Fighting the signs of aging on your face means more than smoothing wrinkles and tightening loose skin. It also means doing what you can to keep skin looking healthy and refreshed. Chemical peels can help your skin look rejuvenated, as they encourage exfoliation of dead or damaged skin cells.

Chemical peels come in a number of different formulations, adjusted to meet the specific needs of your skin. Some peels are designed to penetrate more deeply, offering a greater benefit, but also an extended recovery period. The strength of a peel and how it can help you depends on the ingredients it in. Before you decide whether or not a peel is right for you, it helps to understand what the common ingredients are and what they do.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid usually found in mild or light chemical peels. The chemical is derived from sugar cane. Its strength depends on the concentration. You are usually able to find light peels, designed for at home use, that contain glycolic acid in concentrations under 10 percent. Stronger peels, with concentrations between 20 and 70 percent, are usually only applied in a doctor’s office or at a medical spa.

During a peel, the glycolic acid seeps into the skin, but not very deeply. It breaks apart top layers of skin, exfoliating dead skin cells and help to reduce fine lines. The acid can also fix pigmentation issues.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Glycolic acid is just one example of an alpha hydroxy acid used during a chemical peel. There are a number of others, all derived from fruits or other natural substances. Lactic acid is one example of an AHA. It is derived from spoiled milk. Another AHA, malic acid, comes from apples.

Like glycolic acid, the role AHAs play in a chemical peel is removing the top layer of skin cells and helping to reduce the look of spots and wrinkles and to give skin a rejuvenated appearance. They can also help fight acne or reduce the appearance of scars.

Some peels combine a number of AHAs to get the best results. As with glycolic acid, you can often find alpha hydroxy acids in a number of over-the-counter products in low concentrations. The AHAs used in a doctor’s office will be stronger than anything designed for home use.


Medium strength chemical peels, which should only be performed at the practice of a qualified medical professional, often feature trichloroacetic acid, or TCA, as their main ingredient. TCA is much stronger than AHAs. Usually, peels with TCA, such as the Obagi Blue Peel, exfoliate the top layer of skin and penetrate to the dermis, providing help for blemishes, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.

Since the peel achieved with TCA is deeper than the peel achieved with AHAs, the recovery time is usually longer. If you receive a TCA peel, you might need up to 10 days to rest and recover. Some stinging is common at the start of the peel, but it usually wears off after a few minutes. In many cases, no anesthesia is needed, though some patients might prefer a topical anesthetic, if they find the discomfort particularly unpleasant.

Kojic Acid

If hyperpigmentation, such as age spots or melasma, are particularly concerning to you, you might decide to have a peel that includes kojic acid. Like AHAs, kojic acid comes from a natural source, in this case, mushrooms. While other acids are used as exfoliants, kojic acid works somewhat differently. It blocks the tyrosinase enzyme, which plays a part in the body’s production of melanin, or pigment. Since it inhibits melanin, kojic acid is often used by people who want to lighten their skin.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has a number of benefits for your skin and is often in found in chemical peels. It plays a part in helping to strengthen the collagen in your skin and can help reduce hyperpigmentation. Although using sunscreen before and after a peel remains essential, vitamin C also provides some protection from the sun’s UV rays.

Figuring out which ingredients and which chemical peel is best for you involves understanding what your skincare concerns are. In the Virginia Beach area, Dr. Kyle Choe can help you decide on the right chemical peel for right now. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Choe, call 757.389.5850 today.