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What Is a Chemical Peel?

December 3, 2020

A chemical peel is a cosmetic procedure used to enhance the texture and appearance of the skin. The technique involves applying a chemical solution to the skin to induce a controlled injury. This causes the skin’s outermost layer to peel off, and reveal smoother, more youthful layers below. A chemical peel can be performed on the face, neck or hands.

Chemical Peel Options

Chemical peels come in a range of variants:

Glycolic acid:

Targets hyperpigmentation, ageing, compromised tone and texture

Salicylic acid:

Combats acne from oily skin improves skin tone

Lactic acid:

Corrects skin dis colouration, skin looseness and enlarged pores

Trichloroacetic acid:

Reduces hyperpigmentation, scarring, uneven skin texture and dis colouration


Combats skin dis colouration, signs of ageing, superficial scarring, compromised skin tone and texture

Mandelic acid:

Reverses acne, ageing, wrinkles and sun damage

Choosing the Right Chemical Peel

Your skin type will determine the chemical peel that you choose. Here are some tips to help you.

For Dry & Wrinkly Skin

If your skin is exceptionally dry or wrinkly, your best choice of peel is a lactic acid peel. Lactic acid is hygroscopic and can help keep your skin moisturised.

For Normal & Sensitive Skin

A great option for normal and sensitive skin types is a peel of mandelic acid. Mandelic acid is mild on the skin and works to minimise fine lines and pigmentation. Conversely, glycolic acid is known to aggravate the skin but is an excellent antidote for fine lines. The most potent anti-ageing peel is of trichloroacetic acid. This ingredient is an excellent choice for treating fine lines and spotty pigmentation on non-sensitive skin types.

Chemical peels can be divided into three groups: light, medium and deep. Light peels entail a healing window of 1-7 days, medium peels, of 1-2 weeks, and deep peels, of 2-3 weeks. Deep chemical peels are usually not recommended for Indian skin, because they carry a high risk of pigmentation.

How a Chemical Peel Works

Chemical peels are highly acidic. While your skin has a normal Ph balance of about 5.5, chemical peels have a Ph ranging between 2.5 and 3.5. Some peels even have Ph levels as low as 1.5. When these acidic peels are applied on the skin, they erode the topmost layer composed of dead cells, revealing underlying layers that appear smoother, cleaner and tauter.

Chemical peels are recommended for treating uneven skin tone, under-eye dark circles, pigmentation, some types of acne and sun damage. The deeper the peel, the better the results; and the more medical care and recovery time required.

Post Treatment Care

After a chemical peel procedure, your skin will need time to heal. Possible side effects include red or irritated skin, infections, darker or lighter skin and scarring. If you notice skin burns, itching or inflammation, call your dermatologist. During this period, you may be advised to apply neutralisation cream to the affected area to aid the healing process.

Here are some tips for a healthy recovery:

  • Avoid picking at flaky skin; this can cause scarring
  • Give your skin time to heal naturally and stay shielded from the sun to minimise discolouration
  • If you do step out momentarily, wear skin-covering clothes and apply a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30
  • Once your skin heals, use a sunscreen with zinc oxide daily; re-apply regularly
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