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Understanding Different Types of Chemical Peels
Everyone loves having healthy and happy skin. It can make you feel more confident, optimistic, polished, and ready to take on your day. Thanks to chemical peels, a bright and youthful complexion might be more accessible and affordable than you think. Did you know that chemical peels are the third most common cosmetic procedure in the U.S. after Botox and fillers?2
Aging skin regenerates less efficiently than younger skin, partially due to the slowed production of elastin and collagen. In fact, the collagen content of your skin decreases by about 1% each year1. This may sound scary, but with the right skincare approach, you can support your body in producing new collagen and elastin.
So what is a chemical peel and what does a chemical peel do?
By fostering the regeneration process, chemical peels can help boost collagen and elastin, improve elasticity, even out skin tone and reduce the appearance of fine lines. Chemical peels are non-invasive and you'll often see early improvements such as tighter feeling skin and a brighter complexion.
With lighter to medium peels, periodic repeat treatments are recommended for optimal results.
With that said, there are several different types of chemical peels, some of which are better suited for certain skin types and conditions. Find a breakdown of each below.
What Are The Different Types of Chemical Peels?
A chemical peel consists of an exfoliating acid solution (acids that are naturally derived and gentle on the skin) ultimately designed to enhance the skin's appearance. The exfoliation process works to remove dead skin cells, which can brighten and smooth your complexion, reducing visible signs of aging. Aside from various acid solutions, the different types of chemical peels fall into three categories: superficial, medium and deep.
Superficial Chemical Peels
A superficial chemical peel (or light chemical peel) is the mildest option, targeting the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). It can help minimize the appearance of pores and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone and reduce dark spots.
This type of skin peel typically uses alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic, salicylic, lactic, malic, kojic or a combination of these acids. However, enzymes can also be used to penetrate the outer layer of skin.
Though superficial peels are generally gentle on the skin, you might notice some redness shortly after and potentially some minimal flaking. A medical-grade light peel will usually heal within one to seven days, but you can most likely wear makeup the next day3.
Medium Chemical Peels
A medium chemical peel is a step up from a superficial peel in that it gets into the middle layers of the skin. Medium-depth peels usually have a relatively high concentration of glycolic, lactic, salicylic, or trichloroacetic acid (TCA). After getting a medium peel, you can expect some redness afterward. Medium chemical peels take one to two weeks to heal3.
Deep Chemical Peels
Deep chemical peels are the most intense, penetrating the deeper layers of your skin. They're used to treat more serious skin issues, like acne or severe sun damage. The most common acids used in a deep chemical peel are glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid and phenol.
With a higher concentration of acids, most people have red skin following deep chemical peels. This type of peel usually takes two to three weeks to heal3. Since deep peels can cause hypopigmentation (skin lightening), they may not be the best choice for darker skin tones2.
5 Different Chemical Peels
So, what is the best chemical peel for your skin? This depends on your skin condition, sensitivities and what you're looking to achieve. The five most common chemical peels are glycolic, lactic, beta, vitalize and pigment-balancing peels.
#1 Glycolic Chemical Peel
When it comes to chemical peels, glycolic acid is the shining star. The AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) is derived from fruit, and with a small molecular structure, it can penetrate deep into your skin. Without any abrasion, glycolic acid essentially dissolves dead skin cells and sebum in your pores. Glycolic peels are available in various intensities, ranging from superficial to deep. After using a glycolic acid peel, many people notice smoother, younger-looking skin and a healthy glow.
#2 Lactic Chemical Peel
Lactic acid is another AHA commonly used in chemical peels. The organic compound is found in fermented milk products, but with skincare products, it's usually derived from sugar or vegetable sources. By breaking up the dead cells on your epidermis, lactic acid exfoliates your skin, making room for newly regenerated cells4.
Lactic chemical peels tend to be more tolerable on sensitive skin than other acids. Lactic acid can also boost the skin's natural moisture factor, helping to keep it hydrated and plump. If you incorporate a lactic peel into your skincare regimen, you may experience refined skin texture, a brighter complexion, less prominent fine lines and clearer skin.
#3 Beta Chemical Peel
Beta chemical peels contain salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) derived from willow bark. This naturally antimicrobial ingredient is known for its ability to exfoliate, control oil and reduce inflammation. A BHA chemical peel can help with breakouts and clogged pores, as the oil-soluble compound addresses sebum and acne-causing bacteria5.
Thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties of salicylic acid, BHA peels are generally less irritating than AHA peels. However, everyone's skin is different, so it's best to chat with your dermatologist or skin professional before getting a treatment.
#4 Vitalize Chemical Peel
By definition, 'revitalization' involves giving something new life. Similarly, 'vitalization' is about providing strength and energy. A vitalize chemical peel may diminish the look of wrinkles and scars, reduce dark spots, smooth out rough skin patches and brighten the complexion. This type of chemical peel typically combines salicylic acid, lactic acid, citric acid and sometimes retinoic acid (retinol).
Like lactic and beta peels, a vitalize peel is somewhat gentle compared to other options. If you're new to the world of peels and chemical exfoliation, it can be an excellent introduction. Not only is it easy on the skin, but vitalize chemical exfoliation is also associated with minimal peeling. Many people see improved skin tone after one treatment and even better results with regular vitalize peels.
#5 Pigment-Balancing Chemical Peel
Similar to vitalize peels, pigment-balancing chemical peels combine multiple AHAs and BHAs. They're primarily used to target hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin) and Melasma (discoloration), helping to even out skin tone and minimize brown spots. A pigment-balancing peel can also help reduce the look of acne scars and fine lines.
Keep in mind that with a pigment-balancing peel, you might need to use it several times before seeing any change in your skin. You may notice a balanced skin tone and a smoother complexion first, with a reduction in age spots over time. Since sun damage can worsen hyperpigmentation, wearing sunscreen every day is crucial.
Making the Most of Your Chemical Peel
A medical-grade chemical peel can do wonders for your complexion. For best results, you'll want to prepare your skin before getting a treatment. Leading up to your appointment, using high-quality products that can make your skin more receptive to the procedure and support the recovery process is very important. Our non-irritating Gentle Cleanser and calming Ultra Nourishing Moisturizer with TriHex Technology® are great picks.
Using Regenerating Skin Nectar with TriHex Technology® before a deeper peel can prep the skin barrier and help optimize the results of treated skin. Our patented TriHex Technology® helps support the process of removing old collagen and elastin, rebuilding healthy cells and replenishing regenerated skin.
To make the most of a clinical treatment, we recommend implementing an at-home daily skincare routine. Think of it like seeing the dentist twice a year and maintaining healthy teeth by brushing and flossing in between. Adding our Restorative Skin Complex with TriHex Technology® to your skincare routine helps maintain skin health with volumizing and lifting ingredients to help combat the visible signs of aging. It's an excellent product to use after getting a chemical peel.
All types of chemical peels can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, so you consider wearing tinted sunscreen. Tinted sunscreen is not only helpful after a treatment to help cover pink skin, but also on an ongoing basis for even, glowing skin.
Is a Medical-Grade Chemical Peel Right for You?
If you want a solution for addressing fine lines, sun damage, collagen loss, slowed elastin production, uneven pigmentation, and other signs of aging, a chemical peel is an excellent option. Aside from anti-aging benefits, chemical exfoliation can help with current breakouts and acne scars while improving the texture and overall appearance of your skin. What's not to love?
Getting clinical chemical peel treatments can help reset your baseline and reveal beautiful skin underneath any damaged skin cells. In between visits, using a medical-grade skincare line, can help with upkeep.
Shop online for our anti-aging skincare products from today or pick them up from select healthcare providers.
Article Reviewed by Wendy Johnson
Vice President, Marketing
Wendy Johnson brings to Alastin Skincare over 22 years of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and aesthetics industry experience in various sales, training, marketing and thought leader development roles.
After spending 10 years in gastroenterology at Tap Pharmaceuticals and Prometheus Laboratories, with sales and marketing oversight for in-line and pre-launch products, Mrs. Johnson transitioned to an aesthetic career at SkinMedica in 2004. While there, she was responsible for marketing one of the top 2 branded prescription hydroquinones, launching a leading branded low potency steroid, and oversight of the acne franchise line extensions.
In 2010, Wendy joined Merz North America where she developed and managed the Physician Relations department in support of injectable, topical and device business units under Medical Affairs, before transitioning into managing a Regional Aesthetics Marketing team.
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