Chemical peels are used to minimize age spots and scars and to treat sun-damaged skin. The intensity ranges from superficial treatments that gently slough off the top layer of your skin -- the epidermis -- to peels that penetrate to both the top and middle layers -- the dermis. If not visiting your dermatologist, visit your local pharmacist or check out an online store for peels you can do in the privacy of your home. Learn what types of peels are available and the risk involved to choose the ideal peel for your skin type and lifestyle.
1. Superficial Peels
If you're trying a peel for the first time or if you have sensitive skin, look for glycolic and lactic acids. These are in milder peels that only penetrate the top layer of the skin, and require no downtime. Lactic acid is the milder of the two, and works on hyperpigmentation problems so it's ideal for age spots. Glycolic acid is more aggressive than lactic acid, and works to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin to address acne scars and even wrinkles.
2. Medium-Deep Peels
Try a TCA -- trichloroacetic acid -- peel to minimize age spots, acne scars and general scarring. It penetrates and destroys both the epidermis and the dermis to force the skin to improve cell turnover and reduce blotchy pigmentation and acne scarring. TCA peels come in concentrations ranging from 10 percent to 50 percent. The higher the concentration, the more deeply the peel will penetrate your skin, and it might take up to a month for your skin to properly heal.
3. Possible Side Effects
Although chemical peels have been effectively and safely used for more than 50 years, there are possible side effects. Do a patch test beforehand to see how your skin will react. Redness is common, and can last from several days to several months on sensitive skin types. Flaking is another common side effect, and should dissipate within a month after you use the peel. If you have dark skin, you may notice temporary darkening after the peel. When peels are used properly, there is little risk of permanent scarring.
4. Use Caution
Follow the instructions when doing an at-home chemical peel. Skipping steps or leaving a peel on for longer than instructed can damage your skin. Be diligent about follow-up care to help your skin heal properly. Do not scratch the treated area, and to prevent infection, avoid wearing makeup until your skin is healed. The chemical will make you more sensitive to sunlight, so wear a broad spectrum sunblock or sunscreen daily.