Skin peels 101: What they are and how they work

Face    Skin peels 101: What they are and how they work

For many people, a medical grade chemical peel or skin peel is a fantastic treatment choice, representing a procedure with more impact than their at-home skincare regime but one that’s less invasive than dermal fillers for example.

But what are skin peels and how do they work? We’ve put together a basic guide below:

What are skin peels?

Chemical skin peels use specially formulated acids on the face to peel away the superficial top layers of skin to remove the dead and damaged skin cells, extract impurities and encourage skin cell renewal in the new layers of skin below.

What are the benefits of having a skin peel?

By peeling away the dull, lifeless skin on your face, we can reveal a fresher, healthier layer of skin. After a skin peel, you should see:

  • a noticeable reduction in the fine lines under your eyes and around your mouth
  • an improvement to the appearance of any mild scars
  • a reduction in sun damage and hyperpigmentation
  • an improvement in any acne
  • fewer age spots, freckles and dark patches caused by age or hormonal changes

In addition, your skin should have a much better texture and even colour, looking and feeling much better than before the peel.

What do the different skin peel depths mean?

Skin peels work at different depths within the skin. Some skin peels – often dubbed ‘lunchtime peels’ by the media – are superficial and work by speeding up the cell renewal process on your top layer of skin.

The ingredients most commonly used in superficial peels include alpha hydroxyl acids, such as glycolic, lactic or citric acid, or beta hydroxyl acids, such as the slightly stronger and more penetrating salicylic acid.

With superficial peels, there is little to no downtime caused by peeling. Your skin may feel dry and tight for a couple of days, with some mild peeling, but this is easily managed. Your complexion should soon by glowing, making these a safe option for most skin types.

The downsides of superficial peels are that you may need regular peels to maintain the results and their anti-ageing impact is less far-reaching.

Medium depth peels penetrate the skin more deeply, removing the top few layers where sun damage is often most visible. Medium peels create a similar effect to sunburn to allow new skin to come through. They are more effective in terms of stimulating collagen production and treating sun damage but they also require some downtime while the skin heals.

TCA (trichloroacetic acid) is the most commonly used acid in medium peels. The most usual concentration is 25-35%, sometimes used with glycolic acid. Concentrations over 35% should always be applied by a qualified doctor.

Deep peels are made from carbolic acid and used to treat deep wrinkles and severe sun damage. A deep peels require at least two weeks of downtime and do carry higher risks. These days, many people are seeking laser treatment in place of deep peels because the benefits are comparable but the risks of laser treatment are far fewer.

How do I know which skin peel is right for me?

Here at Aesthetics Lab in St. John’s Wood, skin peels tend to be superficial but chosen for their outstanding results.

We will always advise you on which skin peel we think would be best for your individual skin and any issues you would like to improve.

Are there any side effects associated with chemical skin peels?

As mentioned above, the deeper the peel, the greater the associated risks. Superficial skin peels tend to be comfortable and low-risk procedures. You may experience some mild peeling after your treatment and one side effect is that, because new skin cells are exposed, you may be more vulnerable to sun damage, so you should carefully follow any pre- and post-treatment care instructions, including wearing the appropriate sun protection.

Can anyone carry out a chemical peel?

Although superficial and medium peels tend to be offered by an array of spas, salons and facial aesthetics practitioners, we would recommend that you choose a doctor-led clinic or medispa like Aesthetics Lab for peace of mind.


To book a complimentary consultation to find out more about skin peels in St. John’s Wood at Aesthetics Lab, simply fill out our contact form or call us.