Chemical Peels Lesson 1: Introduction to Home Chemical Peels

Using a chemical peel can truly be a skin-transforming event. It is entirely possible to use them to eliminate fine lines and greatly reduce or remove wrinkles. Many people do not realize that peeling is not just for your face. The exact same products and techniques are also very effective on most types of skin damage, including discoloration, scars, and stretch marks. If you are serious about removing skin damage, you should definitely consider a chemical peel.

Chemical peeling can be a very serious ordeal. In the past you had to visit a professional to get a strong peel, but that is no longer the case. Professional strength products, capable of either improving or scarring your skin, are readily available to purchase online. If you are going to do your chemical peels at home, you need to know what you are doing.

Not all peels are created equal, and you’ll have many choices if you do decide you’d like a peel. There are several different chemical peel ingredients commonly used in skin care. Peels are also classified by strength, which is determined by how much tissue they remove. Very superficial peels are quite mild. Some people don’t even consider them true peels. Superficial peels are actually very effective with a low risk of side effects, but a single peel won’t create dramatic results. Medium peels should ideally be performed in a medical setting and need a couple of weeks to heal completely, sometimes requiring time away from work or social interaction. Deep peels are very serious and usually applied under sedation or only used as a spot treatment along with a medium peel. These are very risky and typically only used for severe scarring.

Ideally, you should visit a professional if you want anything more than a superficial peel because of the risk of infection. That being said, many experienced skin care enthusiasts will perform these peels intentionally at home. We all determine our own risk tolerance, so in the end, it is up to you to decide the strength of the peels you’re willing to perform in a home environment. Some skilled dermatologists and plastic surgeons can perform medium peels at a great price, so you should consider getting a consultation and a price quote. It might not be that much more expensive that doing it yourself at home. You can look for recommendations from people in your area on skin care forums.

How to Peels Work

A chemical peel uses controlled damage to remove live, irregular tissue. It doesn’t really peel off the skin when it is applied. The peel solution wounds the skin, creating necrosis in the epidermis and sometimes dermis. This may sound scary, but it actually improves the skin. Damaged tissue dies and is replaced by better looking skin. The old skin stays put until the wound healing process is mostly complete. A layer of dead skin that can be brown or reddish, plastic like, tough, and inflexible covers the treated area. It stays put for several days to a week or more depending on the strength of the peel. After the skin has healed, this protective layer peels off, revealing the new skin below.

The wound healing process also stimulates collagen production, leading to an increase in skin thickness, and decrease in scar, wrinkle, and stretch mark depth. The collagen formation process takes around 4 months, so you won’t see full results for a while. Some peels don’t create a dramatic peeling and resurfacing effect, but still benefit the skin by stimulating collagen production

Strength Building

If you want to have a good experience with peeling, your first products shouldn’t actually be peels. You should start off using creams and lotions that contain low levels of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), like a 5% – 10% glycolic acid cream. These products have a milder pH than peels and are very unlikely to produce irritation. They also contain soothing, moisturizing ingredients. After using a mild AHA moisturizer daily for 2 to 3 weeks, try replacing it with a 10% – 15% AHA serum. Serums are more acidic and usually don’t contain moisturizing ingredients and are therefore stronger. After using that daily for an additional 2-3 weeks, you should be ready to use a mild chemical peel.

Common Chemical Peel Ingredients

Hydroxy Acids – Hydroxy acids are the most common ingredients used in home chemical peels. There are two types of these acids, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). Common AHAs used in peels are glycolic, lactic, and malic acid. These are water soluble, and exfoliate by breaking the bonds between skin cells.

Salicylic acid is the only type of BHA you’ll see used in peel solutions. It is an oil soluble ingredient, making it ideal to penetrate and break up clogged pores. This type of peel is often used to control acne, but it can effectively removes damaged skin as well. It also has anti inflammatory properties that can aid in healing. Salicylic acid is stronger at a lower percentage than AHAs. Where 20% glycolic acid is mild, 20% salicylic acid is strong.

Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) – TCA peels have become the preferred peel amongst skin care enthusiasts. They peel very effectively and are better tolerated by dark skin tones. In general, TCA peels are stronger than hydroxy acid peel and have a greater effect on wrinkles and acne scars. Some skin is very resistant to peeling with hydroxy acids, but has good results with TCA. It is possible to purchase 100% pure TCA on the Internet, and some people use it in very high concentrations. This may be fine for a spot treatment, but not for a full-face peel. 50% is typically the maximum used in professional settings, but that concentration is very strong and should not be attempted by the inexperienced home user. Most people start off using between 8% and 12.5% and gradually work their way up, maxing out at 30% – 35% TCA, which is very effective and will usually produce a medium depth peel.

Jessner’s Solution – A Jessners peels combines several ingredients. The solution contains 14% salicylic acid, 14% lactic acid, and 14% resorcinol. It is typically marketed as a medium depth peel, but needs to be applied in layers for maximum effect.