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What is a Chemical Peel?

A Chemical Peel is a product that is applied to the epidermis and/or dermis that causes intentional superficial (or deeper) damage with the goal of loosening dead skin cells and stimulating new tissue growth to improve skin texture and tone.

How can chemical peels benefit the skin?

Chemical peels improve skin texture and firmness, decreasing fine lines and wrinkles. Peels also even out skin tone, improve acne-prone skin and reduce pore size appearance and much more.

How are chemical peels classified?

Chemical peels are classified as superficial, medium or deep, depending on the depth of penetration of the ingredients used. Superficial peels exfoliate to various levels of the epidermis. Medium-depth peels treat through the papillary dermis and deep peels to the mid-reticular dermis.

The strength of a chemical peel is determined by the type of ingredients used, their concentrations and the pH of the formulation.

How do superficial chemical peels work?



Superficial chemical peels decrease the pH, which loosens the connections between dead skin cells, inducing exfoliation and stimulating new cell growth. This process causes superficial layers of dead skin to peel off, revealing a smoother and more radiant complexion. Chemical peels can also thicken the epidermis, increase dermal volume and stimulate collagen.

Superficial peels rarely cause side effects. However, hyperpigmentation can still occur with darker skin types.

How do medium and deep chemical peels work?

Medium and deep chemical peels cause protein coagulation and cell necrosis (cell death) in the epidermis and dermis. This induces inflammation and the wound-healing cascade, which leads to dermal regeneration including collagen stimulation. Since medium and deep chemical peels treat through to the dermis, re-epithelialization starts from the epidermal lining of hair follicles outwards.

Medium and deep chemical peels require more downtime and carry with them a higher chance of side effects including hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, infection, and scars.

What is an enzyme peel?

Like a chemical peel, an enzyme peel is also a treatment used to improve skin texture and appearance. Enzymes are applied to the skin, which loosen the connections between dead skin cells, inducing exfoliation and stimulating new cell growth. This process causes superficial layers of dead skin to peel off, revealing a smoother and more radiant complexion. Enzyme peels both nourish and exfoliate the skin and are usually made with fruit enzymes. The most popular fruit enzymes are papain, found in papayas, and bromelain, found in pineapple.

What are common peeling agents?

Some common peeling ingredients include alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and retinol. Alpha hydroxy acids include glycolic acid (originally from sugar cane), lactic acid (originally from milk), malic acid (originally from apples and pears), tartaric acid (originally from grapes) and mandelic acid (originally from bitter almonds). Salicylic acid (related to aspirin) is the only beta hydroxy acid.

Not all peels are created equal, and one peel type doesn’t suit all. Certain ingredients may be more effective for treating acne, while others may be more successful in treating hyperpigmentation or the signs of aging.

What is the difference between an AHA and a BHA (salicylic acid) peel?

AHA peels work by reducing sulfate and phosphate groups from the surface of corneocytes to decrease corneocyte cohesion leading to exfoliation of epidermal cells. Salicylic acid peels are lipid soluble allowing deeper penetration into the follicle. As well as exfoliating, salicylic acid works as both a keratolytic and comedolytic agent by causing cells of the epidermis and in the follicle to shed, clearing the pores and allowing room for new cell growth. In addition, salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties and is able to neutralize bacteria at low percentages. These properties make salicylic acid ideal for acne.

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