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Let’s talk about chemical peels.

By Vanessa Smit (Skincare Therapist - CapeMAC)





The word “chemical peel” often scares people as there is a misconception about the procedure, mostly due to untrained skincare therapist performing them. This causes damage to the skin and most people believe that the feeling of “thin” and sensitive skin is to blame on the chemical peel. This is not the complete truth.



Most chemical peels work on “thinning” out the upper most layer of the epidermis, these cells are called the Stratum Corneum, they have no nuclei and thus they are dead skin cells.


Chemical peels work to exfoliate or sloth off these dead skin cells to promote new cell growth by speeding up the cellular turnover rate. While chemical peels exfoliate the dead skin cells they also help to thicken the epidermis and increase the dermal volume of the skin by forcing the skin to quickly replenish itself with new, healthy cells.



What is the purpose of a chemical peel?


  • To reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

  • To increase the rate of cell turnover in your skin

  • To lighten pigmentation, age spots, freckles and melasma.

  • To increase hydration in the skin.

  • To improve the overall skin texture.

  • To treat certain types of acne


There are so many different chemical peels available from numerous product houses that are in almost every beauty salon, spa or aesthetics practice. This however does not mean that every chemical peel that you come across will work as well as the next.




The most popular different types of chemical peels:


Mandelic acid

Citric acid

Glycolic acid

Salicylic acid

Lactic acid

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA)

Retinoic acid


Your skincare therapist will choose a chemical peel that will be most beneficial to your skins needs.



Did you know a Chemical Peel is only as effective as its pH ?


pH of the skin (Instagram and Facebook post) by Anchen van Dyk (Skincare Therapist – CapeMAC)


pH is the measure of alkalinity or acidity. The lower the pH value of a chemical peel the more functionally active a chemical peel is. The pH of your skin is between 4.2 - 5.6. When the pH of a chemical peel is between 3.5 – 4, it is a more superficial chemical peel. When the pH of a Chemical peel ranges from 2.0 - 3.5 it becomes a medium depth chemical peel and between a pH of 0.5 - 1.9 it becomes a deep chemical peel that only qualified doctors should perform.


What to expect during your chemical peel treatment?


This will depend mostly on the condition of your skin and which type of chemical peel is used.


The most common sensations are itching, burning, warmth which cause a bit of discomfort.

This is completely normal, your skincare therapist will be assessing your skin and the reaction that you have throughout your treatment. A chemical peel is usually only in contact with the skin from 5 – 10 minutes, depending on the type of chemical peel used and the requirements of the chemical peel.


What to expect after a chemical peel?


Depending on what type of peel was used, your expectations after will differ.

Straight after the treatment you might be a bit red or sensitive for a day or two.


There are chemical peels that are formulated specifically not to make you peel visibly, where others could make you shed very openly.


You will most likely need to use a specific cream that will help calm and sooth your skin and protect the barrier of your skin for the next few days.


The most important thing that we as skincare therapist can’t stress enough is to make use of a good SPF and reapplying during the day.


The biggest risk during your chemical peel of course is sun exposure. Neglecting to use your SPF will most likely result in unwanted pigmentation.


Committing to treating your skin conditions with chemical peels and the correct home care products is a great start to a healthier, younger looking skin.



Invest in your skin, you only have one.



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