The Basics on At-Home Chemical Peels

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Is it just me, or are a lot of people talking about chemical face peels a lot lately?

If you don’t know much about them, the term “chemical peel” can sound intimidating, to say the least. But hey, chemical peels aren’t scary. I promise.

While you should leave the strong stuff to professionals, there are plenty of at-home options available on the market now, too. Looking back, what I wouldn’t have done for all of these options back when I was a teenager!

Chemical peels are a great way to fix some common skin problems and brighten your complexion. But once you start looking around at them, you’ll notice there are a bunch of different kinds out there. While that means that there’s something for everyone, how do you know where to begin?

Let’s look at the three basic types of at-home chemical peels you’re likely to find, and which one might be your best choice.

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

Beta hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid, provide a superficial, or light, peel. It doesn’t penetrate very deep and is the most gentle type of peel. It works to remove the epidermis, or top layer of skin.

Because it only affects the outer layers of skin only, it’s best for slight improvements. It’s a good choice for individuals with acne-prone skin, minimal signs of aging, or acne scarring. Salicylic acid peels are also a good choice for individuals with sensitive skin that needs a more gentle exfoliation.

These need to be done in a series over a period of time to produce results.

This superficial peel is painless, and you shouldn’t experience anything more than a slight tingling sensation. After use, your skin might be slightly red, but there won’t be any drastic negative side effects like you’d see with a deeper peel.

You can call this one a lunchtime peel. It requires pretty much zero recovery time, so you don’t have to worry about hiding out while your face peels or recovers.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

AHAs are another gentle chemical peel option. In fact, glycolic and lactic acids remove dead skin cells in a more gentle manner than salicylic acid. However, glycolic acid has a smaller molecular structure, which means it has the ability to penetrate deeper into the layers of your skin than some other acids.

Reach for this kind of peel if you’re hoping to get rid of dullness that comes with aging, sunspots, and hyperpigmentation. It’s also great for diminishing fine lines, wrinkles, and blemishes.

You will likely notice some results after just one peel. However, a series of several peels over a period of time will produce the best results.

Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA)

TCA chemical peels are a stronger kind of chemical peel. TCA penetrates deeper layers of skin, allowing smoother skin cells to surface. That means they will produce more dramatic results than the other kinds of peels mentioned. In fact, you’re likely to see significantly smoother skin with a more even tone, after just one treatment.

Because it’s stronger, it can treat bigger problems, like moderate pigmentation, wrinkles, and sun damage.

However, because TCA peels are stronger, you’ll definitely experience more discomfort than with other kinds of chemical peels. You’re likely to feel a minor stinging or burning sensation. It may even continue for about an hour after your treatment.

These peels will require a longer recovery period than the others — about a week — so don’t get this done before a wedding or a work meeting. It can leave your face pink and itchy. And eventually, you’ll see some physical peeling.

Because TCA is stronger, it’s also important to be careful with this one. Although at-home peels are generally milder than professional-grade peels, it’s still a peel and comes with the risk of burns and irritation if not applied correctly.

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