Chemical Face Peels – Yes or No?

Nikki Butler

Nikki Butler

Chemical Face Peels: What you need to know

Chemical face peels have been a go-to solution for addressing various skin concerns for a long time. Gone are the days when they are quite as scary as they used to be (think Samantha from Sex In The City!), so they are much more desirable. But are they really worth it? It kinda depends on what you’re looking to treat, and the results you’d like to see. 

Chemical face peels involve applying a chemical solution to the skin, which helps exfoliate the topmost layer, revealing smoother, fresher skin underneath. The depth and strength of the peel are determined by the specific concerns being addressed and the type of peel used. They are commonly used for addressing acne, and pigmentation, or for brightening the skin before a big event – to give you a lovely glow to your skin!

But the thing to remember about chemical face peels is that they are superficial. It’s important to note that chemical face peels primarily focus on the outermost layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. They can be great for concerns such as melasma and may even help to reduce the signs of fine lines and wrinkles. However, they are unlikely to make any noticeable difference to ageing skin concerns, such as deeper lines and wrinkles, significant sun damage, and certainly not to saggy or lax skin! 

What chemical face peels can't do!

Chemical face peels are not effective for scarring, deep lines, wrinkles, skin laxity, sagging skin, substantial sun damage, or acne scarring. 

Chemical face peels primarily target the epidermis, which is comprised of dead skin cells. Though they can stimulate mild collagen production, their impact is limited to the superficial layers, which means they may not be the ideal solution for deeper skin concerns or long-lasting transformation. 

That said, they can be wonderful to give your skin a real glow before an event, or as a monthly treat to keep skin glowing and fresh, but if you’re looking to target ageing skin concerns and keep those signs of ageing at bay, then chemical face peels just won’t cut it!  I like to have chemical face peel before attending an event, or after a summer holiday, when my skin is a little worse for wear!

A word of caution: I have treated many clients for scarring, where they have spent a fortune on courses of chemical peels. There is absolutely no way that chemical peels can make an impact on scarring. You need collagen induction for that – in the form of needling (and I’m not talking about the type of needling from a Skin Pen, or similar beauty device).

So... what's in a chemical face peel?

Skin peels contain a variety of ingredients, and the specific formulation can vary based on the type and strength of the peel. These are some common chemical face peel ingredients: 

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): AHAs such as glycolic acid and lactic acid. They exfoliate the skin’s surface by dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells, promoting cellular turnover and revealing fresh skin.

Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA): Salicylic acid is a well-known BHA commonly used in chemical face peels. It is particularly effective for treating acne-prone and oily skin. Salicylic acid penetrates into the pores, helping to remove excess oil and unclog pores, thus reducing acne breakouts.

Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA): TCA is a medium-depth peel ingredient that penetrates deeper into the skin compared to AHAs. It is effective in addressing pigmentation irregularities, fine lines, and shallow scars. TCA peels typically require a professional application and should be administered by a trained skincare specialist.

Retinoids: Retinoids, such as retinol or retinoic acid, are sometimes used in peels. These vitamin A derivatives stimulate collagen production, improve skin texture, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Enzymes: Certain chemical face peels may contain enzymes like papain (derived from papaya) or bromelain (derived from pineapple). These enzymes break down proteins and help gently exfoliate the skin, providing a more subtle peel option.

The concentration and combination of ingredients can vary in different peels, and their suitability depends on individual skin type and concerns. Chemical skin peels aren’t suitable for everyone, and in some cases, you may need to prepare your skin ahead of treatment, as there can be a risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Please speak to a professional for the appropriate advice, to choose which peel is right for you. 

Why I don't offer chemical peels

You’ll notice that I no longer offer chemical face peels. Why? Well, because I am a BIG fan of treatments that give you a much more lasting result, and stimulate your skin to produce collagen in the deeper layers of your skin. Whilst chemical face peels were a ‘nice to have’ in my clinic, they weren’t really driving dramatic results, and I do love a transformation!

It’s not that I’m against chemical peels, it’s just that my clients want to tackle ageing skin concerns such as deeper lines and wrinkles, saggy skin, saggy jowls, turkey neck, and loss of skin elasticity. Being a perimenopausal woman of 47 at the time of writing, I know how it feels to be battling those signs of ageing!

This is why I focus on treatments such as radiofrequency microneedling and HIFU. Treatments that boost your collagen and elastin in the deeper layers of your skin, and target ALL of those pesky signs of ageing. They are great at improving tone and texture, lines and wrinkles, and tightening and lifting. 

I like to think of it as tricking your skin into thinking it is in its 20’s again!  

I also have an inside-out and outside-in approach, where I bring my experience as a nutritional therapist into my transformation programmes, to ensure you get maximum results every single time. 

Collagen Induction

The reason I love collagen induction treatments such as radiofrequency microneedling and HIFU so much is that they are treating much deeper than the surface level of your skin. They are targeting the layers of the skin where fresh collagen and elastin are formed, and where your cellular turnover is boosted.  These treatments offer far superior results to chemical face peels, but there’s nothing to stop you from having a peel for an added glow before a big night out or a special occasion. 

I’ve loved microneedling for almost a decade, but radiofrequency microneedling became the game changer, in my opinion. The results for scarring, acne scars, deep lines, and wrinkles have been incredible! And the fact that you can now achieve skin tightening and lifting, and treat deeper lines and wrinkles, has helped many women to avoid facelift surgery, and many more have reduced the frequency of injectable treatment too. 

The beauty of these collagen induction treatments is that you still see results getting better for 3-6 months after your last treatment, and maintenance is minimal – my kinda treatment!

Do you have scarring?

As I mentioned before, chemical face peels will not help you with scarring. They are superficial and just won’t touch the scarring, at best, the scar will feel a little smoother, but you’re not going to see any significant changes. 

Chemical peels can seem appealing, as they are often a more affordable option, but in the long term, they will cost you more. 

And a cautionary note on chemical face peels, as I have seen the consequences of chemical peels that have gone wrong… For most peels, you should be offered a patch test – unless they are very low strength, in which case they will achieve very little.  If you are having a chemical face peel that is a high strength, please sure you have a patch test, to avoid being left with damage to your skin. Always follow the pre/post treatment information you’re provided with – just because they are superficial, doesn’t mean that they can’t cause damage. 

Chemical Face Peels - That's a wrap!

I really hope that you’ve found my blog on chemical face peels helpful. They absolutely have their place in a skin routine, but it’s important to know what they can and can’t do, to ensure you’re choosing the right treatment for your skin concerns and goals. 

If you’d like help with your skin or scars, then please get in touch via the button below. You can also download a copy of my Ultimate Skin Guide & Ultimate Scar Guide, via the button below. 

My aesthetics clinic is based in Alton, Hampshire. I am on the Hampshire/Surrey border, 15 minutes from Basingstoke and Farnham. I’m also at the end of a direct line from London Waterloo, and a 5-minute walk from the station.

If you haven’t taken my Skin Quiz yet, then click on the button below. It takes less than 4 minutes, and you’ll receive instant results, with personalised advice – that you can action immediately!  

I look forward to hearing from you. Best, Nikki


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