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Pretoria, Gauteng

Chemical Peels: Overview

Chemical peels are one of the most popular beauty services on the market!

Why is that so?

  • Treatments are quick with little to no downtime
  • Relatively affordable
  • Widely available
  • Many options and combinations to choose from .

You don’t have to make the choice of which peel is best suited to your needs. At Somalogic Laser Clinic we will guide you through the process of choosing a peel by considering the following:

  1. Skin preparation
  2. The peel process – how long will it take
  3. Which peel or combination of peels will be used
  4. What can be expected – realistically
  5. Downtime
  6. Cost
  7. Aftercare
  8. Treatment plan going forward to sustain results.

In this basic chemical peels how-to guide, you will gain insight as to :

  1. Benefits of chemical peels.
  2. Differences between superficial, medium-depth and deep peels.
  3. Peels for darker skin.
  4. Contraindications (who may and who may not or should not) have a peel .
  5. What time of the year is better suited to different peels.
  6. Can teenagers do chemical peels – OH YES they can with great success.
  7. Does a peel leave me with thinner skin?
  8. Can a chemical peel be done on your back, hands, chest or arms?
  9. “Backne” acne on your back or chest is a serious issue which affects self esteem – can it be treated? YES
  10. Chemical peels for Acne, acne scarring, melasma, pigmentation, brown spots, dryness, oily skin, enlarged pores and anti ageing.

Fast facts to be discussed at your consultation

Why do a consultation ?

We want to know what is bothering you about your skin , the fact that you have made the move to call us and ask about chemical peels means there is a skin problem you want to fix !

About types:

  • Time dependent or layer dependent.
  • Chemical peels are used to remove damaged skin cells (dry and non functional epidermis), revealing healthier skin underneath and stimulation of the skin to renew itself (the thicker healthier dermis).
  • There are different types of peels: light, medium, and deep.
  • Visible flaking and non-visible flaking.


  • When conducted by a fully trained and experienced therapist, as we are at Somalogic laser clinic chemical peels are exceptionally safe.
  • It’s essential to follow the post procedure instructions carefully.


  • Light chemical peels do not require any down time unless you have a reaction.
  • Medium and deep chemical peels can require two to three weeks of recovery time.
  • The procedures can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes or some are applied left on overnight and removed the following day.


  • the cost of chemical peels depends on the type of peel you get. The cost of your homecare is not included.
  • they range from R 550 – R23 000 (these peels usually come with full homecare and are sold as a process rather than a single treatment Dermamelan is a good example of such a peel).

Preparation of the skin:

  • Preparing the skin is not a waste of time and money It is just as important as the actual treatment . consider painting a dusty wall, that paint is going to peel off in no time which means you have wasted time and money.

Treatment plan going forward:

  • We explain what you need to do to maintain and even improve your results.

All of the above is discussed in greater detail below

What are chemical peels?

Chemical peels are specific acids with carefully controlled percentage and PH that are applied to the face, hands, neck, chest and back. They’re used to improve the appearance or feel and functioning of the skin. During this procedure, chemical solutions will be applied to the area being treated, which causes the skin to exfoliate and eventually peel off.

Depending on the acid used you may feel a burning sensation and others you don’t feel anything. This can be visible flakes of dry skin much like that after a sun burn or single cell which is not visible flakes its to small. Once this happens, the new skin underneath is smoother, appears less wrinkled, and visible damage is less.

There are a number of reasons people may get chemical peels. They may be trying to treat a variety of things, including:

  • Wrinkles and fine lines
  • Sun damage and sun spots or age spots and solar lentigos
  • Acne scars
  • Enlarged pores
  • Hyperpigmentation, brown shadows
  • Scars
  • Melasma
  • Uneven skin tone or redness,
  • Rosacea
  • Dryness
  • Oily skin
  • Fluffy facial hair – Alkaline wash.
  • Acne on the body
  • Aging neck, chest and hands
  • Keratosis Pilaris – the bumps most often found on the upper arms

How is a chemical peel done?

Before the procedure, a 2 week preparation is needed this is done to ensure predictable reaction and results.

