Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are a type of radical exfoliation involving the application of some type of chemical to the face. The chemical, usually AHAs or BHA, remove the outer layers of the skin. This process can result in a dramatic improvement in the texture of the skin, removal of blackheads, reduction in wrinkles and lines and even correcting discolorations.

Chemical peels are now less popular than laser treatments but are still frequently used to treat some skin conditions.

How chemical peels work

Chemical peels use one of several ingredients (glycolic acid, salicylic acid, trichloracetic acid or phenol) as the exfoliating ingredient. The active ingredient is measured in terms of its concentration and pH, which are used to gauge the depth of the chemical peel. The deeper the peel, the more dramatic the results -- and the longer the recovery time.

Light peels sometimes have almost zero recovery time. Medium and deep peels can lead to scarring, infection and even changes in skin color. So it is important to balance the risks and rewards of a drastic peel.

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Are chemical peels right for me?

Light chemical peels are little more than radical exfoliation. A light peel with BHA can really help to clear up the skin. An AHA chemical peel may do no more than exacerbate your acne by irritating the skin. Some aestheticians and dermatologists refuse to perform chemical peels on those who have active breakouts.

It is important to note that the FDA does not regulate chemical peels. A doctor or dermatologist usually performs the deeper peels but this is not always the case. Be sure you know what you're getting into before getting a chemical peel.

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