Chemical Peels: Benefits, Types, Side Effects, How to do Chemical Peel at Home, Aftercare

One of the popular trends in the beauty world in recent months has been the use of chemical peels to exfoliate your skin. A chemical peel is similar to a skin exfoliant except it is of a higher strength and has a pH that is usually around 2.0. A lower pH and the ingredients present in these products have made chemical peels immensely popular.

However, there are many confusions associated with chemical peels and today we provide you with all the information you need to know about doing chemical peels at home.

What is a Chemical Peel?

What is a Chemical Peel?

A chemical peel can be thought of as a high strength skin exfoliant which has a pH level of around 2.0. The traditional exfoliants usually have a higher pH and there is also a lesser amount of overall acid inside these traditional products. However, when you are buying a chemical peel, they tend to have a pH of around 2.0 or below, which means that the whole percentage of the acid present in the product is completely ‘free’ only to exfoliate your skin. However, keep in mind that you should try to stick to a chemical peel that has a pH of 2.0 or lower as when the pH becomes even slightly higher, less of the product will tend to actually work.

A chemical peel can, therefore, be said to be a stronger version of the traditional over the counter chemical exfoliating products that are available at most beauty shops. Due to this, you need to use a chemical peel with a lot of caution, especially if you are using it at home.

What are the Benefits of a Chemical Peel?

Chemical peels are known to have several benefits, including.

  • Facial rejuvenation
  • Deep chemical exfoliation
  • Unclogging pores
  • Treating hyperpigmentation on the skin as well as other skin discolorations
  • Getting rid of acne
  • Brightening of skin tone
  • Decreasing the depth of acne scarring or wrinkles
  • Boosting the absorption of other skin care products

Different Types of Chemicals Peels

There are three different types of chemical peels depending on the strength. These are.

Superficial peels. Also referred to as ‘lunchtime’ peels due to the minimal amount of time taken to use these, the superficial peels are known to penetrate deep into the skin, exfoliate gently, and are ideal for those who have mild skin problems such as rough texture or minor discoloration. Some examples of these include peels using lactic acid, mandelic acid, and low-strength salicylic acid.

Medium peels. Medium peels penetrate more deeply to the middle layer of the skin and target the damaged skin cells. These are the best option for individuals having moderate skin problems such as fine lines and wrinkles, superficial scarring, and some troublesome discoloration such as age spots or melasma. Medium peels are also used successfully for treating precancerous skin growths. Some examples include Jessner, TCA peels, and a high percentage of glycolic acid peels.

Deep peels. This type of peel penetrates deep inside the middle layer of the skin and target damaged skin cells. They are ideal for treating moderate to severe scarring, skin discoloration, and deep wrinkles. Examples include phenol chemical peels and high percentage TCA peels. However, never attempt to do a deep peel at home. These are only done by top-of-the-line professionals and in a completely professional environment.

Superficial peels are the recommended category to try at home. If you want to try a medium peel, you need to take extreme caution during the procedure.

Different Types of Chemical Peel Ingredients

There are many options to choose from when it comes to chemical peel ingredients. Some of the common ingredients of chemical peels are discussed here, weakest to the strongest.

Enzyme Peels. These are the lightest chemical peels and are considered to be a natural option even since they are derived from a fruit. This option is great for those who have sensitive skin and are unable to tolerate acids. However, unlike the alpha hydroxy acids and the beta hydroxy acids, the enzyme peels do not increase the cellular turnover. Rather than do that, enzyme peels work on removing dead skin cells and refine the pores on the skin in a manner that makes the skin less sensitive to the sun.

Mandelic acid. This is known to improve fine lines and wrinkles, and also the overall texture. Mandelic acid is best for those battling acne and also helps in hyperpigmentation without causing irritation or redness that is commonly induced by glycolic acid. It is also more effective on your skin when used with salicylic acid, unlike glycolic acid.

Salicylic acid. This is believed to be one of the best chemical peels for the treatment of acne. The peel is oil soluble, meaning it effectively gets absorbed into each nook and cranny of the skin pores and easily dissolves any debris and congestion under the skin. Unlike other alpha hydroxy acids and glycolic acid, salicylic acid does not increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. It is also excellent for dealing with hyperpigmentation, treating sun damage, liver spots, warts or excessive dead skin buildup, melasma, and fungal acne (Malassezia folliculitis).