Light peel

During a light peel a gauze, or brush will be used to apply a chemical solution like salicylic acid to the area being treated. The skin will start to have a slight stinging sensation. Once complete, the chemical solution will be neutralized . Light are peels that self-neutralize . These peels are often what is known as time dependant peels.

Medium peel

During a medium chemical peel, a gauze, or a cotton-tipped applicator is used to apply the chemical solution to the area being treated. This may contain glycolic acid or trichloroacetic acid or Pyruvic acid. The skin will begin to whiten, and your therapist will fan your face .The white residue is often the free salts in the solution.

If your skin is very dry coming into the peel you will have frosting which indicates that the chemical solution has penetrated to a deeper layer of the skin and you can expect more peeling in that area. You may feel stinging or burning for up to 20 minutes. No neutralizing solution is needed. These peels are known as layer dependant.

Your face may have a yellow or blue hue to it if the peel has been left on as per the procedure. Once you have washed your face after the specified time the yellow colour will be gone . In the days following your face will feel very dry and pigmentation and dark spots will appear darker, this is all very normal. It will flake/ peel off over the next week to 14 day.

Deeper peel

During a deeper chemical peel, you will be treated by the doctor and the relevant peel and its procedure will be explained to you. These are often customised as the need differs from person to person.

How do you prepare for a chemical peel?

Before your procedure, you’ll first have a consultation with the skin care specialist. During this visit, they’ll help you determine what the best treatment option is for your need. They’ll let you know the details about the specific peel you’ll be getting, and they’ll ask about anything that could interfere with the peel. This may include whether you’ve taken acne medication, if you use scripted Retin A , or have any auto immune conditions that could cause you to react. These are all very important to your end result and should you have a reaction of some sort we will be prepared for it, they are all manageable. People who are very sinus prone tend to swell more and so if we know this we can tell you what to do before it happens.

Before a chemical peel, you must:

  • STOP use any type of retinol or retin-A topical cream or serum for at least 48 hours
  • Inform your skin care specialist of any medication changes since your last visit
  • Not have been on Accutane for at least six months
  • take an antiviral medication if you have a history of fever blisters or cold sores.
  • Do not wax, epilate, or use depilatory hair removal products the week before the peel. You should also avoid hair bleaching. Products like Veet, No Hair and so on are alkaline base which can cause serious reactions to chemical peels.
  • Do not home exfoliate the week before the peel.
  • Have some anti histamine and a hydro cortisone cream at home to help address reactions.

What are the risks and possible side effects of a chemical peel?

Common side effects are temporary, and include redness, dryness, stinging or burning, itching especially on the jawline, slight scabbing and slight swelling. 

What to expect

Down time varies depending on which chemical peel you received.

Light chemical peel

Recovery time is about four to seven days. Your skin may temporarily be lighter or darker and rough to the touch.

Medium chemical peel

Your skin will recover about 7 days to 10 days after a medium chemical peel, though you may have redness that persists for months. Your skin will initially swell, and then form crusts and brown blotches before revealing new skin.

Homecare during this phase is so important and sun exposure should be avoided, its important to note that computer screens also cause pigmentation so even if you work at home Infront of the computer apply your SPF.

Deeper chemical peel

Deep chemical peels will cause severe swelling and redness, with burning or throbbing sensations. It’s common for the eyelids to swell shut. It will take about two weeks for the new skin to develop. It’s common for redness to last for several months.

During recovery, follow your post-procedure instructions faithfully.

What is a chemical peel?

A chemical peel is a higher strength skin exfoliant with a pH that’s generally around 2.0 and lower.

Skin exfoliants differ from chemical peels for two reasons:

  • They have a higher pH
  • There’s less overall acid inside the product.

When looking to have a chemical peel the pH is important usually starting around 2.0. When the pH of a solution is at 2.0 or below, it means the entire percentage of that acid in the product is “free” to exfoliate your skin. However, when the pH is even slightly raised, less of that product will actually work. A small change means a big difference.

For example, say we have a 5% acid product with a pH of 2.0 — that 5 percent would be completely “free” to work its exfoliating magic. But when the pH of that acid is raised slightly, less of that 5 percent is actually active.

