Chemical peels are applied topically to peel away the top layers of skin to reveal newer, healthier skin cells. Peels can be mild, medium or deep and help to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and scars. Stronger peels that penetrate deeper into the skin pose particular risks for women of color and should be done by a professional, warns Susan C. Taylor, author of “Rx for Brown Skin.” Milder peels that reduce the risk of discoloration and scarring are safer at-home options.
Alpha Hydroxy Acid Peels
Thee peels are made from glycolic acid or fruit acids and are available in different concentrations. They help to fade dark spots from hyperpigmentation or melasma, reduce fine lines and improve acne, according to Taylor. If you’ve never used an AHA peel before or have sensitive skin, start with one that has a concentration of less than 20 percent. You can still achieve the same results of a deeper peel by undergoing several treatments of mild or medium-depth peels, notes Paula Begoun, author of “The Original Beauty Bible.”
Beta Hydroxy Acids
These peels are milder than AHA peels, but are just as effective and cause fewer side effects, according to researchers from the Saint Louis School of Medicine. The most common BHA used in peels is salicylic acid. It has similar properties to aspirin, so it has anti-inflammatory abilities that help it to reduce irritation and swelling from the peel. Taylor also points out that BHA peels are a better choice if you have oily skin. Similar to AHAs, these peels can cause side effects such as tingling, burning, dryness, redness and peeling.
Lactic Acid Peel
Lactic acid, which comes from milk, is considered a gentler alpha hydroxy acid and has a long history in African skin care. As Taylor points out, ancient Egyptians such as Cleopatra used milk baths to exfoliate and revitalize their skin. Although lactic acid peels may be gentler, at higher concentrations they can cause some of the same adverse reactions as other AHAs. Start with lower-concentration lactic acid peels. Keep in mind that regardless of what type of milder at-home peel you use, you’ll require several treatments before you notice improvements.
- “Rx for Brown Skin”; Susan C. Taylor; 2008
- “The Original Beauty Bible”; Paula Begoun; 2009
Kay Uzoma has been writing professionally since 1999. Her work has appeared in "Reader’s Digest," "Balance," pharmaceutical and natural health newsletters and on websites such as QualityHealth.com. She is a former editor for a national Canadian magazine and holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from York University.