How Do Chemical Peels Work? - Advanced Dermatology Care
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How Do Chemical Peels Work?

How Do Chemical Peels Work

A chemical peel is effective because it removes the dead skin cells on the skin leaving behind bright and replenished looking skin. Chemical peels use acids to exfoliate the two layers of the skin; the epidermis and dermis. The outer layer of the skin, also known as the epidermis, is the layer that is visible to the naked eye, and the dermis sits right beneath it. All chemical peels will remove skin cells from the outer layers of the skin; however, a stronger peel is necessary to remove parts of the dermis. Chemical peels are popular treatments because when they are done right, because they help reduce the appearance of acne, scarring, and sun damage.

During a chemical peel treatment, your skin care specialist will apply an exfoliating acid on all areas of your face. There are different types of acids that can be used such as alpha-hydroxy acids which include glycolic acid, lactic acid, and citric acid. Many at home exfoliating treatments often contain these acids. There are also beta-hydroxy acids, such as salicylic acid, which is especially beneficial for acne-prone skin and enlarged pores. Another type of acid is trichloroacetic acid, which dermatologists typically use this in medium or deep chemical peels. Lastly, phenol is a powerful chemical agent that is useful in deep peels.

Chemical peels can be used to address a variety of skin issues such as acne, enlarged pores, scarring, redness, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation. Once the acid has been applied onto the skin the skin care specialist will use a cool compress to remove the remaining product. Swelling and peeling is normal and expected by product of the treatment. It can take up to one to two weeks for the peeling to stop. During this time, it is strongly recommended to stay away from direct sunlight and refrain from applying makeup.

Chemical peels can help reduce skin damage, giving the skin a more youthful appearance. A dermatologist or skin care specialist will recommend the most appropriate chemical peel depending on your specific skin type. For example, lighter skin individuals are at a lesser risk than those with darker skin to experience any skin issues with a chemical peel. Darker skin types can experience discoloration or scarring if the chemical peel is too strong. Superficial peels are the safest for all skin types which entail the use of milder products. However, any kind of chemical peel will require some downtime for recovery and may cause side effects, such as redness, skin peeling, and sensitivity to sunlight. Over the counter products contain weaker versions of the agents in chemical peels. They are also much more affordable than professional peels, but they take longer for results to show. If you are looking for a treatment that will give your skin a boost, a chemical peel can be a great option!


Advanced Dermatology Care of Southern California is a comprehensive dermatology group providing general & surgical dermatology, cosmetic enhancements and plastic surgery with two Southern California locations. Under the direction of Michael P. Tabibian, M.D., Medical Director, our collective experience aims to provide our patients innovative and highly individualized skin treatment solutions for patients of all ages and skin types.