If you want the full effect of the chemical peel, then make sure your peel has a pH of around 2.0. If all that’s a little confusing, choose a great therapist that knows all of this already!!

What does a chemical peel do?

It makes your skin (and you) sexy, smooth and ready to face the world.

Joking aside, chemical peels have a lot of benefits! These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Glowing refined texture
  • Treats pigmentation and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation and other skin discolorations
  • Facial rejuvenation and stimulates collagen and elastin
  • Unclogs congested pores
  • Addresses oily or greasy ”orange peel” thick skin
  • Treats active acne
  • Reducing the depth of wrinkles or acne scarring
  • Brightening skin tone
  • Enhancing the absorption and efficacy of your skin care products
  • Your makeup will also look better


If you are having skin issues there’s a chemical peel out there with your name and solution on it. 

Types of chemical peels and examples:

1. Superficial peels

Also known as “lunchtime peels” — because they involve little to no downtime and you can go back to the office right after having one done— superficial peels penetrate minimally, exfoliate gently, and are best suited for mild skin problems like minor discoloration or rough texture OR as we have said so many times before regular low invasion is way more effective to the aim of good skin than sporadic aggressive treatments.

Examples: Peels using Mandelic, Phytic acid, lactic, and low-strength salicylic acid .

2. Medium peels

These penetrate more deeply (middle layer of skin), target damaged skin cells, and are best suited for moderate skin problems like superficial scarring, fine lines and wrinkles, and troublesome pigmentation, like melasma or age spots.

Examples: High-percentage glycolic acid ( in lighter skin tones) , Jessner solution or modified Jessner, and TCA peels.

3. Deep peel

These penetrate the middle layer of skin very deeply. They target damaged skin cells, moderate to severe scarring, deep wrinkles, and skin discoloration.  These peels will have you knowit, they can be quite hot .

Examples: High-percentage TCA and phenol chemical peels fall under this category. However, these peels are usually once off and are followed by lighter onesgoing forward.

What kind of chemical peel should I have done?

In terms of ingredients, there are a lot of different options to choose from. Because we’re all about simplicity here, here’s a list of common chemical peels, listed from weakest to strongest, with quick summaries of what they do.

Again we say you don’t have to tell us but we love it when our clients are well informed and are part of the process. Our clients at Somalogic Laser Clinic aren’t sheep, you aren’t going to bully them into anything or steal them away cause they know their stuff!

Enzyme peels

This is the lightest peel of the bunch and is considered a “natural” option because it’s a fruit derivative. It’s especially great for people with sensitive skin or people who can’t tolerate can be overdone in winter especially if your skin tends to be dry or your barrier is impaired.

But unlike alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), it doesn’t actually increase cellular turnover. Meaning its not changing the structure of your skin. Instead, enzyme peels work to remove dead skin ( stratum corneum) in a way that doesn’t make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Often used at home. We also do this for clients with atopic dermatitis.

Mandelic acid

Mandelic acid is the best peel to improve texture, fine lines, and wrinkles. It’s beneficial for acne and helps to improve pigmentation without the irritation or erythema (redness) that glycolic acid can cause. It’s more effective on your skin than glycolic acid when used in combination with salicylic acid and retinol can also be added to customise the result.

Lactic acid

Lactic acid is another good starting peel because it’s considered lightweight and gentle. It smooths skin, provides a glow, helps with minor wrinkles, and is better than glycolic acid in treating pigmentation and is also less irritating to the skin. In addition, it’s more hydrating. With the addition of DMAE it firms the skin to.

Azelaic Acid peel

Azelaic acid seems to be the best peel for female adult acne, its anti-inflammatory and works well for active acne. It does not need to be neutralised and can be combined with other acid and retinol to customise it for your need.

Salicylic acid

This is by far one of best peels for treating oily and acne prone skin. It’s oil-soluble, meaning it will effectively get into the pores to dissolve any congestion.

You get visible peeling option and those that have no visible peeling : it’s great for:

  • photodamage (sun damage)
  • spotty skin
  • oily skin
  • enlarged pores
Resorcinol acid

Resorcinol is good for eczema, seborrheic dermatitis. It works by removing the hard dry and scaly skin. It is most often used in combination with other acids.

