Chemical peels cause intentional damage to the epidermis and/or dermis with the goal of stimulating new tissue to improve skin texture and tone.
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.
Chemical peels decrease the pH level of the skin, 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.
Chemical peels are usually performed on the face, but may also be used on the neck, décolleté, back and hands.
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.
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.
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.