5 Science-Backed Benefits Of Chemical Peels That Skincare Addicts Can’t Get Enough Of

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Although chemical peels have been proven a million times to benefit everyone — whether it is to reduce aging signs, even tone, smooth texture, unclog pores or encourage pimple healing — some people are just too scared to take the plunge. According to skin experts, chemical peels remain one of the most effective skincare solutions out there, and if used correctly, they can bring to the surface (literally) renewed, smooth and soft skin. Read on to learn more about the benefits of chemical peels for the skin and how you can get the best out of this procedure, whether you’re appealing to an at-home chemical peel or an in-office deeper one.

What is a chemical peel?

A chemical peel involves a chemical solution applied to the face and neck to exfoliate the skin’s top layer. When the outermost skin layer exfoliates, dead cell buildup sloughs off, and new, fresher cells are revealed, leading to an evener tone, smoother texture, less noticeable fine lines, and a healthy glow.

“Chemical peels are used to create an injury of a specific skin depth with the goal of stimulating new skin growth and improving surface texture and appearance. The exfoliative effect of chemical peels stimulates new epidermal growth and collagen with more evenly distributed melanin.”[1]

Types of chemical peels

The good news is that there are quite a few types of chemical peels, from gentle to medium and deep, so there’s one for everyone, whether you’re a chemical peel starter or want a deeper exfoliation for dramatic results.

The most common chemical peeling agents are alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), with glycolic acid and lactic acid being the most popular — they address all skin types, especially normal, dry, and mature complexions. Then, there are beta-hydroxy acids (think salicylic acid), which are soluble in oil, meaning they penetrate deeper into the skin for deeper exfoliation — they usually target people with oily and breakout-prone skin. TCA peels and PHA peels are other commonly used chemical peels, both classified as mild chemical peels.[2] In terms of deep peels, you can choose between Phenol or Jessner’s solution and leave yourself in the hands of an experienced cosmetician or dermatologist.

A chemical peel’s depth, however, is influenced by the concentration of acids used. In over-the-counter products, you can find peeling agents in a concentration of as high as 10% for AHAs and TCA peels and 2% for BHAs.[3] In-office procedures, on the other hand, allow higher concentrations of peeling acids, up to 50% for salicylic acid, 70% for glycolic acid, and between 15-20% for TCA peels, which give more dramatic results, but also imply recovery time.

The benefits of chemical peels

Regularly doing a chemical peel — either at home or in-office — comes with plenty of benefits, hard to overlook.

Here are the main benefits of chemical peels:

Tackle acne

Due to their exfoliating power, chemical peels help shed away dead cell buildup and excess sebum — the main culprits that lead to acne. When dead cells, oil residues, and bacteria are sloughed off, there are fewer chances for pores to get clogged; hence, blackheads and pimples are less likely to occur. A suitable chemical peel for oily skin or acne-prone complexion contains salicylic acid or a combination of AHAs and BHAs. Since it penetrates the pores, a salicylic acid peel can sink into the skin where it decongests pores, while its keratolytic properties dissolve dead cells on the skin’s surface to reveal softer and smoother skin.[4]

Shrink pores look

Large pores are a common issue, especially for oily complexions, and when pores get clogged with dead skin, sebum, and dirt, they appear even more prominent. While a chemical peel cannot minimize pores’ size, it can make them look smaller by removing the oil and debris that blocks them. Again, salicylic acid works amazingly at refining large pores since it can go deep inside the skin, pushing out dead cells, sebum, and bacteria.

Soften fine lines and wrinkles

According to research, chemical peels are one of the best treatments to rejuvenate the upper layers of the skin.[1] This is because they enhance collagen production, which, coupled with the skin-renewing benefits, leads to a smoother texture and minimized fine lines and wrinkles. These at-home glycolic acid peels are the best option to address aging signs, though deep in-office chemical peels give more noticeable results.

Fade dark spots, and brighten

If uneven tone bothers you, you’ll be happy to hear that using chemical peels regularly reveals luminous skin and diminishes the dark spots’ appearance. When the old skin layer is removed, pigmented cells get dissolved, and brighter skin is exposed, making dark patches less visible with each chemical peel. As a matter of fact, the most common indications of chemical peels are photoaging and hyperpigmentation.[5]

Increase products absorption

Chemical peels remove the buildup of dead cells, impurities, and debris, which allows products to absorb better into the skin.

The takeaway

Regular chemical peels are an essential step in any robust skincare strategy. They do just about everything from retexturizing, evening skin tone, fading hyperpigmentation, and scars to softening fine lines and wrinkles and plumping skin by boosting collagen. Nevertheless,
before making a chemical-peel plan, remember that using the proper concentration for your skin’s tolerance level is key to success. On the flip side, using a chemical peel that’s too strong for you might disrupt the skin’s barrier and lead to sensitivities, redness, or irritation.

So, here’s the gist: if you’re a chemical peel newbie, you want to start with a low-concentrated product and gradually work up to 10% (the maximum allowed by the FDA for OTC chemical peels) to help your skin build tolerance. Also, it’s essential to allow your skin to adjust to chemical peels and not to try speeding up the process by increasing frequency — most at-home chemical peels are recommended twice a week.

Remember that after chemical peels, the skin becomes more sensitive to the sun, so applying sunscreen is crucial (although you should really be doing that anyway). Ensure you’re using sunscreen that protects you from both UVA and UVB rays.

Sources

Women’s Concepts uses reliable sources, including dermatologists’ insights, clinical trials, and scientific journals, to find accurate information and support all the facts shared in our articles. All statements and claims have clear and legit references. Read our editorial policy to learn more about our sources of information, our process of researching and fact-checking the content, and how our team strives to keep all articles updated, completed, and trustworthy.

References
  1. Rendon MI, Berson DS, Cohen JL, Roberts WE, Starker I, Wang B. Evidence and considerations in the application of chemical peels in skin disorders and aesthetic resurfacing. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol.
  2. M. Truchuelo, P. Cerdá, L.F. Fernández, Chemical Peeling: A Useful Tool in the Office, Actas Dermo-Sifiliográficas (English Edition), Volume 108, Issue 4, 2017, Pages 315-322, ISSN 1578-2190
  3. The U.S. Fodd and Drug Administration, Guidance for Industry: Labeling for Cosmetics Containing Alpha Hydroxy Acids, Guidance Document
  4. Arif T. Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015.
  5. Soleymani T, Lanoue J, Rahman Z. A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels: A Review of Fundamentals and Step-by-step Algorithmic Protocol for Treatment. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018.
Who wrote this?
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu is the founder and editor-in-chief of Women's Concepts. She has over 5 years of experience working in the beauty editorial industry and dermatological research and was an acne sufferer for over a decade. Ana is now an IAO and CPD-accredited skincare consultant keen to teach others about the importance of a consistent routine. She covers a wide range of topics in skincare—from buzzy ingredients to anti-aging and acne advice. She holds a BA in Sociology and Political Sciences from the National School of Political and Administrative Studies. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram.
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Women's Concepts relies on the latest scientific research to provide accurate, complete, and fact-based information in skincare, on which we're willing to stake our reputation. Our team includes skincare experts who are highly regarded in their fields and committed to upholding the best standards of research. We spend quality time vetting every single product we recommend and double-checking all the facts shared on Women's Concepts. We always stand on the side of inclusivity, and our mission is to help everyone fix their skin issues as they arise and leverage the products they buy to achieve their goals. You can view our expert review board and everything about our editorial guidelines here.
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