A mention of the words “Chemical peel” to many conjures up images of Samantha in Sex in the City having to wear a veil to hide her peeling face or “10 years younger” where women were seen with their faces literally falling off like snake skin.  For most this is a horrifying thought and only the brave would contemplate the procedure no matter the promise of smoother and more radiant skin. However women have been using acids as far back as the Egyptians who used various animal oils, sour milk and alabaster to improve skin texture.  Throughout the ages formulas using sulphur, mustard, fruit acids and limestone were used to treat and improve the skin and these formulations were passed down from generation to generation.

Fortunately things have moved on from those days and there are a variety of natural chemical acids at hand to improve the appearance of the skin.  Chemical peeling involves the application of a solution that causes the skin to exfoliate and eventually peel off.  The newer skin revealed is normally smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin.

There are various types of solutions used in chemical peeling.  Superficial or lunchtime peels using low concentrations of Alpha Hydroxy acids (AHA) such as Glycolic acid initially damage the top layer of the skin to allow the penetration of the acids causing gentle exfoliation.  Beta Hydroxy acid (BHA) known as Salicylic acid has a slightly deeper penetration as it is attracted to lipids which make it the best acid to treat acne prone skin and certain types of Rosacea.  Superficial peels have fewer risks but this means the results may be less noticeable.

Having superficial peels done on a regular basis will lead to collagen stimulation that will improve the appearance of the skin.

Medium depth peels use higher concentrations of Glycolic acid or Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) which penetrate the outer and middle layer of the skin.  These acids are used to treat fine lines and wrinkles, freckles and moderate pigmentation.  As these peels affect the deeper layers of the skin the amount of skin peeling increases as well as redness, swelling, increased skin sensitivity.  In some there is a risk of increased pigmentation due to damage.  In those who suffer from cold sores these type of peels may in cause a break out.

It is important to always use a broad spectrum sunscreen which have active ingredients, Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide after having a chemical peel.  The skin will be sensitive to the sun for a few weeks after the treatment. Given the investment you are putting into improving your skin it makes sense to look after it by protecting it from the damaging affects of the sun.  If you love the sun and can’t keep away from the sunbeds then chemical peeling is not the treatment option for you.

An exciting development in the use of acids to improve skin is the concept of skin resurfacing. The use of unique delivery systems to carry the acids into the living skin prevents damage to the upper layers of the skin.  This means the top layer of the skin stays intact and the skin is stimulated from beneath stimulating collagen production, reducing pigmentation and treating acne prone skin.  The “No peel No downtime” concept means there is no interruption in your busy lifestyle but you get the same improvements as the more conventional approach using chemical peeling.

Whether you have a peel or resurfacing and what type depends on the condition of your skin, your skin type and being realistic.  Peels or resurfacing cannot help sagging skin and they cannot replace the results from other cosmetic procedures and it’s definitely not a replacement for surgery. Whichever approach you consider the best results are gained by the daily use of a well formulated sunscreen of SPF 30+ and using a brilliant anti-ageing skin care routine. This proven combination will help you look younger for longer.

This article was written for us by Pam Cushing, UK distributor of pHFormula professional skincare.  If you have a question for Pam or want to try out a chemical peel for yourself simple email us at or fill in our patient ENQUIRY form today.

Samantha and chemical peel