All chemical peels help exfoliate the skin and encourage cell turnover. Performed regularly, a chemical peel can help improve the appearance and health of your skin. If you’ve never had a peel before, the number of options available can seem daunting. Your surgeon can help you choose a peel that’s best suited for your skin type and for any skin issues you have.

Peel Strength

Chemical peels can be divided into three basic categories: light or superficial, medium strength, and deep peels. The strength of peel you need depends on what you want to focus on and how long you can dedicate to recovery. The peel’s strength is based on the concentration of ingredients found in it. The deepest peels have the highest concentration of ingredients, such as phenol, which is often found in the strongest peels, or trichloroacetic acid, which is often used in medium or deep peels.

Any peel you find on the shelf at a drugstore or at a beauty counter will be very weak and superficial. A peel performed by an aesthetician will be a bit stronger, but still very light. Only a doctor can perform deeper peels.


Lower concentrations of ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid or lactic acid are often found in light or medium peels. Glycolic acid is commonly found in chemical peels. It’s derived from sugar and helps reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles on your skin.

Salicylic acid is a type of beta hydroxy acid that’s not only found in chemical peels but also in many skincare products. The ingredient improves the health and look of your skin in two ways. First, it helps clear pores and reduce oiliness. While salicyclic acid ultimately helps reduce pimples and blemishes, it can make them more prevalent in the first few days after a peel, as it brings all the oil to the surface of the skin. The ingredient also helps improve skin tone by removing the outer layer of skin, removing any areas of discoloration.

Trichloroacetic acid or TCA is often found in peels administered at a doctor’s office. Medium strength peels often contain between 15 and 35 percent TCA. The ingredient helps reduce the impact of sun damage on your skin. Typically, TCA removes skin cells from the outer layer, as well as from the initial layer of the dermis.

Skin Type and Concerns

The peel that’s right for you depends on the degree of damage on your skin. If you have a mild amount of damage from the sun, a light or superficial peel, such as the Sensi-Peel, should be sufficient. Light peels are also usually a good idea if you have very sensitive skin, as anything stronger can cause irritation.

A PCA peel can be ideal if you have problem skin or suffer from acne. A mixture of 14 percent solutions of lactic acid, salicyclic acid and Resorcinol, the peel is a moderate strentgh. It’s designed to reduce oiliness and improve your skin’s tone and texture. The PCA peel can also be used with hydroquinone, an ingredient that lightens skin. If you have a darker complexion, you have the peel without hydroquinone.

A TCA peel may be recommended if you have more sun damage or more signs of aging on your face. TCA peels can also help reduce the appearance of scars and help improve skin tone.

Recovery Time

The recovery time after the peel is based on the depth of it. If you can’t spare a long recovery time, it’s probably  not the best idea to have a medium or deep peel performed at the moment. Even light or superficial peels have some side effects. The more you get a light peel, though, the less likely you are to have any side effects.

For example, common side effects from any depth of peel include redness and stinging. The redness will last longer with a medium or deep peel than it will for a superficial treatment.

While you don’t have to take time off after a light or medium peel, a deep peel does require significant downtime. Your surgeon may recommend that you take a week or two off from work to recover from the treatment. The skin is going to very red and will peel after the treatment. You may need pain relievers to help cope with any discomfort you feel.

In exchange for the longer recovery time, the effects of a deeper chemical peel tend to last longer than more superficial treatments. You might see the results last for years, rather than needing another peel every few months.

Having a professional perform your chemical peel is a must. Dr. Kyle Choe, a board certified facial plastic surgeon in Virginia Beach, can help you decide which option is right for you, then perform the peel in a way that minimizes risks and provides the best results. To learn more about chemical peels, call his office for a consultation today at 757.389.5850.