Different Types of Chemical Peels

As your largest and most exposed organ, your skin works hard to protect and defend your body every minute of the day. To keep itself in peak condition, epidermal tissue is in a constant state of exfoliation and renewal, sloughing off dead cells and generating new ones every 28 days.

Your skin may know how to keep itself functional, but it needs your help to stay healthy and fresh. An attentive and consistent skin care routine can go a long way in helping you maintain a luminous complexion; it can even help you minimize the signs of aging as time goes by. 

But even if your skin care regimen leaves little to chance, everyone’s skin can use a little TLC sometimes. As a board-certified physician who specializes in clinical skin care, Craig A. Foster, MD, knows that the right chemical peel is often the best “reset” treatment for lackluster skin. 

Let’s explore what a chemical peel does, and how each type of peel — light, medium, or deep — works to improve your skin and revitalize your complexion. 

Chemical peels explained

A chemical peel is a minimally invasive treatment that takes your skin’s natural exfoliation and renewal process to the next level. It’s done through the skilled application and timely removal of a penetrating chemical solution that gently “peels,” or lifts away, damaged skin layers.

Simple, effective, and easy to customize, chemical peels can be used to address a wide range of common skin issues, from uneven skin tone and texture to sun damage and scars. 

A single chemical peel treatment can make dull, uneven skin brighter and more uniform. It can also soften rough skin, tighten large pores, correct areas of discoloration (hyperpigmentation), smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, and even erase shallow scars.

Main chemical peel types

All chemical peels work to exfoliate dead skin cells, lift away damaged layers, and prompt the rapid regeneration of new, healthy epidermal tissues. But while lighter peels stop there, deeper peels go a bit further to address unwanted skin flaws and achieve more dramatic results.

Chemical peels are defined by their depth of action, or how many layers of skin they penetrate and exfoliate. A peel’s depth of action depends on a variety of factors, including its ingredients, how it’s applied, and how long it remains on your skin before it’s neutralized. 

There are three main types of chemical peels, each of which can be fully customized to meet your skin care needs.

Light chemical peel

Also known as a superficial or lunchtime chemical peel, this treatment uses alpha-hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, or another mild acid to gently penetrate and exfoliate the outermost layer of skin. 

Primarily used to correct mild discoloration as it smooths, tightens, and brightens your skin, a light chemical peel is an easy way to revitalize your complexion or improve the appearance of the skin on your neck, chest, or hands.

This quick and gentle treatment has minimal downtime and can be repeated every few weeks to keep your skin looking fresh and healthy through every season.

Medium chemical peel

This type of peel contains a higher concentration of trichloroacetic acid, a powerful agent that has a more significant diminishing effect on pigmented spots, fine lines, and deeper wrinkles. 

A medium peel is designed to penetrate through the outermost layer of skin and down into the middle layers of epidermal tissue. Damage within this layer is what gives rise to lines, wrinkles, and moderate skin discoloration. 

Given that medium peels penetrate more deeply than lighter peels, the skin renewal process — and post-treatment healing time — take a bit longer. But as you’d expect, results are also more appreciable: Lines and wrinkles become less noticeable, and pigmented spots all but disappear. 

Deep chemical peel

With a deep peel, trichloroacetic acid or phenol penetrates all the way through your middle epidermal layer in order to address more extensive skin damage. This intensive treatment can smooth out moderate lines, erase areas of hyperpigmentation, and remove shallow scars. 

Often done to reverse or improve the effects of severe long-term sun damage (photoaging), deep chemical peels offer a dramatic improvement in skin appearance and long-lasting facial rejuvenation.

Because they’re so intense, however, deep peels are usually a once-in-a-lifetime treatment. 

Treatment considerations for chemical peels

Although your skin-rejuvenation goals help determine which chemical peel is best for you, it’s important to understand what kind of follow-up care your treatment requires before you move forward. 

While a light chemical peel comes with a week of gentle healing, a medium peel comes with two weeks of healing and more intensive follow-up care. It takes up to three weeks of diligent daily care to heal from a deep peel.

If you’re ready to revitalize the skin you’re in, we can help. Call 212-744-5011 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Foster at our office in Manhattan, New York City, today.

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