Glycolic acid. A more intensive chemical peel, this is categorized as a ‘medium peel’. Glycolic acid boosts the production of collagen, brightens and refreshes the skin tone, refines the texture of the skin, reduces wrinkles, and is an excellent option for acne scars. Glycolic acid also treats hyperpigmentation and acne, though not as effective as salicylic acid.

TCA (trichloroacetic acid) peel. Also a medium-strength peel, but the strongest of all the ones listed here, TCA peels are to be used with extreme caution and not to be taken lightly. This peel is particularly helpful for treating sun damage, fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, atrophic acne scars, and stretch marks. This has a downtime of 7 to 10 days.

Side Effects of Chemical Peels

Side effects of chemical peels are experienced depending on the intensity, strength, and type of chemical peel you have used. For most lightweight peels such as 25 percent mandelic acid or 15 percent salicylic acid, there is generally little to no complications. You can experience a bit of redness post-peel, but it generally subsides within an hour or two. Skin peeling may start to occur within two to three days, though this is also rare while using light superficial peels.

Keep in mind, though, that just because you do not experience any skin peeling, this does not mean that the chemical peel did not work.

When you use higher strength products, there will be a lot of skin peeling and redness involved. This can typically last for 7 to 10 days and it is advisable that you stay at home during this time.

Some of the rare side effects of using chemicals peels include.

  • Infection
  • Change in skin color
  • Scarring
  • Liver, heart, or kidney damage

The last side effect about damage to the heart, kidney or liver, is usually a concern only while using phenol peels, which you should never think of doing at home. These are of strength even higher than TCA peels.

How To Do a Chemical Peel at Home?

Before beginning a chemical peel procedure at home, please bear in mind that they can have negative side effects, so think carefully about whether you are completely confident of doing the process at home or not. There are certain ingredients that are very strong and should not be used on a daily basis or used casually for that matter.

  • Make sure not to use these ingredients more than one time in a week.
  • Also, it is always better to consult your doctor or dermatologist before you decide on doing a chemical peel by yourself at home.
  • Regardless of whatever type of chemical peel you decide to try at home, you should always do a patch test first. To do a patch test.
  • First, apply just a small amount of the product on your skin in a discreet region such as the inside of your inner arm or the inside of your wrist.
  • Wait for 48 hours to see if there is any negative reaction.
  • Check the area again in 96 hours after the application of the product to ensure that there is no delayed reaction.
  • Start incorporating the product into your routine slowly. Safety, after all, is of utmost importance and the more patient you are, the lesser complications will be there.
  • Once you begin, you can increase the time of leaving the product on your face by 30-second increments with every session, until you reach the maximum limit of five minutes.

If, however, you reach the five-minute mark of keeping the chemical peel on your face and you still feel like the peel is not working sufficiently for you, this means you can move up in the percentage strength of the peel. For example, instead of using a 15 percent mandelic acid peel, you can use a 25 percent peel and then repeat the entire process, beginning from leaving the peel on for just 30 seconds during the first application to reaching the full five-minute cycle again.

As soon as you have applied the peel onto your face, you must keep track of the timer to ensure that you do not surpass the time you are supposed to keep the peel on for.

Chemical Peel Aftercare

For the next 24 to 48 hours, you should ensure that you are not using any active ingredients such as Retin-A (tretinoin) or any products that include acids such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid on your face.

Do not use any vitamin C serums with ascorbic acid, any low-pH serums, or any other chemical exfoliants in the next 24 hours following the application of a chemical peel.

After completing a chemical peel, you need to follow a very simple and bland skin care routine. Research has shown that including a product that contains hyaluronic acid will help hydrate your skin substantially after a chemical peel and you should focus on doing that rather than using any other ingredients on your skin. Also, make sure to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the skin immediately following a peel. It is best to stay indoors for at least 48 hours following a chemical peel.


Keep in mind that incorrectly used or applied chemical peels may prove to be very dangerous. If you really want to try using chemical peels at home, you must follow all the precautions and instructions that come with the product. Also, make sure to purchase your chemical peel products from a very reliable source and you are aware of exactly what it is that you are applying on your face. If you feel any doubts or if you feel something might have gone wrong, immediately seek emergency care.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 1, 2019

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