You’ve probably heard of chemical peels before. Someone in your family, a friend, or a coworker might have gotten one recently to treat a skin condition or as part of their rejuvenation routine. You’re probably considering getting one for the same reasons or curiosity alone. Chemical exfoliation is a widespread dermatological practice; almost all rejuvenation centers offer this treatment as part of their cosmetic intervention services. However, before undergoing any medical or cosmetic procedure, it’s essential to understand what you’re looking for and how it works. 

Understanding chemical peel types begins with their uses. You can undergo a chemical peel for a multitude of conditions, but they are commonly used to treat sun spots, acne, wrinkles, scars, redness of the skin, melasma, and other conditions that affect your day-to-day life. However, finding the right peel for your skin type and personalized needs can only be done with the help of your cosmetic technician or dermatologist. 

Superficial, medium, and deep peels use different concentrations of chemicals and are applied on a patient-to-patient basis. To guide you through the process, Zap Laser Center has developed a definitive guide to understanding the types of chemical peels and what you can expect from each of them.


  • Introduction



Types of Peeling Agents

The Types of peeling agents used in a chemical peel procedure are essential to the process. Depending on the skin condition, what the chemical will be used for, and your type of skin, your technician will use any of the following types of chemicals: 

  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) are naturally occurring and typically extracted from sugar cane, milk, and fruits. AHAs include Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, and Citric Acid. 
  • Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA), primarily Salicylic Acid, are found in moisturizers, sunscreen, skin foundations, and other skincare products. 
  • Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) destroys cell proteins and can treat vulgar acne, scarring, and wart removal. 
  • Phenol is an organic compound used primarily in more profound peeling. It is usually combined with other agents like Croton Oil and used to treat precancerous lesions. 

Understanding The Layers of the Skin

The skin consists of three layers:

  • Epidermis (the outer layer)
  • Dermis (the middle layer)
  • Subcutaneous tissue (the innermost layer)

Most chemical peeling agents act in the epidermis and dermis. However, these layers are divided into sublayers. 


The epidermis is composed of four layers (stratum corneum, stratum granulosum, stratum spinosum, and stratum basale), the dermis consists of two layers (the papillary layer and the reticular layer), and the subcutaneous layer, which is just the deepest layer of the skin, mainly consists of fat and connective tissue. The picture above illustrates the structure of skin layers. It will help you understand where chemical peeling agents act on your skin.


Types of Chemical Peels

After a skin evaluation, your doctor will determine which type of chemical peel is best to obtain the results you’ve been looking for. Chemical peels can be used for facial rejuvenation treatments, inflammatory diseases like acne and rosacea, pigmentary disorders like melasma and freckles, and even precancerous lesions. Exfoliation chemicals are classified based on depths and the potency of the type of solutions used and include the following:

Very Light Peels

Primarily used for superficial exfoliation, very light peels only work on the outermost layer of the skin. They are commonly used for dry skin, light acne, or finer wrinkling. Very light peels use chemical agents at low concentrations, primarily 10-20% Trichloroacetic Acid and low potency Glycolic, Retinoic, and Salicylic Acid.

Light Peels

The concentration and types of solutions used for a light peel wipe away the entire epidermis of the skin, down to the last layer before the dermis. They stimulate the regeneration of all the cells that make up that layer and are even more effective for cases of uneven pigmentation. 

The chemicals used in light peels include Alpha Hydroxy Acids at higher concentrations (like 40-70% Glycolic Acid), 20-30% Trichloroacetic Acid, and Jessner’s solution, which involves a combination of resorcinol, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and ethanol.

Medium Peels

As medium peels reach the outermost layer of the dermis (papillary dermis), they are notorious for increasing collagen production in the skin through the regeneration process. This chemical peel treats stubborn wrinkles and scars. It uses solutions in higher concentrations, such as 35% Trichloroacetic Acid, Trichloroacetic Acid with Jessner’s Solution, or 70% Glycolic Acid.

Deep Peels

These peels penetrate the middle of the dermis and are performed with a high concentration of exfoliating acids, usually recommended for deeper wrinkles and precancerous growths. These solutions include Trichloroacetic Acid at 50% or higher or Croton Oil and Phenol Combinations: 88% Phenol, Croton Oil, Septisol liquid, soap, and water (Baker-Gordon’s formula).



Who Shouldn’t Get a Chemical Peel?

Not everyone is a candidate for chemical exfoliation. This procedure is not advised in people who: 

  • Have a history of allergic reactions to chemical peels
  • Have an ongoing infection or wounds on the skin
  • Have used isotretinoin (Accutane) in the last six months before the appointment
  • Are you pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have psoriasis or connective tissue disease
  • Have undergone radiation therapy
  • I have had recent facial surgery
  • Have uncontrolled diabetes

Chemical Peels Are Safe! 

Chemical exfoliation involves using solutions that have been FDA-approved and tested by medical professionals. This procedure is perfect for facial rejuvenation or for treating stubborn acne, wrinkles, and even precancerous lesions on the skin. Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend a very light or light peel, a medium peel, or a deep peel. Always follow your physician’s instructions before and after undergoing a chemical peel treatment

If you’re looking for a clinic in Aurora, Colorado, for your facial rejuvenation, acne, or wrinkle therapy, Zap Laser Center is happy to assist you with all your chemical peel needs. Call 303-539-1385 today to schedule an appointment or book one through our website

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