Smooth, unblemished, fresh skin augments a person’s appearance, makes them more attractive and gives them a younger-looking face. To this end, they purchase many products promising to help them achieve their goals. One option is an at-home chemical peel.
Instead of gently exfoliating with coarse fibers or other three-dimensional yet tiny materials like some face scrubs and treatments, chemical peels use chemistry to remove the dead, old, and tired layer of the skin. This gives way to new, fresher skin cells that simply look better.
Some questions have arisen, however, about the safety of these at-home chemical peels. Should you try one out at home? What are the risks?
What Types of Chemical Peels are Available?
Not all varieties of peels for facial skin are available for home use. Plastic or cosmetic surgeons frequently provide these services in their offices or clinics to patients, such as our highly-effective VI peel. You can buy various types of chemical peel online or at a local beauty supply or drug store.
Common types include:
- Superficial peels
- Medium peels
- Deep peels
Each type affects the skin to a different degree and, as the names suggest, peels off less or more of the layers of your dermis. Most come in liquid form that is painted or spread over the skin, left on for a period of time, then removed along with the old, dead, and unattractive skin cells.
Properties of Common Chemical Peel Ingredients
Most of the potential danger when using commercial peels comes from the strength of the ingredients included within and not necessarily the chemicals themselves. The main acids used in these products include fruit acids, lactic, salicylic, glycolic, TCA, and phenolic acids. These are arranged in order from gentlest to strongest, which is generally only found in peels used by trained and licensed professionals.
Fruit and lactic acid are gentle and result in a slightly improved appearance with repeated use. These peels are an effective at-home product to expose new skin and tighten pores. Salicylic acid in appropriate concentrations works harder to remove dead cells, reduce fine lines, improve color, and even combat acne. Glycolic is stronger but is still considered safe for private use. It is frequently used to combat scars from blemishes and wrinkles. TCA, or trichloroacetic acid, carries more chances of damage and dangers than the others, although all should be used with caution.
In general, all these acids do the same thing. They penetrate the outer layers of your skin and eat it away or loosen it so it can be peeled or scrubbed off. The strength of the acidic ingredients determines how many layers of skin are affected.
Safety Concerns and How to Deal With Them
Any time you consider putting a new product on your skin, especially the more delicate skin of your face, take time to research all the potential problems first. Also, it is always a good idea to spot test the product on a hidden bit of skin. Dab a bit on to test for allergies or bad reactions before you put something on your face that you will quickly regret. Wait at least 24 hours to make sure before continuing with your beauty regimen.
Most people who do their first chemical peel experience redness and some irritation. After all, you are putting acid on your face with the intention of removing layers of skin. This is no different than the side effects you get if you exfoliate using mechanical methods like grits or micro-beads.
For gentle fruit and lactic acids, this redness can go away in as little as an hour and leave you feeling fresh and rejuvenated. Products with high concentrations of low pH compounds can affect your skin for a week or more. You might have to plan for some time off work if you do not want to display your red skin to everyone else.
The risk of more serious problems exists, but the chances are quite small and should not be a worry if you use a product that is actually recommended for home use. These include pigmentation changes, scarring, infection if the skin is broken in any way, and heart, kidney, and liver damage if you opt for a very strong phenol acid peel
Unfortunately, the internet has become a sort of wild west when it comes to buying at-home treatments. Some that should stay in the hands of the doctors are available, which increases the chance of serious problems occurring with untrained use. When in doubt, err on the side of safety.
Many people yearn for a clearer, more youthful complexion. Chemical acid peels can be a safe and effective way of achieving this goal. However, with questions and concerns about safety and the end results, it might be better to engage the help of a qualified skin specialist, cosmetic, or plastic surgeon.
Contact Mirror Mirror Beauty Boutique for questions, concerns, and appointments. Dr. Paul Vitenas has over 25 years of experience in the cosmetic field. Learn more about our chemical peel solutions at our Houston practice by filling out our contact form.