Many people looking to improve the appearance of their skin turn to a Chemical Peel treatment. Depending on the severity of the condition being treated, you may opt for a light, medium, or deep chemical peel. While a deep peel might cost around $500-600 on average, even a light chemical peel still costs about $150 per treatment. Considering the fact that most people opt for a 4-6 week treatment plan, you’re going to spend somewhere close to a $1000 for a professional chemical peel treatment.
Why spend $1000, when you can do that same thing at home for about $30?
While a deep chemical peel should definitely be done by a professional aesthetician, you can certainly do a light peel at home. So why do people continue to pay $150 per visit?
I think most people are scared off from doing a chemical peel treatment at home because of the name. “Chemical peel” sounds intimidating, or unsafe. Who wants to put chemicals on their skin right? And peeling your skin off just sounds so painful and torturous.
Chances are, you’ve actually done a chemical peel at home without realizing it.
Have you ever treated a corn or a callus using a product like the Dr. Scholl’s on the right?
Or maybe you’ve applied a few drops of salicylic acid to treat a wart on your finger?
Both of those are chemical peels. We just don’t refer to them as a chemical peel. We call them “wart remover” or “callus remover” – both of which sound much more accessible and friendly.
What is a chemical peel
A chemical peel uses a chemical formulation (usually containing some type of acid) to treat blemishes, discolorations, or uneven texture on your skin. It does this by removing the damaged outer layer of the skin.
The acidic solution makes the skin blister and peel off. The new layer of skin that replaces it is progressively less blemished. A 4-6 week treatment usually alleviates most concerns.
A chemical peel is commonly used for facial purposes, but you can definitely apply it to your neck and hands as well.
A chemical peel provides great exfoliating benefits, but also stimulates collagen production. As you age (particularly for women), the collagen structures in your skin (the white clusters in the image below) weaken and diminish. This is what causes thin skin, and results in lines and wrinkling. Women in their 50’s experience a very sharp decline in collagen production.
Increasing collagen production in your skin is by far the best thing you can do to maintain a healthy and young appearance of your skin. By removing the outer layer of the skin, it causes your skin to heal itself. Much like after you workout, your body comes back stronger, and healthier. The healing process is what promotes collagen production.
Results you can expect
A chemical peel over the course of a few treatments can:
- Reduce fine lines
- Treat light wrinkling
- Improve the appearance of scars
- Treat acne
- Reduce dark patches, freckles, and spots
- Improve the texture and feel of your skin
Please note – If you have never had a chemical peel treatment before, be prepared for some redness and slight irritation of your skin. The key part of chemical peel is the “peel” part. In other words, you are peeling off a layer of your skin. The redness or irritation is completely normal, and should subside in about 1-2 days.
Best candidates for a chemical peel
A chemical peel isn’t for everyone. Those with fair or light skin are the best candidates. People with darker complexion can benefit from a chemical peel, but may experience uneven results. Generally speaking, a chemical peel works best for those with minimal signs of aging.
That being said, you might want to consider another alternative if you have sags, bulges, severe wrinkling, scars with dark pigmentation, or a very dark complexion overall.
Different kinds of peels available
The various peels available mainly differ by which acid is the active ingredient. Some peels will contain a combination of acids, but most will either contain a single type of acid, or list one type as the active ingredient. A lighter strength acid is great for simple exfoliation, or for maintenance. A medium strength acid is ideal for pigmentation issues. Whereas issues like severe wrinkling require a strong acidic solution.
If you’re looking at a few different options, how do you know which is the right one for you? Lets take a look at some of the common options available:
alpha-hydroxy acids (lactic acid and glycolic acid) – Commonly labeled as AHA, these are lighter strength acids; they are effective as a superficial peel, used to even skin tone, treat light to mild scarring, treat acne, remove light blemishes, and to exfoliate.
beta-hydroxy acids (salicylic acid) – Commonly labeled as BHA, these are also light in strength – same applications apply as alpha-hydroxy acids. Both alpha, and beta-hydroxy acids can be used safely by those with a darker complexion as their effects are light. This type of acid does not penetrate to the deeper layers of skin. For the average person, a peel containing AHA or BHA will work just fine.
trichloroacetic acid – Commonly labeled as “TCA”. TCA is medium strength, and is used to treat moderate wrinkling, lines, scarring, and sun damage.
phenol (carbolic acid) – Carbolic acid is used in deep chemical peel applications. These usually involve deep lines and wrinkles, severe sun damage, severe scars, hyperpigmentation, etc. This type of acid is very strong and potent. Treatment by a professional is strongly recommended.
