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Chemical Peels

Updated: Feb 26, 2020

Our recent poll on Facebook asked whether you'd like me to discuss Chemical Peels or PDO Thread Lifts - it resulted in a 50/50 split. So, I have promised to explore both!

This week we look at chemical skin peels.

Chemical peels: Sex and the City horror story (Samantha) or a modern medically lead treatment?

The origins

Skin resurfacing has been around in one form or another since the Ancient Egyptians, who used a combination of sour milk salt, animal oils and alabaster to aesthetically improve the skins surface.

The sour milk was the component which provided the skin resurfacing due to the lactic acid and alph-hydroxy acid.

Thankfully we have moved on a little since then. Modern skin peels are designed to treat very specific conditions or concerns, such as acne scaring, problems with pigmentation, fines lines and wrinkles or just a quick lunch time summer peel (mandelic).

What do chemical peels do?

The skin is made up of several layers - the epidermis being the outermost layer. These epidermal cells protect the delicate underlying structures from the environment. Our skin naturally sheds millions of skin cells each day.

Speeding up the process with a chemical peel has the ability to reveal fresh youthful looking skin and address some of the more difficult to treat fines lines and wrinkles.

The epidermal cells are knitted together in two very distinct ways, fibres called tonofilaments run between each individual cell, helping tie the cells together. The second way skin cells are held in place is by a extracellular coating that surrounds each cell, acting a little like glue to keep the cells together.

Chemical peels are designed to break down this extracellular coating around each cell, encouraging a shedding of old damaged skin cells.

Four levels of peeling

Very superficial peels

This really isn't a true peel, more of an exfoliation. The most superficial layers of the stratum corneum (at the top of the epidermis) are removed or thinned during exfoliation. Most chemical peels have a preoperative regimen of using exfoliating agents such glycolic acid cream for two to four weeks prior to the actual procedure. This helps the chemical peeling agents penetrate more deeply and evenly. The use of these exfoliants also has the obvious benefit of smoothing out thickened rough areas.

Superficial peels

These type of peels use a very mild chemical exfoliant to reach only the very surface layers of the skin. Known as refreshing peels, they are designed to remove a portion of the epidermal layer only. Superficial peels help clean pores, restore blotchy dull looking skin, reduce oil production for oily skins and renew texture to give a smoother appearance. Often these type of peels are available over the counter and undertaken by non-medical aestheticians.

Medium depth peels

Here is where the cut of point lies, distinguishing medically performed peels to those undertaken by a aesthetician. Medium depth chemical peels allow the acid to penetrate through the surface layers of the skin (the epidermis) down into the uppermost portion of the dermis (the next layer of the skin).

Medium peels are typically not appropriate for darker skins or for those of an ethnic origin due to the risk of irregular pigmentation. This level of peel will give a noticeable peeling. It is vital that the peeling skin is left alone and not picked; picking peeling skin can lead to infection, discolouration or scaring. A medium peel can contain TCA, jessner acid or high strength salicylic acid.

Medium depth peels are perfect for dealing with photo ageing, acne scarring, active acne, fine lines and wrinkles smoothing of skin tone and texture and mild hyperpigmentation.

Deep peels

A deep peel goes through the epidermis, papillary dermis and into the deeper portion of the dermis known as the reticular dermis.These often have to be performed with some kind of sedation as they can be very painful. True Face Aesthetics do not provide deep peels due to the associated risks and down time of an anaesthetic. Absorption of the active ingredient of some of the deep peels available (phenol), has been known to cause cardiac arrest and even death. However, under the right conditions a deep peel can be used to treat very bad acne scarring and total skin resurfacing.

What will happen at my chemical peel appointment?

As will all treatments undertaken by True Face Aesthetics you will be offered a comprehensive face-to-face consultation with one of our medically qualified practitioners. We will use this appointment to discover what you want to achieve and to advise on the best peel to complement your skin condition. Most of the peels we provide (Enerpeels) require some skin preparation with the use of a special moisturiser and a wash, allowing the skin to be conditioned for the chemical and so its evenly distributed into the correct layer of the skin. The preparation time is normally 2 weeks but might be longer depending on the condition of your skin.

Once your skin has been suitably prepared, the chemical solution is applied using a disposable brush and is left on the skin for a very specific length of time. Often we layer different peel solutions to improve the result. The solution is then neutralised with a impregnated wipe. Depending on the peel, the process typical takes under 30 minutes.

A great add on to chemical peeling is to have a 'dermaplaning treatment' just before the peel is placed on the skin. This assists the chemical in its entry to the skin, removing loose dead skin cells and very fine vellus hairs of the surface.

Is it painful?

Most clients experience a warm, sometimes stingy feeling. The severity of this is dependent on the depth of the peel. A mandelic peel, for example causes a very mild prickly feeling where as a TCA can be more uncomfortable. Most clients say the use of a fan helps greatly when having a TCA.


I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog post, we are looking forward to welcoming you into our clinics for a consultation soon.

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