Chemical peels are available in different strengths and use different types of chemicals to achieve specific results. The type of peel that will benefit you will depend on the results you’re looking for and your skin type, as well as any underlying medical conditions.
Generally, chemical peels are divided into light, medium and deep peels.
- Light chemical peels. These peels are ideal for treating the most superficial damage from sun, acne and aging. The chemicals used in these peels are mild, and remove only the uppermost layer of skin cells. As a result, these peels have few restrictions and most men and women are able to undergo treatment. Light chemical peels often involve alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid or lactic acid, or beta hydroxy acids, such as salicylic acid. Retinoic acid may also be used to achieve more pronounced results. Light peels usually do not require sedation.
- Medium chemical peels. These peels are used to smooth moderate wrinkling and creasing, to remove or smooth deeper acne scars and to remove age spots and other discoloration. Individuals with heart conditions and diabetes may not be ideal candidates for mild peels. In addition, some individuals with darker skin may experience lightening of their pigment in the treatment areas. The primary chemical agent used in medium peels is trichloroacetic acid, which may also be used in conjunction with other solutions to allow deeper penetration. Sedation is generally required for medium chemical peel procedures, and recovery time may last from several days to a few weeks as old skin is sloughed off and replaced with new skin.
- Deep chemical peels. These peels are reserved for the deepest, most significant scarring, wrinkling and other damage. Individuals with heart disease, diabetes, and some other health issues are generally not considered good candidates for deep peels. Darker-skinned individuals are also generally not good candidates for deep peels. Phenol is the chemical most often used in deep peels. Recovery can extend from several weeks to months, depending upon treatment.