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How Does a Chemical Peel Work?


A chemical peel is a cosmetic procedure where high concentrations of active ingredients are applied to the skin and then rinsed off. These active ingredients are the acids commonly found in skin care products that work to exfoliate the skin. The objective of this procedure is to peel off skin damaged by acne, aging and other environmental factors.

Chemical peels are also known as chemoexfoliation or dermapeeling. These peels are grouped into three basic categories according to their strength.

Light Chemical Peels

Light or mild chemical peels make use of a combination of glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids to lightly peel off the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of the skin. This is also called a lunchtime peel because the procedure is so quick that it can be performed  during your lunch break. Light chemical peels are recommended for dry and uneven-toned skin. It is also used on patients who have fine wrinkles. If you are looking for a peel that will improve the texture of your skin, making it look fresher and more even-toned, this peel is for you.

The light chemical peels that are commonly offered are Glycolic Acid Peels, Mandelic Acid Peels, Azelaic Acid Peels, Salicylic Acid Peels, Retinol Peels, Kojic Acid Peels, Lactic Acid Peels, Arginine Peels and Pyrucvic Acid Peels.

Medium Chemical Peels

Medium chemical peels penetrate the skin at a deeper level as compared to light chemical peels, as it peels off the dermis or middle layer of the skin. They are used to treat skin that has deeper wrinkles, acne, large pores and excess sebum. The most common medium chemical peel uses an active ingredient called Trichloroacetic Acid and is known as the TCA peel.

Deep Chemical Peels

The deepest and strongest kind of peel is the deep chemical peel. This procedure uses phenol as an active ingredient that penetrates the dermal layer of the skin. This is recommended for skin that has advanced wrinkles, dark scars and severely sun damaged skin.  It is applied longer than the other types of peels, and requires the use of a sedative or local anesthesia during the procedure.



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“Overview of Chemical Peel Treatments: Results, Costs.” American Society of Plastic Surgeons: The resource for plastic and reconstructive surgery. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2010.

“CHEMICAL PEEL TREATMENTS Guide to chemical peels.” SESDERMA Skincare Laboratory Medi-spa Dermaceutical. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2010.

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