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Types of Chemical Peels

Superficial Chemical Peels

Superficial chemical peels remove skin cells from the epidermis (the top layer of the skin) and can be performed by some qualified beauty therapists as well as medical staff.

These chemical peels usually use combinations of alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) and betahydroxy acids (BHAs) eg glycolic acid, lactic acid, salycilic acid and maleic acid. Treatment takes only a few minutes, and your skin may feel pink and feel tight for a couple of hours after the treatment. As superficial chemical peels only affect the top layers of the skin you may need to have regular chemical peel treatments to maintain the effect.

Medium Chemical Peels



Medium chemical peels can remove skin cells from both the epidermis and upper part of the dermis (the middle layer of the skin). These chemical peels are performed by doctors and nurses.

These chemical peels usually contain trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and this is sometimes used in combination with glycolic acid. The chemical peel remains on your face for a few minutes before being neutralised. A burning or stinging sensation may be felt during the application of the chemical peel and the skin may go brown or red in the days after the chemical peel treatment.

It can take up to six weeks for the skin to return to normal. Medium chemical peels may need to be repeated every 6 – 12 months to maintain the effect of the chemical peel treatment.

Deep Chemical Peels

This procedure should be carried out by a surgeon or dermatologist only with relevant skills and experience in a medical establishment. Deep chemical peels go deeper into the lower part of the dermis. They are performed using phenol (a strong form of TCA) and may require a local anaesthetic and sedative.

The chemical peel is applied to the face, and the chemical peel treatment feels as if the face is ‘freezing’. The chemical peel may be left on the face for up to 30 minutes or more, depending in the desired affect. Post-chemical peel pain is treated with painkillers.

There will be some peeling, redness and discomfort for a few days depending on the type of the chemical peel used. You should use the recommended cleanser and cream, wear no make up for the first 24 hours and use sunscreen.

Most of the swelling should disappear within 14 days, although there may be some redness of the skin for some time after that – up to three months in some people. A deep chemical peel is a ‘one-off’ treatment with lasting effects, unlike superficial and medium chemical peels.

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