Just hearing the words "chemical peel" is enough to induce frightening flashbacks to "Sex and the City" when a chemical peel left Samantha with her face red and peeling off in sheets. The term itself indicates the use of some cyanide-type chemical followed by unsightly peeling. If you are thinking about a chemical peel but are scared about what will happen after, read on to learn the truth about chemical peels.
A chemical peel does not necessarily mean your face will be peeling and burnt.
A chemical peel is simply a term that refers to some chemical agent that exfoliates dead skin cells on the top layers of the skin and allows new skin cells to regenerate or surface. Chemical peels vary widely not just in type but in strength and can range from deep peels performed by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to a superficial one you can buy at the beauty store and apply yourself. If you have ever bought a cleanser or moisturizer from the drugstore that contained an exfoliating agent like retinol or glycolic acid, you have already technically used a chemical peel.
If your face doesn’t peel at all, it doesn’t mean the chemical peel isn’t working.
Ironically, there are just as many people who worry about not peeling as there are that worry about peeling. It is common for people to judge whether a chemical peel is working or not based on how much their skin visibly peels but this is not an accurate measure of efficacy. Unlike mechanical exfoliants like cleansing brushes and scrubs, chemical exfoliants can penetrate below the surface of the skin and work on a cellular level which is partially why they are so much more effective. So visible peeling is just a side effect of some chemical peels and even with mechanical exfoliation, the more you do it, the less likely peeling is because the less dead skin cells there are to be sloughed off on the surface.