A chemical or enzyme peel refers to the application of one or more chemicals/enzymes to the face or hands which induce accelerated exfoliation, controlled skin damage and peeling. As the skin damage is repaired by the natural healing process of the body, the skin's appearance will improve with due time.

Pre-treatments may include topical vitamin A, alpha hydroxy acid cleansers and hydroquinone containing creams. They will improve the results seen from chemical peeling. First the skin is thoroughly cleansed to remove make-up and surface residue. The chemical solution is then applied for several minutes, usually 5-6 minutes. A stinging sensation will be experienced and this will depend on the concentration and duration of the application. The chemical solution is then either removed with saline solution or neutralised by an alkaline agent.

Chemical peels are broadly defined by the depth of skin damage they produce. Level 1 peels, also known as “lunchtime peels” are very superficial peels which act on the outer epidermal layers of the skin. They are fast and easy to perform, and especially great for those with sensitive skin or those wanting maintenance skincare. Examples include: Glycolic acid 30% and Pineapple Pumpkin Enzyme Peels (from Perfect Image LCC).

Level 2 peels, also referred to as superficial peels are almost twice as strong compared to level 1 peels and may cause visible peeling. They are great for those with acne, oily or rough-looking skin, who need more correction than just maintenance. Examples include: Lactic acid 50%, Salicylic acid 20%, TCA 15%, and Glycolic acid 50% peels.

Level 3 peels, also referred to as medium depth peels are stronger and more aggressive than level 2 peels. They result in visible peeling with moderate inflammation and swelling, which resolve within a week. The most common candidates for medium depth peels include those with pigmentary disorders (e.g melasma, freckles, suns spots and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation), acne scars, photo-aging, wrinkles and solar keratoses. Examples include: TCA 20%-25%, Lactic acid 70%, Glycolic acid 70% and Jessner’s peels.

Complications are uncommon if performed properly. These may include blackheads, secondary infection, scarring and patchy pigmentation. Persistent solar keratoses may require additional treatment with cryotherapy, 5-Fluorouracil cream or 5-ALA photodynamic therapy.