Regardless of which type you use, try to find something from a FDA Registered manufacturer. Cosmetic products, like chemical peels, do not require FDA approval. However, reputable manufacturer’s are registered. With some of the cheaper Chinese brands available on Amazon, you really don’t know what’s in the bottle. And even then, the label might claim a 30% acidic solution, but only contain 20%. For something that is abrasive to the skin, like a chemical peel, I would highly suggest using a product from a reputable manufacturer.
If you haven’t already purchased a chemical peel, I wold recommend the Perfect Image Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel.
This peel is manufactured at a FDA registered, and GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) compliant facility.
It contains glycolic acid, which is the smallest of the alpha-hydroxy acids, allowing it to have deep, and thorough penetration, for even results.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the other ingredients in this peel:
Retinol (vitamin A) – helps to reduce fine lines, and wrinkles. Promotes collagen production. Very effective at treating acne. Retinol is a keratolytic treatment used to dissolve dead skin cells – the primary cause of acne.
Green Tea, Cucumber, Comfrey, and Chamomile extracts – These extracts provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties, which protect against infections, and promote healing.
Full list of ingredients: Deionized Water, Glycolic Acid, Octoxynol 10, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Matricaria Recutita (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Symphytum Officinale (Comfrey) Leaf Extract, Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Retinol Palmitate.
A bottle of this size (30mL) should contain enough for about 15-20 peels. Which works out to about $2 per peel.
How should you use it
1.) Ideally, you should exfoliate your skin a day before applying the peel, so try to plan ahead.
If you do not have the chance to exfoliate, then thoroughly clean your skin first. Remove any makeup or other product that is in the area being treated. Allow the area to dry.
2.) Do not apply the peel with your bare fingers. Wear a latex glove, use an applicator pad, or grab a q-tip. Apply the peel evenly to the area being treated. (Use a thin coat. It should not drip everywhere).
3.) Leave the peel on your face for the instructed amount of time. Most peels will instruct you to leave it on for 1-5 minutes.
4.) Rinse peel off with cool water. Some peel kits will contain a neutralizing solution. If so, apply the solution after removing the peel.
5.) Apply moisturizer afterwards. Re-apply moisturizer throughout the next 24 hours. Aim for about 10-20 applications. For best results, use a collagen rich hydrating moisturizer, like the PCA SKIN Collagen Hydrator Facial Cream below:
How often should you use it
Most people use a chemical peel 1-2 times a week, for up to a 4-6 week period, assuming all goes well, and you don’t suffer from extreme skin irritations.
You can also layer the peel. Layering peels can enhance their effect., but use the peel as instructed for the first application to gauge if you need layering.
To layer the peels, apply the peel as instructed above. Wait for about 5 minutes. Once it has dried, add a 2nd layer of the peel. Then follow the same instructions to remove and moisturize.
How to maximize results
- Exfoliate your skin 24 hours prior
- Stay hydrated
- Avoid exfoliating, or any other harsh products for 3-5 days after
- Avoid the sun for the next few days after treatment
- Avoid makeup to the area for 1-2 days
- If you smoke, avoid cigarettes for 1-2 days if possible
- Avoid working out, or anything that would cause you to sweat
- Avoid hot showers, saunas, or facial steamers for a day
That’s about it. Pretty easy right?
Considering how easy it is to do at home, and how inexpensive each peel is – about $2 or so per “serving” – why pay $150 for someone else to apply it for you?
Have you tried a chemical peel at home? If you have, please leave a comment below, and share your experience.