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All About Chemical Peels

Updated: Jan 3

Are you looking to smooth fine lines and wrinkles, fade hyperpigmentation, and brighten your skin, without having to undergo laser treatments? Look no further, in walks the chemical peel.


Let’s start by calling the kettle black: chemical peels get a bad rap. Starting with the name of the treatment itself and ending with Samantha from the Sex and the City. You all remember the episode - Sam goes to her dermatologist for a peel the day before Carrie's book release party, and comes out looking like, (in my best Carrie Bradshaw voice) “beef carpaccio.” The episode was hilarious, but far from the truth - so let’s set the record straight.


Chemical peels are a form of exfoliation that revitalize the skin. Instead of using a physical exfoliant to remove dead skin cells, peels are done with different types of acids - normally alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), beta hydroxy acids (BHA), trichloracetic acids (TCA) and enzymes. After the peel is applied, it speeds up your natural cell turnover process, removing the dull, dead skin that’s causing you to look a little lackluster. We like to say, having a chemical peel “lightens, tightens, and brightens the skin.” Oh, and they also kill acne-causing bacteria, as well as calm rosacea.


People get scared when they hear the words “chemical” and “peel.” It makes sense, but before talking about the process let's chat about what acids we’re using. We’re not applying formaldehyde or mercury, or anything harsh to the skin. I promise that. Most of the acids are derived from natural sources, and below are some of the most common forms found in skincare products.


Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) :

  • citric acid (from citrus fruits)

  • glycolic acid (from sugar cane)

  • lactic acid (from lactose or other carbohydrates)

  • malic acid (from fruits like apples)

  • tartaric acid (from grapes)

  • mandelic (almonds)

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs):

  • salicylic (derived from white willow bark)

  • betaine (derived from sugar beets)

Enzymatic Exfoliants:

  • pumpkin

  • papaya

  • pineapple


Not all of these acids are applied at the same time, of course, but most peels contain a combination of multiple ingredients. After a thorough consultation, your trained esthetician will choose a peel that’s best suited for the skin condition you’d like to address, and it is applied in layers using a cotton round or brush. When the product is on your skin you may feel a tingling or slight burning sensation. Your esthetician will keep a close gauge on your sensitivity level by asking you on a 1-10 scale how your skin is feeling, and by closely monitoring any visible changes to the skin. One to several layers can be applied, which will be determined by your sensitivity level.


During the days to follow, your skin will start to feel a little tight, sometimes slightly irritated or itchy, and normally 3 days after the treatment, your skin will start to peel. Sometimes you’ll get a lot of shedding, but sometimes you’ll hardly peel at all, and both results are good. Peeling/shedding depends on the condition your skin is in at the time of the peel, where you’re at in your natural cell turnover process, and the level of intensity of the treatment. Every time you get a peel, however, it is working at a cellular level, and after just one visit you’ll see improvement in skin tone, texture, and pigment. And, unlike Samantha, you’re able to go in public, unveiled and presentable.


Just like anything, consistency is key, so depending on your goals you may have to come in for a few sessions to achieve the desired results. Normally 6-8 treatments, a month a part is recommended. At SkinQ, after each treatment, we send you home with a complimentary Post Peel Kit and recommend a personalized skincare regime to facilitate the best results.


Peel season is upon us, right now! Autumn through the winter is the best time to start a series of chemical peels. This is because you have to be diligent about staying out of the sun, and you have to avoid heat - both are easier things to do during the colder months.


We have several types of light to medium depth peels at SkinQ, so talk to your esthetician about what’s best suited for your skin type and condition. Oh, and guess what? We even have peels that you can do the day before you go to your friend's book party. Sorry Sam.


Peace, Love, & Cheers to your newly regenerated skin!


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