A chemical peeling is a type of skin treatment that can help to decrease the look of acne, scars, wrinkles, and sun damage. There are several varieties of chemical peels, and this page discusses them and how they work. It also investigates over-the-counter medications that have comparable chemicals and may be effective as well.

What is a chemical peel?

Chemical peels are skin exfoliation procedures that employ acids to exfoliate the skin. The acid destroys damaged skin cells in a consistent manner across the treatment region. When performed correctly, this helps the skin to recover with little scarring or discolouration.

Chemical peels can impact the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin. The epidermis is the most visible layer, with the dermis immediately underneath it. Nerve endings, sweat glands, and hair follicles are all found in this deep layer. Chemical peels of all sorts remove a regulated quantity of skin cells from the epidermis. A little part of the dermis may also be removed by vigorous peeling. Dermatologists may use chemical peels to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles or to treat:


enlarged pores




A dermatologist will apply an exfoliating acid to the thicker parts of the skin, such as the chin, nose, and cheeks, and then to the thinner portions around the eyes and mouth during a chemical peel.

Your dermatologist may use cold saline compresses to eliminate any residual peeling after a chemical peel. They may advise you to use a mild vinegar solution or an unscented emollient on your face for a few days following the procedure to help the skin recover.

The procedure might result in swelling and peeling, which can take one to two weeks to resolve depending on the depth and intensity of the peel. It is critical to keep the face dry and refrain from showering or using face wash for the first 24 hours. Also, avoid wearing cosmetics until the skin has healed.

Types of chemical peels

There are three types of chemical peels, based on how deeply the skin is peeled:

superficial peeling

Medium depth peeling

deep peeling

The right choice depends on the person’s skin type and tone and the issue they hope to address.

Superficial peeling

Dermatologists advise superficial peeling if skin issues only affect the epidermis, or top layer of skin. Because superficial peels do not reach deeper layers of the skin, they have less chances of adverse effects and allow the skin to heal faster. Superficial peels recover in 1 to 7 days. During this period, it is critical to apply sunscreen. Because superficial peels are the gentlest form, a person may require up to five treatments to get the desired results. A superficial peel every 2-5 weeks may be possible.

Medium depth peeling

Dermatologists may recommend a medium-depth peel for:


Sun damaged skin

slight hyperpigmentation

Minor acne scars

Medium depth peels recover in 7 to 14 days. It produces edema, which worsens for 48 hours following treatment and may result in blisters.

A dermatologist prescribes a treatment plan that a person must follow in order for their skin to recover. It is also critical to minimize sun exposure throughout the healing time. A dermatologist may also prescribe an antiviral drug that must be taken for 10 to 14 days. People can use makeup after 5-7 days, but they should avoid full sun exposure until the skin has recovered fully.

Deep peeling

Deep chemical peels are rarely used by dermatologists. Laser therapy generally yields better outcomes for issues affecting the deeper layers. A dermatologist, on the other hand, may advise a thorough peel if a person has:

Sun damage ranging from moderate to severe

creases ranging from moderate to severe

Hyperpigmentation ranging from mild to severe

Deep peels take 14 to 21 days to recover due to their potency. A human requires the following:

Recover at home.

Take antiviral medication for 10-14 days.

Wash the skin with a special solution four to six times a day.

Apply ointment for 14 days, then use a thick moisturizer.

Avoid makeup for at least 14 days.

Avoid exposure to sunlight for 3-6 months.

Acid types

Chemical peels may comprise a variety of acids, including:

Glycolic acid, lactic acid, and citric acid are some examples of alpha hydroxy acids. These acids are frequently used in at-home exfoliating treatments.

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs): One example is salicylic acid, which is very useful for acne-prone skin and enlarged pores.

Trichloroacetic acid: Dermatologists often use this for medium or deep chemical peels.

Phenol: A strong chemical agent that aids in thorough exfoliation.

Some of the chemicals in the peel cause the skin to develop a white coating, which a dermatologist may refer to as “freezing.”

Frost is a term used to describe the ultimate step of peeling. Its existence and extent assist the doctor in determining whether the peel is successful enough.

There are three levels:

White spots on red skin

General white paint with redness underneath

Complete coverage of white paint with almost no redness

Side effects

Chemical peels might have minor negative effects. However, some persons have long-term negative consequences, such as:

Redness that persists for months

Skin discoloration that is just temporary

Scarring on the skin can be permanently lightened.

The best approach to avoid this is to see a professional dermatologist and strictly adhere to the aftercare recommendations.

Risks by skin color

When choosing the sort of exfoliation to suggest, many physicians utilize the Fitzpatrick scale. This scale divides skin into six categories:

White skin never tans and always burns.

White skin that burns quickly and does not tan readily

Dark white skin that may burn slightly and tan

Medium dark skin that tans readily and rarely burns

Dark dark skin that tans readily and rarely burns

Black skin that tans quickly and does not burn

Chemical peels that alter the color of the skin or cause scarring are less likely to occur in people with skin types 1, 2, or 3. This indicates that any form of exfoliation might be risk-free.

People with skin types 4, 5, or 6 are more likely to suffer peeling, which can result in severe skin discoloration or scarring. As a result, it is critical to consult with a dermatologist who is familiar with chemical peels and colored skin.

In general, superficial peels are safe for persons with fair to dark skin. However, the risk increases as the peeling depth increases.

When doing a medium-depth peel on someone with dark or black skin, a dermatologist should be extremely cautious. Because of the significant danger of skin discoloration and scarring, they should not recommend or conduct severe peeling.

Home remedies

Many commercial products include the same ingredients as chemical peels. They do, however, contain modest amounts of acid and so exfoliate the skin gradually over time.

Products containing the following substances may exfoliate the skin in the same manner as professional exfoliation does, although with less dramatic results:

Glycolic acid can be used to treat surface pigmentation, minor aging symptoms, fine wrinkles, and sun damage.

Lactic acid can also be used to treat mild sun damage, fine wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. It works similarly to glycolic acid.

Mandelic acid is useful for reducing superficial redness and uneven skin tone.

Salicylic acid: can be beneficial for oily or acne-prone skin.

Online, you may get a variety of chemical peeling and exfoliating products.

Professional vs home remedies

It is critical to select a dermatologist who has prior expertise with chemical peeling. This is particularly essential for individuals of color, whose skin may be more sensitive to the negative effects of chemical peeling.

A dermatologist will explain what sort of exfoliation is ideal for a person’s skin and which products will aid in the healing process thereafter. People with more severe skin problems may benefit from specialist treatments with greater acid concentrations than commercial solutions.

Household goods are less expensive, but they include weaker chemical solutions. These may be more appropriate for those who have lesser skin issues, such as minimal sun damage. While the products do not require a healing time, it is nevertheless critical to prevent sun exposure. Even when administered by specialists, strong acids can have significant adverse effects. At home, never use professional-strength chemical peeling agents.

Even less potent chemicals in commercial goods can result in burns. Use them with caution and pay close attention to the instructions.