Top 6 Most Popular Chemical Peels: Pros and Cons

It might sound horrid and revolting, but millions of women – and even some men – swear that a chemical peel is the best thing for facial skin since Crème de la Mer. Put simply, It’s a technique where chemical irritants are put on the face, causing the outer layer of skin to blister and eventually peel away. The result? Skin as fresh and pure as a newborn baby’s bottom – but without the poo!

In rare cases, some clients have suffered irreversible burns from peels gone wrong.

In rare cases, some clients have suffered irreversible burns from peels gone wrong.

If you fancy a spot of blistering and peeling yourself, there are myriad peels out there. Choosing the right one is important, so you will have to match up your needs and requirements with the promise of the peel. Just play it safe – unless you want to end up like Sex and the City’s Samantha, whose peel left her so red and raw she resorted to wearing a veil covering her entire face for weeks.

Chemical Peels: The Basics

Chemical peels can be performed not only on the face, although that is the most common area of choice, but also on the neck and hands. They claim to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars, age spots, freckles, and pigmentation, and also to make skin softer, smoother and more beautiful.

People with fair skin respond better to peels, although some may work well for darker skins as well (see below). Most can be carried out in a med spa, although occasionally a doctor’s office is recommended. In some cases, you will have to stop taking certain medications, such as acne medications, well in advance. You might also be prescribed antibiotics before the peel to ward off infection.

The peel may be painful, and you may want to take painkillers with you when you go to have it done. Afterwards your skin can appear red and blistered, so don’t plan to attend a black tie function the same evening! Your old skin will slough off within one to two weeks, and during this time – and for some time afterwards – it is very important to avoid being in direct sun.

Risks include scarring, infection and pigmentation problems, so discuss everything with your doctor in advance, including how prone you will be to these irregularities based on your personal history. You can also decide beforehand how deep you want the peel to go.

Most Popular Peels

Here is just a handful of the most popular peels out there…

Alpha-Hydroxy, or Fruit Peel. Takes off a very fine, thin layer of skin using the same ingredient found in sour milk, tomato juice and sugar cane.

PROS: Good for people with mild to moderate acne. Is considered one of the easiest and safest peels around because it is so light.
Has more side effects and doesn’t last as long as beta-hydroxy acid peels (see below). Should be tested on a small area of skin first to gauge the reaction.

Beta-Hydroxy Acid Peel. Found to be highly effective for acne-prone people. Derived from salicin, related to the same ingredient found in aspirin. Stronger than alpha-hydroxy peels.

PROS: Less redness, peeling and scaling of the facial skin than alpha-hydroxy peels (see above).
CONS: Not good for women who are pregnant or nursing, or those who have aspirin allergies, due to slight risk of Reye’s syndrome.

Jessner’s Peel. A mild peel that helps deal with signs of aging and also skin that is damaged by the sun or is showing signs of hyperpigmentation. Also helps with clogged pores and mild acne.

PROS: Can help naturalize areas that are very affected by sun damage.
CONS: Usually contains some salicylic acid, so not good for those with aspirin sensitivity (see Beta-Hydroxy Acid Peel, above).

Phenol Peel. The deepest chemical peel available, it achieves maximum exfoliation by using carbolic acid as the main ingredient.

PROS: Can produce excellent results – although it can be painful!
CONS: Not recommended for very sensitive skin or those with dark skin. Also, can take up to three months to see maximum results.

Retinoic Acid Peel. Must be performed only by a medical professional, not a beauty therapist, as this peel is very deep and may even require a mild anesthesia or sedative to make you entirely comfortable.

PROS: Can really help reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
You will have to stay far away from the sun for up to three months after this peel, so don’t plan a Caribbean holiday unless you take full recovery time into account first.

Trichloracetic Acid Peel. Penetrates underneath the top layers of the skin to remove blemishes and reverse the signs of aging.

PROS: Great for patients with darker skin.
You will need to take at least several days off work as it will take a while for your skin to heal.

A chemical peel can rejuvenate the facial skin, but you need to play it safe for best results, and get the peel that is right for you. Only have one carried out by an experienced cosmetologist or, better yet, a dermatologist, and make sure you have one suited to your own specific skin.

Scarring, believe it or not, often comes from the more mild peels, and can usually be prevented from avoiding the temptation to pull off the skin too quickly, and keeping up your doctor’s after-care recommendations to the letter to avoid infection. If you are prone to keloid scarring or have cold sores or fever blisters, ask your dermatologist about whether a peel is right for you.

In rare cases, some clients have suffered irreversible burns from peels gone wrong, so be careful. Others have seen less predictable results and scarring from hand peels, which isn’t always a good idea unless done by a professional who has had fantastic results countless times before.

Peels can work wonderfully, but do your homework beforehand and make sure the peel you choose is best suited to your own particular needs. Good luck!

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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