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Chemical Peels 411


Many skin types can benefit from salicylic acid peels. And, because they are fairly gentle peels, salicylic acid can be used by people who aren't good candidates for other types of peels.

Brighter, Smoother Skin

Immediately following a salicylic acid peel, you'll notice your skin feels softer and smoother. Salicylic acid peels can brighten your complexion. They also will give your skin a better texture and make large pores look smaller.

Treat Acne and Blackheads

Salicylic acid peels are particularly helpful for treating acne and blackheads. Salicylic acid is a strong comedolytic, which means it helps unclog pores. It also helps decreases the amount of oil on the skin. Regular salicylic acid peels can help improve both inflammatory acne and comedonal acne.

Reduce Sun Damage, Fine Lines, and Wrinkles

Salicylic acid peels are also used as anti-aging peels. While they can't erase deep lines and wrinkles, they can soften fine lines and give your complexion a boost. It is especially good at treating sun damage too.

Fade Dark Spots and Uneven Skin Tone (Hyperpigmentation)

A series of salicylic acid peel treatments can fade dark spots and discolorations like melasma, freckles, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (the discoloration that is left behind after a pimple heals).


Post-Peel Care

Immediately after the peel your skin will likely be red and may look tight and shiny. The hot or stinging sensation can last for a few hours after the peel, but it's mild and feels similar to a sunburn.

Depending on how strong of a peel was done, you may get flaking and peeling skin anywhere from two to four days post-treatment. Peeling will be minor and resolves in about a week.

During the first few days post-peel, treat your skin gently. Wash with mild cleansers. Use gentle moisturizers to help with dryness or flaking.

Whatever peel you use, whether pro or DIY, it's imperative you follow up using a sunscreen every day. Your newly peeled skin will be more sensitive to the sun, so you don't want to risk sunburn. Besides, daily SPF use is a healthy habit anyway.

Side Effects

Chemical peels, in general, are very safe procedures. The deeper the peel, the higher the chance of developing side effects. So, you'll be more likely to see side effects after a deep salicylic acid peel than you will from a superficial salon peel. Still, even strong salicylic acid peels generally won't cause side effects substantial enough to keep you from your daily activities.

You may experience:

Stinging or mildly tender skinDryness, peeling, and flakingCrustingHerpes simplex blisters (cold sores), if you're prone to themAbnormal lightening or darkening of the skin, which is generally temporary


Salicylic acid peels aren't right for you if you're:

Allergic to topical salicylatesPregnantHave a rash, broken skin, sunburn, or irritation, in the area where the peel will be doneSalon peels should not be done if you are currently using isotretinoin and, in many states, estheticians are restricted from doing them until you have been off of isotretinoin for 6 months. Dermatologists have no such restrictions and can do them whenever they deem safe for your skin.


Glycolic acid is good for normal and oily skin types and exfoliating the surface layer of your skin.Salicylic acid is good for oily and acne-prone skin to loosen dirt from pores.Lactic acid is good for all skin types and for fading dark spots.Mandelic acid is good for all skin types and darker skin tones, especially for treating large pores.Phytic acid is good for sensitive skin and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

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