wrinkles. There are two types of laser peels: Erbium and Carbon Dioxide. The laser is used to vaporize the surface of skin that contains the damaged or dead skin cells.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) laser peel treats problems like large oil pores on nose, scars, and warts. The Erbium laser peel causes minimal burning and is recommended for treating the hands, neck, face and chest. Recovery time for Erbium laser treatment is less compared to CO2 laser treatment.

How Much Does a Chemical Peel Cost?

The cost for chemical peel treatments vary greatly from clinic to clinic and product to product, and depending on the severity of the problem. It can be as low as $65 and as high as $1500 per session. Most problems require multiple treatments over a period of time before any significant improvement is seen.

There are many options available so it is not just a matter of how much is a chemical peel but all the other factors that impact on choosing the one that best fits your particular situation. DIY chemical peels and chemical peels at home are of course much cheaper, but it is taking a risk of permanent skin damage except for the mildest types.

Is Chemical Peeling at Home Easy and Safe?

There are many home kits available for DIY chemical peel treatments, and some are weak enough to be safe even without professional supervision. However, not all skin types or skin tones react as expected to even the mildest solutions. It is best to consult with a dermatologist before attempting an at home facial peel. A homemade chemical peel is even more risky because it is easy to make a mistake in the formulation. Lactic acid in milk and various other food-grade acids may be best agents for at home facial peel recipes.

What Are the Best at Home Chemical Peel Products?

That being said, there are considerable savings in doing a glycolic peel at home or even a TCA peel at home. Keep in mind that the best facial peel is a careful one. Be cautious and follow instructions carefully. Even the best at home chemical peel can do lasting damage to your skin. It is recommended that you do a glycolic peel at home under supervision of a professional.

There are hundreds of different skin peeling products available online, but not all of them are going to work for you. User reviews are a great resource for narrowing down your choice to one chemical peel, facial peeling gel, or facial peel off mask that's perfect for you. 


There you have it! A whole slew of information for all of you chemical peeling fanatics out there. It is the Sage's only wish that you are all a bit more enlightened on the topic. Good luck, my disciples.... til' next time!

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