Types of Chemical Peels

Types of Chemical Peels

Some of life’s most common skin issues can improve dramatically once you’ve settled into a skincare routine that doesn’t create more issues than it solves. Others might require more robust treatment, a do-over of sorts. While there’s no shortage of office procedures and home treatments that could get the job done, chemical peels seem to be increasing in popularity with each passing year.

When performed by a skilled professional, a chemical peel could help smooth, brighten, and revitalize your complexion. The effects can be quite remarkable. But like all skin treatments, chemical peels are not always the best solution. If you’ve been looking for a new path to skin rejuvenation, we’ve got the information you need to weigh the potential benefits against the possible risks.

What are Chemical Peels?

Chemical peels are a type of skin resurfacing treatment, a method of extreme exfoliation. A solution applied to the surface of the skin dissolves the bonds between skin cells. This method of “controlled trauma” removes the outermost layer of the skin. Some methods work on chemical bonds directly on the surface; others penetrate much deeper.1

Chemical peels can improve clarity, tone, and skin texture. They also have the potential to reduce oil production, improve skin cell turnover rates, and boost collagen production. The combined impact could ultimately leave your skin looking smoother, healthier, and quite possibly – younger.2,3

Which Type of Chemical Peel Might Be Best for My Skin?

The American Academy of Dermatology classifies chemical peels into three main types, superficial, medium depth, and deep. Within each of those three classifications, you’ll also find the option of four different types of chemicals. A board-certified dermatologist or esthetician can evaluate your skin, assess your needs, and determine which of the following options might be most likely to deliver the results you’re hoping for.

Superficial Chemical Peels

A superficial peel is the least traumatic and most popular option. This surface-level treatment is most often used to clear uneven texture, minimize the appearance of very fine lines, and clear congested pores. Superficial peels can also be helpful for mild hyperpigmentation, improving cellular turnover, and controlling excess oil production. For a superficial chemical peel, your provider might use glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or retinoic acid. Although your skin might look red or feel irritated, there’s little to no downtime. Treated skin generally heals within a week.4

Medium Depth Chemical Peels

A medium chemical peel penetrates deeper into your skin. Also helpful in the war against the visible signs of aging, a medium peel is the better option for deeper lines and heavy sun damage. During the treatment, the chemical (usually trichloroacetic acid) remains on your skin for just a few minutes. You might feel a slight stinging or burning sensation, but nothing too traumatic. In the days following treatment, your skin might turn red or brown before it starts to peel. Although your skin might be a bit red for a few weeks after treatment, the most unpleasant symptoms resolve within 7-10 days.5

Deep Chemical Peels

Deep chemical peels use a substance called phenol to help with facial scars, precancerous cells, and deeply set wrinkles. The procedure generally requires sedation, IV fluids, and heart rate monitoring. Since more layers of skin are removed, there’s a higher risk of scarring, uneven pigmentation, and skin infections than less invasive options. Since there’s a higher risk of complications, you’ll likely be asked to schedule several follow-up visits as your skin heals. New skin will start growing within two weeks. Although skin can remain red for several months, the skin-revitalizing effects of a deep chemical peel can be quite dramatic.6

Do the Advantages Outnumber the Disadvantages?

A chemical peel can work wonders for reviving your complexion. But the process can also cause irreversible damage to the skin you’re hoping to improve. Since there are many factors that might influence your results, a consultation with a board-certified professional could help you decide if the potential benefits outnumber the possible risks. Until then, the following observations about a few of the less-than-appealing features could help provide some of the clarity you’re looking for.

Recovery Time

After a superficial chemical peel, your skin could end up mildly irritated or flaky. But your complexion should start looking and feeling better within a few days. However, it can take 7-14 days to recover from a medium peel, and even longer from a deep peel. The further the chemical penetrates your skin, the higher the risk of swelling, scabbing, and pain.  

Risks of Uneven Pigmentation

Chemical peels can cause uneven pigmentation or cause your skin to turn darker or lighter. Sometimes the changes are temporary, but not always. Men and women with dark complexions have a higher-than-average risk. But your risk of pigmentation issues also increases if your taking hormone medications, have a family history of brownish facial discolorations, or your skin responds to injury with a darkened scar.7

Having to Stay Out of the Sun

After any chemical peel, your risk of sun damage increases because your newly exposed skin is thinner and more fragile. Your provider will likely caution you about the importance of wearing sunscreen and avoiding prolonged UV exposure. While great advice for anyone interested in skin health and appearance, your skin could be far more reactive than you might expect.8

Costly Maintenance

Chemical peels are not generally considered a “one-and-done” fix. Most people require multiple treatments to achieve and maintain their results. Scheduling superficial peels every 4-5 weeks is common. Although deep chemical peels can only be done once, medium peels are usually done 2-3 times per year. Depending on where you live, you’re looking at anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars per session.9

Is There Any Way To Improve My Complexion Without Harsh Chemicals?

Although a professional chemical peel has the potential to produce beautiful results, they’re not for everyone. If you’re intrigued by the possible benefits but concerned about the potential risks or how your sensitive skin might react, you have other options. Consider investigating the many potential skin benefits of plant-powered skincare enhanced with the skin-rejuvenating potential of hemp-derived CBD.

CBD (cannabidiol) is an active plant element classified as a cannabinoid. CBD won’t peel your skin, but it will interact with important receptors found on nearly every type of skin cell, including the receptors that regulate skin cell turnover, moisture retention, collagen synthesis, and skin pigmentation. Based on what research has shown so far, the cannabinoid also mimics the function of natural skin lipids, an effect that could help restore balance to your skin’s delicate moisture barrier.10 Plus, CBD is natural, not a chemical.

Are You Ready to Invest in Natural Skin Rejuvenation?

Many of today’s most health-conscious consumers have given up on potentially harmful chemicals that could damage their skin in favor of plant-powered products with active botanicals. Once you realize how many chemicals and compounds used throughout the skincare industry can irritate sensitive skin, harm ecosystems, and impair healthy skin function,11 you may want to join them.

To learn more about natural skincare or the many potential skin benefits of hemp-derived CBD, visit BOTA™ hemp. While you’re there, we invite you to browse our Complete Guide to Natural Skin Care or read our Beauty Blog. Then take a look at our selection of plant-powered skincare products. All BOTA™ plant-powered products are made with botanicals selected for specific skin concerns, cruelty-free, third-party tested, and enhanced with the many potential skin benefits of full-spectrum hemp-derived CBD.



  1. Dr Michelle Green, MD. (2021) Types of Chemical Peels.
  2. Real Self. M Green. (2020 September 07) Chemical Peels: What You Need to Know.
  3. Derm Collective. C Stanton. (2019 September 26) 10 Chemical Peel Benefits: Pros and Cons of Light, Medium, and Deep Peels. B. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. (2021) Chemical Peel.
  4. Healthgrades. S Lewis. (2020 July 28) Chemical Peel.
  5. Mayo Clinic. (2020 August 27) Chemical Peel.
  6. WebMD. D Jaliman. (2021 August 10) Chemical Peels and Your Skin.
  7. Derm Collective. C Stanton. (2019 September 26) 10 Chemical Peel Benefits: Pros and Cons of Light, Medium, and Deep Peels.
  8. Skincare.com. (2020 January 08). How to Care for Your Skin After a Chemical Peel.
  9. AEDIT. (2021) How Much Does a Chemical Peel Cost?
  10. Molecules. K Toth et al. (2019 March 24) Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic Potential of the “C(ut)annabinoid” System.
  11. Treehugger. (2014 June 23) Everything You Need to Know About Natural Skin Care.


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