Glycolic acid

This one is a bit more intensive, and depending on its concentration, can fall into the “medium peel” category.

Best peel for increasing collagen production, refines texture, brightens and refreshes skin tone, reduces wrinkles, and is a particularly excellent chemical peel for acne scars. And when I say acne scars, I mean the actual indentations left behind in the skin from old breakouts. But one needs to be careful with darker skin tones and people with a history of post inflammatory hyper pigmentation (PIH) that happens when a treatment was doe to aggressively or to deep .

Jessner's peel

This is a medium-strength peel that’s made up of three primary ingredients which are Salicylic acid, Lactic acid, and Resorcinol). It’s the best peel for dark spots and pigmentation and acne-prone or oily skin, but should be avoided if you have dry or sensitive and reactive skin. It has a drying effect .  It can also be combined with Retinol to up the result.

Downtime could last anywhere from a couple days to a week.

TCA peel (trichloroacetic acid)

TCA is a medium-strength peel, and the strongest of the bunch listed here. TCA peels are no joke, so take this one seriously. Scratch that, take all of them seriously!

Best peel for sun damage, pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, enlarged pores, solar Lentigno and atrophic acne scars. Like a Jessner peel, this will have downtime (typically 7 to 10 days). This peel is also on the hot side so keep a fan handy when applied. Retinol can also be added to TCA.

The depth reached by TCA peels is affected by a number of factors:

  • The type of skin (thicker skin can tolerate the higher concentrations).
  • The strength of the TCA (15-20% penetrates only the epidermis, 45% penetrates the upper reticular dermis).
  • The combined use of retinoic acid (0.025%-0.1%) enhances penetration and results.
  • Cleansing the skin before application with an active cleansing substance or mild cleanser affects the aggressiveness of the peel.
  • Lower concentrations of TCA can be used if blended with other active agents with the aim of giving the same results whilst reducing the risks of complications.
Pyruvic Acid peel

Pyruvic acid, an alpha-keto-acid, has recently been used as a medium chemical peel for people with inflammatory acne, moderate acne scars, greasy skin, Actinic Keratosis ( AK) ( the dry rough skin on the back of your upper arms) with great success.

Teens often suffer with AK and they end up scrubbing their arms thinking it will help but in fact they just aggravate the condition. Which leads to self-conscious teens who always want to hide their arms.

Chemical peel side effects

The side effects one may experience largely depend on the strength, intensity, and type of peel you use. The condition of the skin and general compliance with recommendations too.

For lightweight peels like 15% Salicylic or 20% Mandelic acid, little to no side effects. A little bit of redness as you leave the clinic will occur, but should subside in an hour or two. Skin peeling may occur within two to three days especially if you have dry spots like around the nose in winter.

Very important: Just because you do not shed layers of visible skin, it does not mean it isn’t working! Don’t underestimate the strength of a chemical peel, even if you feel it didn’t do much.

As for the higher strength products, there’ll most definitely be skin peeling and redness. This can last anywhere from 7 to 10 days, so make sure you check your social calendar and discuss it with your therapist. No one wants to sit next to a lizard!

Rare side effects:
  • PIH – post inflammatory
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Swelling
  • Scarring

Chemical peel aftercare

Don’t apply tretinoin (Retin-A) for at least the next 24 hours, don’t go to the sauna, into the sun, chlorinated pools, high strength vitamin C serums can also cause irritation, work with animals that shed hair or apply other active ingredients.

We will show you which barrier repair cream you need to apply for the next few days. And it goes without saying at Somalogic Laser Clinic we don’t allow you to do a chemical peel if you don’t use sun screen of at least 30 SPF daily.

Beware of chemical peels with fancy names!

Do not be fooled into action by fancy sounding names. Chemical peels are ultimately just that , chemicals. Ask what the active ingredients of a chemical peel are , maybe even ask for the concentration and even more important ask what the ph of the peel is .

Follow the procedures as given to you by your therapist. They will give you all the information on what to do so that your experience is satisfying and worth your time and money.

The one thing that is often overlooked is the principal of “consistency”. You will have better results if you do a peel regularly even a lighter peel than doing one aggressive peel a year.