Overview of peels
Both Alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) and Beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) gently exfoliate the top layer of dead skin cells, increase the turnover rate of cells, uncover newer healthier skin, and encourage collagen production when stronger than 5% concentration. The glycolic and lactic acid peels are the most effective AHAs and are also the most studied. Glycolic and lactic acid peels over 30% both encourage collagen production and are good exfoliants for sensitive skin. The other AHA acids are less stable and more irritating to the skin.
BHA has the same benefits as AHA, but also the added benefit of the ability to unclog pores and act as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. That is why BHA acid peels are the best for the role of controlling acne and reducing pore size. The BHA used cosmetically in peels is salicylic acid. BHA is effective in reducing pore size because it can penetrate and exfoliate the inside top layer of the pores. It cleans out the sebum that can be clogging the pore, and causes new growth skin to be uncovered. This combination of conditions helps to reduce pore size. AHA and BHA peels are very effective and good choices for home use.
Jessner’s peel mixture gets many benefits, minimizes the negative effects of the chemicals, and is very difficult to overdo the peel. The amount of layers of skin reached is dependent on the number of layers applied. Jessner’s solution, TCA, and glycolic acid in medium strength are capable of causing scars and should be done with the help of a medical professional. They are a stronger and more effective peel than AHA and they will take a little longer to heal than AHA as well.
Deep strength peels should most definitely be done with the help of a medical professional. Deep peels are phenol (croton oil) peels. Phenol peels can be painful and are usually performed in association with sedation. They will take longer to heal than other peels. Modern phenol peels are available in a variety of formulations that function to a variety of depths in the skin. Deep peels are not recommended for dark skin and this is also another reason to work with a medical professional.
List of types of peels
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA)
Lactic acid (extracted from milk)
Glycolic acid (extracted from sugar cane)
Mandelic acid (extracted from bitter almonds)
Malic acid (extracted from pears and apples)
Citric acid (extracted from oranges and lemons)
Tartaric acid (extracted from grapes)
Beta-hydroxy acids (BHA) - Salicylic acid being the cosmetic one, is extracted from willow bark (other BHA are used as food preservatives)
Trichloroacetic acid (TCA)
Phenol (carbolic acid)
14% or 20% Salicylic acid
Ethanol (the base chemical for the mix)
Lactic acid, fruit acid, and nut acid AHA peels are very gentle.
Superficial strength peel - a few days to heal to a point where you can wear makeup
10% to 19% salicylic acid, 10% to 30% glycolic acid, 30% to 40% lactic acid, retinoic acid, 10 % to 35% TCA
mild acne scars
mild sun damage
Medium strength peel - 5 to 7 days to heal to a point where you can wear makeup
35% to 49% TCA, 20% to 30% salicylic acid, 30% to 70% glycolic acid, 40% to 50% lactic acid,
14% or 20% Jessner's solution
TCA is not reliable above 35% and 50% and higher concentration is not used
moderate sun damage
age spots and dark spots
precancerous skin spots
Deep strength peel - take 10 to 14 days to heal and needs to be done by a doctor
Not recommended for dark skin
Phenol (Carbolic acid) is most commonly used
accumulated sun damage
dramatic dark spots
skin lesions or skin growth
Do not use peels if you are using Isotretinoin or Acutane for acne, are sick, or dealing with infections.
After the skin peels you need to protect the new and less protected skin from sun exposure.
I chose salicylic acid peels. I started with 17% and then moved on to 30% strength.
If you would like help to decide which type of chemical peel is right for you...
Mary Williamson, blogger, novice marketer, bonsai tree hobbyist