In simple terms, the basic premise of a skin peel is to remove the top layer(s) of dead or damaged skin. Generally speaking, a chemical solution is applied to the skin, which causes it to "blister" and eventually peel off. The new, regenerated skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin. A skin peel takes exfoliation to the next level. The three basic types of peels are: superficial, medium, and deep.
A superficial peel is, as it sounds, the most gentle type. A mild acid, such as glycolic, lactic, or fruit acid, is applied to the skin, left on for several minutes and then wiped off. Even with a superficial peel, some burning or stinging may be felt. A mild peel is intended to improve skin tone and pigmentation and will impart a healthy glow to the skin.
Both medium and deep peels cause a second-degree burn of the skin, with a deep peel posing the risk of bleaching the skin. In a medium peel, the chemical is left on longer and soaks in more deeply. Although they are more painful than a superficial peel, there shouldn't be lingering pain after the procedure is over. It will, however, take your skin about a week to recover. A deep peel is usually intended to treat fine lines, sun damage and blotchiness.
A deep peel takes the longest (an hour or more) and is the most painful. You will likely be given an oral sedative and pain relievers. There will be swelling and crusting, and the skin will require several weeks to recover. Deep peels are intended to treat severe wrinkles and even growths and lesions. Because of their likelihood of bleaching the skin, deep peels are not performed on darker skin.
All peels will make your skin more sensitive to the sun, and so extra measures of sun protection afterwards should be taken.
With the risks of discomfort, pain, infection and other complications, chemical peels should be administered by a professional. However, there are some gentler at-home facial peels you can try that contain glycolic and alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids and are extremely effective for deeply exfoliating and removing dry, coarse or dead skin. These home chemical peels can be a great addition to your skin care regimen when used safely (a couple of times per week). Try them to help improve the appearance of dull or age-damaged skin.
Facial Peels with AHAs
Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel: Full Strength ($45) is an exfoliating peel with alpha and beta hydroxy acids from fruit that's designed to firm and brighten the skin while also reducing fine lines, hyperpigmentation and uneven skin texture. This spa-grade treatment also uses antioxidants and vitamins to fight free radical damage and promote healthy cell turnover.
Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel: Sensitive ($39) gently refines and exfoliates sensitive skin to reduce fine lines and brighten overall complexion. This spa-grade peel uses alpha and beta hydroxy acids from fruit to even skin's texture and tone and promote healthy cell turnover.
Facial Peels with BHAs
PureCeuticals Multi-Enzyme Pumpkin Peel ($44) is an exfoliating peel treatment with pumpkin, pineapple and papaya enzymes designed to improve skin's clarity and texture. This peel is rich in amino acids and antioxidants and encourages healthy cell turnover and clear pores.
Arcona Raspberry Resurfacing Peel ($68) resurfaces skin, repairs damage from sun exposure and aging, smooths fine lines and minimizes pores while improving skin's clarity and firmness. This resurfacing peel also uses a synergistic blend of mandelic, lactic and malic acids to minimize discoloration, as well as green tea, lycopene and raspberry and grape seed extracts to help heal, soothe and protect skin.
Facial Peels with Glycolic Acid
PureCeuticals Cherry Glycolic Peel ($44) is formulated with a 15% blend of glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids to balance uneven skin tone with natural skin lighteners that give skin a healthy glow. Cherry fruit pulp helps to reduce inflammation, treat acne and acne scarring and soothe damaged skin.
Lumixyl Glycopeel ($60) is a strong exfoliator with 20% glycolic acid to help fade age spots, hyperpigmentation and melasma. This exfoliating lotion works by bringing pigmented cells to the surface to speed up overall brightening.
Arcona Mandarin Brightening Peel ($78) power-packed, one-a-week treatment that treats dark spots, reduces lines and wrinkles, soothes and brightens skin with both glycolic and gluconic acids, as well as with patented nonapeptide-1. This exfoliating peel also protects the skin against the aging effects of environmental damage with antioxidants from lycopene and mandarin extract.
suki renewal bio-resurfacing facial peel ($82.95) is an exfoliating glycolic mask that uses fruit enzymes to remove dead skin cells, minimize the appearance of pores, even skin tone and accelerate collagen production. This unique gel can also be used as a spot treatment for blemishes.