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For those who have spent more time in the sun than what can is considered healthy, there is the strong chance of having sun damaged skin and the wish to rid themselves of it. One of the many options to help treat damaged skin is the chemical peel. Just what is a chemical peel and what will this peel do for UV damaged skin in the first place?

A chemical peel is an easy way of saying a beneficial chemical agent was applied to the damaged area and then removed, or “peeled off.” These agents often serve the purpose of stimulating exfoliation for thickened or sun damaged skin while at the same time promoting the growth of healthier skin beneath the damage.

Even though chemical peels have seen a slight decrease in their amount of use due to popularity of laser treatments, these peels are still a viable option for the treatment of damaged skin.

The solutions that combine to form a peel are applied to the skin in the desired skin, and will actually dissolve the damaged top layers of the skin to expose the healthy layers underneath. The most common method of these peels is for an individual to undergo several treatments of low intensity as opposed to one high-intensity peel. This is because the more solution that is applied at a single time, the more risk is posed to the person as well as having a longer recovery time than the shorter peels.


The solutions of peels are typically formed form a variety of different exfoliating agents that vary in their acidity. The acids most commonly used as exfoliating agents are alpha and beta hydroxy acids (glycolic and salicylic respectively), phenol, or TCA (tricholoracetic acid). These acids are placed in separate categories defined by their concentration and the depth they are able to penetrate the skin when used inside a chemical peel. The depths can range from a superficial peel – known as micro or light – to medium and deep. The ability for a peel to work at removing damaged skin is directly linked to the depth a peel is applied.

Micro peels, those with a shallow depth, are typically formed by low dosages of either AHA or BHA (alpha/beta hydroxy acid) and are far less impactful than a medium or deep. Overall a chemical peel can offer minor to major improvements in a variety of skin issues. The results most often offer improvement in wrinkles, discoloration, texture, rejuvenation of collagen production, lowering in the amount of blackheads, and a sort of prevention in excess production of skin oils.


A chemical peel is not without faults. There are areas of skin damage that a peel simply can do nothing against, such as the removal and/or reduction of visible blood vessels on the skin. A chemical peel can do nothing against enlarged pores and kelodial scarring. They will not work as a facelift in their treatment of wrinkles, and they have a very limited benefit to those with a dark complexion or skin color.

Chemical Peels can also have a handful of aftereffects depending on the depth of the peel. There are very few risks associated with a micro peel, which is to be expected due to it being shallow. Remember though that a micro peel has a micro effect on the skin and can still result in some swelling, redness, and skin sensitivity of the peeled area.

When a person wants significant results from their peel, they have to be aware that the complications associated with medium and deep peels increase. The peels can result in scarring, possible infection, and often result in temporary and even permanent changes in skin color. For those with a history of susceptibility to cold sores, a chemical peel can result in a breakout of cold sores.

Even with this handful of negative aftereffects, a chemical peel is still a viable treatment for those with sun damaged skin. Simply consult your physician for which peel is right for you.

Ken Reed

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