Chemical peels are one of the best ways to get clearer, firmer, more youthful-looking skin. And today, doing them at home is easier than ever – not to mention much more cost-effective! But choosing which peel to start with can be tough. Starting with a peel that’s too strong, can leave you with painful, irritated skin. The exact opposite of what you’re going for.
Luckily, choosing the right peel is easy, once you know more about them and how they work. That being said, below you can learn all about selecting the right peel for your skin type and the best places to buy them. If you want to skip ahead to my favorite type of peel for beginners click here.
Why is choosing the right peel so important?
Choosing a peel that’s too strong for your skin can cause severe pain, burns, and other unpleasant side effects which you can read more about here. In fact, you may have seen pictures of chemical peels gone wrong on the internet. In these cases, the individual may have started with a peel that was too strong for them or they may not have been a good candidate to begin with.
This is why, as a beginner, you will want to start with a mild peel that will get your skin accustomed to acid-based products. This will decrease your chances of irritation and extreme skin flaking. And as your skin adapts, you can eventually move on to a stronger peel.
How do I choose the right peel?
The two best things you can do in order to choose the correct peel are to:
1) Learn about the different types of peels and what they do.
2) Purchase your peel from a reputable seller.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. But I have been doing my own chemical peels for over 10 years and have tried almost every peel out there.
1) Learn about peels
A chemical peel is an acid-containing solution that when applied to the skin, destroys the outer layer of your skin cells. Once these damaged cells flake off healthy skin cells take their place and your skin looks smoother, brighter, and more youthful-looking.
When selecting a peel, you want to look at the following:
All three of these things will determine how strong your peel will be. In other words, how deep it will penetrate your skin. We will go over each of these items below.
1) The type of peel
The type of peel you choose typically depends on the skin condition you wish to treat. Some of the more popular peels and their main uses are listed below.
♥ Alpha-hydroxy acid peels ♥
Alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) peels work better on dry skin and are great for fine lines, pigmentation, and brightening your skin tone. Peels in this category include lactic, glycolic, and mandelic acid peels.
♥ Beta-hydroxy acid peels ♥
Beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) peels work better for those with oily skin types who suffer from acne-related issues like blackheads and clogged pores. Peels in this category include salicylic acid peels.
♥ Combination peels ♥
Combination peels contain a mixture of both alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids. An example would be a Jessner’s peel.
♥ TCA peels ♥
A TCA peel contains trichloroacetic acid and is neither a BHA or AHA peel.
All of the above peels can also be classified into different strengths: superficial, medium, or deep.
*Note: The above list is not absolute and is more of a general guideline. Some strong glycolic acid peels, for example, especially when applied in layers or at a high percentage can reach the papillary dermis making them medium strength. Similarly, a very strong TCA peel is said to be able to reach the reticular dermis making it a deep peel.
2) Strength of the acid
Along with the type of peel you are using (which we just covered), you need to know the concentration of the acid. This information is typically listed as a percentage next to the name of the peel. So a 40% glycolic acid peel contains 40% acid. However, as you will read coming up, you can have two identical 40% glycolic peels but one can be much stronger if it has a lower pH.
3) pH level
One of the most important things to remember is that the lower the pH, the stronger the peel. So a 40% glycolic acid peel with a pH of 2.1 is much stronger than a 40% glycolic acid peel with a pH of 3.1. As the pH level goes lower, more of the acid becomes chemically available which makes the peel stronger.
So when purchasing a peel you want to look for products that have a pH close to 2.0 so that the full amount of acid in the product is “available” and able to work on your skin. This would mean that the 40% glycolic acid product with a pH of 2.0 is truly giving you 40%. If you bought the same exact product with a higher pH, the whole 40% would not be “available” making it a weaker product.
Note: All of this can be really confusing, even to experienced peelers. That’s why it’s so important to purchase your product from a knowledgeable seller (who can answer any questions you have) which we cover next.
2) Use reputable sellers
Platinum Skin Care
The first place I always recommend for peels is Platinum Skin Care. I have used them personally for many years (way before I started this blog) and I feel very comfortable recommending them. Their website is a goldmine of information, including many helpful articles and instructional videos. But most importantly, they list their contact information so you can contact them with any questions or concerns you may have during the peeling process.
If you check out their website, you will see that they offer smaller (1 oz.) sizes of their peels which is perfect for trying them out. They also offer a very unique vitamin A peel along with convenient peel kits, which contain not only the peel but important before and after products as well.
Makeup Artist’s Choice
A second place you may want to check out is Makeup Artist’s Choice (MUAC). Like Platinum Skin Care, they have been around for a long time and are cruelty-free. I have purchased from them as well and I think they offer a nice selection of peels and general skincare products. Of course, these aren’t the only good places you can buy peels from, but I can personally vouch for them. The only place I don’t recommend buying peels from is Amazon, which I talk about next.
Note: Make sure you review all of the materials you will need for your peel so you can order them all at once if possible. For more information, see the post: How To Safely Perform Chemical Peels At Home and look under the heading “What other materials do I need for my peel?“.
What About Amazon?
I love Amazon, but they are not my favorite place to buy peels from. Many of the peels sold on Amazon are sold by third-party sellers, not Amazon itself. As a result, it’s difficult to determine how much the sellers know about the peels they are selling. In fact, they may have little knowledge of the ingredients inside the peel or the conditions in which it’s made.
An even bigger problem is that many sellers don’t list the pH of their peels which determines how strong they will be. As was stated earlier, peels with a low pH are stronger than those with a high pH. So a 30% glycolic acid peel sold by one seller might be much stronger than a 30% glycolic peel sold by another seller. Without knowing the pH, it’s impossible to tell.
The difference in pH level also explains why you can find a 60-70% glycolic peel sold by an Amazon seller and then read reviews stating it didn’t do anything. Normally, you would never use that strong of a peel (if it had a low pH), but the high pH makes it ineffective for a lot of people.
The best way to begin your peeling journey is to start with a mild peel and then work your way up to stronger ones.
Keeping that in mind, if you have very sensitive skin or are very apprehensive about doing your first peel, I would choose a lactic acid peel between 40-50%.
If acne is your biggest concern, you can try starting with a low-strength salicylic acid peel instead. These types of peels generally start at 3% and get higher.
Things to remember
Since these are low-strength peels, you may not notice any improvements right away. It usually takes about 6 peels before you’ll see a major difference.
Once you’ve completed 6-8 peels (and if you are not experiencing any irritation), you can switch to a stronger peel if you haven’t achieved the results you want.
What about enzyme or fruit peels?
While researching peels you may have come across enzyme peels (also known as fruit peels). These kinds of peels contain fruit enzymes (like pumpkin and pineapple). Like chemical peels, they make your skin look more youthful by removing dead skin cells. But keep in mind that they aren’t the same thing as chemical peels.
The biggest difference between the two is that chemical peels destroy living skin cells which are then exfoliated or shed from your skin. Whereas enzyme peels only exfoliate cells that are already dead making them much milder.
So if you are looking for more profound results (for things like wrinkles and sun damage) I would stick with chemical peels. But if you want just mild exfoliation, then enzyme peels are perfect. Some people like doing a combination of the two. For example, enzyme peels can be used to prep your skin before chemical peels or be used in between for maintenance.
Remember, choosing which peel you are going to use is just one part of the process. You also need to learn whether or not you are a good candidate for a peel in the first place. And then you need to learn how to apply it and how to care for your skin before, during, and after the peeling process.
For more detailed information on the entire process of doing a chemical peel, please see the post:
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Is anyone here getting ready for their first peel? Which one did you choose? Please share in the comments!