Rodan + Fields / Blog / Science of Skincare

Chemical Peels: What Do Dermatologists Say?

Young woman applying R+F Multi-Acid Enzyme Peel

Chemical peels are trendy skincare options for good reason. People who try them rave about their ability to minimize the appearance of dark spots and make skin look softer and fresher.

However, if you’ve never tried a skin peel before, you may have questions. Are chemicals peels safe? What will they do to your skin? Here’s what you need to know about chemical face peels.

What Is a Chemical Peel?

As Dr. Susan Bard explains, chemical peels are simply a type of cosmetic treatment that exfoliates the skin. Instead of using rough textures to manually exfoliate the skin and scrub off dead skin cells, a chemical peel uses acid to gently lift away older skin, leaving fresh, new skin behind.

Types of Chemical Peels

Keep in mind that not all chemical peels are equal. Depending on their ingredients, a face peel can be classified as a superficial, medium-depth, or deep peel.

Superficial peels only affect the top layer of your epidermis, so they’re especially gentle. Many people use this type of peel at home, and it can be applied up to once a month or as recommended in product instructions.

Medium-depth peels will affect both the epidermis and the dermis underneath, known as the papillary dermis. It provides more intense results without requiring regular use, but people should only get this type of peel if a dermatologist recommends it.

Deep peels are very aggressive and will thoroughly remove most of the epidermis and a lot of the dermis. Also called skin resurfacing, deep peels are much less common among skin care users.

The Benefits of Chemical Peels

If your goal is smoother, more even skin, chemical peels can be a great choice. They remove dead skin cells to reveal the brand-new cells underneath. If your skin is already in good shape, a chemical peel helps to reveal bright, glowing skin that feels soft and smooth. For those with dark spots or sun damage, a chemical peel can help to minimize the appearance of discoloration and make your skin tone look more even.  Of course, results will vary depending on the type peel.

Potential Risks and Side Effects of Chemical Peels

Chemical peels have a lot of great perks, but there are some potential side effects. Here’s what you should know before you start a face peel, and remember to always consult your dermatologist to determine if a product or treatment is right for you.

Are Chemical Peels Painful?

When you apply a superficial chemical peel, you might feel mild tingling or heat, and your skin may look a little red. Deeper chemical peels tend to cause a stronger stinging sensation, but even these peels should not cause any intense pain.

Is a Chemical Face Peel Good for All Skin Types?

If your skin is sensitive or particularly dry, a chemical peel can cause some irritation, and is not recommended. According to Dr. Jessica Krant, patients with dark skin who try deep peels may get uneven pigmentation. Also, chemical peels might not be right for you if your skin is prone to keloid scarring. You can reduce all these risks by selecting a superficial peel instead of a deep one, but when in doubt, consult a dermatologist first and always carefully review product instructions and warnings.

What to Expect With a Home Chemical Peel Treatment 

If you’re interested in trying this type of skincare, here’s what to expect.

Choosing the Right Product

Read ingredient lists carefully to find the best peel for your skin. Some contain chemicals like alpha-hydroxy acid that are well tolerated by most people. Another helpful ingredient to look out for is enzymes. Dr. Hadley King explains that enzymes are derived from natural ingredients like pineapple and papaya, so they’re often gentler and more hydrating.

How to Apply It

Applying a chemical peel at home is fast and easy. You just clean your skin and evenly smooth the liquid peel over your skin.  Make sure to carefully follow instructions and warnings on the product’s packaging

Chemical Peel Aftercare

The most important thing to do after a chemical peel is moisturize. This helps to restore your skin’s moisture barrier and prevent irritation. You should also avoid excessive sunlight and make sure to always apply sunscreen when going outdoors.

Rodan + Fields Newest Product for Chemical Peel Treatment

If you’re looking for an excellent at-home face peel, check out our Multi-Acid Enzyme Peel. This new chemical peel from Rodan + Fields combines acids and papaya enzymes to create a resurfacing blend that removes dead skin cells five times faster.* Say goodbye to dull skin, and get ready to enjoy skin that’s visibly brighter and more even.

*Based on ex-vivo study compared to untreated control after 30 min