Which skin peel is right for me?
While the terms’ chemical peel’, ‘skin peel’, and ‘acids’ sound slightly scary, these treatments are actually very effective skincare solutions for a whole host of common issues, including acne, pigmentation, sun damage, and fine lines – all of which can be improved significantly with a short course designed to leave you with radiant, healthy skin. However, with so many peels available, it is important to understand which is best for you and your skin. Here at Illuminate Skin Clinic Kent, we offer a range of minimally invasive peels that deliver excellent results for various concerns, with minimal downtime.
What is a chemical peel?
Chemical peels are acid solutions that exfoliate the skin, improve cell turnover and skin renewal, and they also indirectly encourage collagen and elastin formation. They can be performed using a variety of ingredients, including glycolic acid or salicylic acid, or other alpha-hydroxy acids such as lactic and mandelic. Your practitioner will tailor the peel to suit your skin type and the desired outcome.
A chemical peel will reach the deeper layers of the skin and boost your cell turnover, maintaining healthy skin and maximising the efficiency of your normal skincare products. As we age, the skin cell renewal process slows down (along with many other things), and dead skin cells can build up on the surface, leading to dull, lacklustre skin. By using a chemical peel, we can stimulate those skin cells at a cellular level and reveal new, brighter, fresher cells.
Which depth is best?
There are three main strengths and depths of a chemical peel. Superficial peels work on the epidermis, while medium-depth peels target both the epidermis and the upper dermis. Deep peels travel down to the lower layers of the dermis and are sometimes recommended to those looking to tackle severe scarring or deep lines and folds. The exact strength of the peel should always be tailored to your individual skin concerns.
Superficial peels don’t involve much downtime and are commonly used for improving skin texture, dullness, and the overall complexion. They work by removing part of the stratum corneum, and they can improve dark spots and pigmentation, surface roughness and texture, and stimulate collagen production. With a superficial peel, you’ll achieve a more refined skin surface with a fresher, more vibrant tone and smoother skin texture.
Medium-depth peels are ideal for more mature skin with visible sun damage. They have more potent effects, but you should expect to experience flaking and tightness over the following days.
Deep peels are mainly used to improve more severe skin conditions. They penetrate down to the lower middle layers of your skin, producing the most dramatic results, but they come with a much higher risk of complications. These days, deep peels aren’t commonly used since medium-depth peels can effectively tackle most concerns.
So, which is right for me?
We’ve discussed the different strengths of skin peels, so now let’s look at some of the most common peel ingredients and their benefits.
Best for: Wrinkles
Glycolic acid has the smallest molecules of all the AHAs, so it penetrates the deepest and quickest. Studies show that it helps initiate collagen synthesis and boost hyaluronic acid in the lower skin layers, plumping fine lines and wrinkles. It is one of the mildest peels and is great for wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, acne, and sun damage. This type of peel is made from fruit acids, and they penetrate the top layer of skin, sloughing off dead skin cells.
Best for: Dry skin
The molecules that make up lactic acid are larger than those in glycolic acid, so they don’t penetrate as deeply to trigger that peeling action. If you have dry or sensitive skin, lactic acid may be a good option for you. Lactic acid acts as a humectant at low percentages, drawing moisture into the skin while it exfoliates. Usually, it’s combined with other alpha-hydroxy acids like glycolic acid in skin peels to retexturise and hydrate.
Best for: Pigmentation and acne
Studies show that mandelic acid is as effective as glycolic at treating pigmentation from sun damage but with less redness and irritation. And it has also been shown to reduce melasma by as much as 50% in four weeks. It takes a long time to penetrate the skin, but it’s the only AHA to work in its deeper layers to inhibit melanin production. So, what it lacks in speed, it makes up for in depth. Its gentle approach also makes it suitable for darker skin tones, who should avoid glycolic and lactic acids because the irritation they cause can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Best for: Oily skin and acne
Salicylic acid is a BHA that effectively targets the oil glands. This type of peel is excellent for someone with congested, acne-prone skin, as salicylic acid is oil-soluble, so it penetrates deep into your pores to clear congestion. It can also clear away oils that build up and cause comedones (aka whiteheads and blackheads). Plus, it has anti-inflammatory properties that can offer relief to inflamed breakouts.
Best for: Lines, wrinkles, and sun damage
An all-round winner, Retinol peels are an excellent option for treating hyperpigmentation, acne, scarring, texture concerns and preventing and treating lines and sagging. Due to its small molecular size, retinol can penetrate the deeper layers of your skin and speed up cell turnover for existing skin damage whilst cleverly interrupting the free-radical damage process from the environment and slow general ageing.
To find out more about chemical peels, click here to book a consultation with our expert team.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that results and benefits may vary from patient to patient taking into consideration factors such as age, lifestyle and medical history.