Chemical Peel Ingredients & How They Improve Skin Health

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While many lasers and products come and go, chemical peels have been a staple treatment in numerous cosmetic practices through the years. That’s for good reason as they work well to improve a number of skin concerns, such as fine lines and wrinkles, acne, acne scarring, large pores and hyper-pigmentation. They also improve the overall skin texture, tone and overall skin health.

So what are the popular chemical peel ingredients and how do they improve skin health? We’ve compiled a list of the most common ingredients used in chemical peels. These active ingredients are found in mild to moderate peels alone or in combination depending on the peel.

It is important to note the chemical peels are not for everyone. While perfectly safe, the application of strong chemicals is not advised for highly sensitive skin or patients with active acne. Chemical peels are also not advised for dark skin. It’s best to consult with one of our professionals to determine whether or not you are a good candidate for chemical peels and if so, which option is right for you.

BETA HYDROXY ACIDS (SALICYLIC ACID)

BHA’s are perfect for oily/acne prone skin and to loosen blackheads as they are oil soluble. They are often a “first-step” prior to an AHA peel and only penetrate the upper layers of the epidermis. They also exfoliate the face which helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars and mild discoloration.

There are a great variety of  BHA’s that shed the outermost layers of the skin to improve fine lines, wrinkles acne scars, mild discoloration, and improve the overall health of the skin.

Alph Hydroxy Acids are basically fruit acids, such as citrus, tartaric (found in grapes), and glycolic acid (from sugar cane). They are not toxic on the skin and great for their anti-aging benefits. AHA acids typically derive from fruits and flowers and naturally occuring.

The most common AHA is glycolic acid, which absorbs well into the skin. Because of it’s greater penetration property, it’s able to improve the skin from the bottom layers to the top. Glycolic acid stimulates collagen leading to smoother, brighter skin.

Low-concentration AHA’s, as well as salicylic acid, exfoliate the upper layers of the epidermis and smooth the skin. They help improve a rough skin texture, fine lines and uneven skin tone. Unlike physical exfoliants and scrubs, hydroxy acid-based exfoliants don’t just scrub away the dead skin cells but work by dissolving the “glue” that attaches the skin cells to the surface, allowing them to flake off. This is why lactic acid is typically recommended for dry/aging skin while salicylic acid (a BHA) is better for oily and acne prone skin. The effectiveness of any chemical will depend on the type and concentration as well as any additional ingredients in the product.

TRICHLOROACETIC ACID (TCA)

TCA works to rejuvenate the skin by resurfacing the actual surface. Applying TCA to the face will remove the outer layer(s) of the skin for the newer, healthier skin to emerge. Peels containing TCA help with sun spots, wrinkles, pigmentation, and overall skin tone. The higher the concentration, the more downtime the peel will come with, sometimes up to one week. Higher concentrations also come with more risk and only applied by a certified physician.

Article by
Salt Lake City Facial Plastic Surgeon