The term “chemical peel” is a procedure whereby a chemical solution is applied to the skin to remove the topmost layer, reveal the fresher looking skin behind.
There are many types of peels available and each peel addresses difference concerns.
#1 Alpha-Hydroxy (AHA) Peel
Takes off a very fine, thin layer of skin using the same ingredient found in sour milk (lactic acid), sugar cane (glycolic acid), almonds (mandalic acid) and more.
PROS: Good for people with mild to moderate acne. Considered one of the easiest and safest peels around because it is so light.
CONS: Has more side effects and doesn’t last as long as beta-hydroxy acid peels (see below).
#2 Beta-Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Peel
Found to be highly effective for acne-prone people. Derived from salicin, related to the same ingredient found in aspirin. Stronger than AHA peels.
PROS: Less redness and peeling of the facial skin as compared to AHA peels.
CONS: Not good for those who have aspirin allergies, due to slight risk of Reye’s syndrome.
#3 Jessner’s Peel
A mild peel that helps deal with signs of aging and also skin that is damaged by the sun or is showing signs of hyperpigmentation. Also helps with clogged pores and mild acne.
PROS: Can help naturalise areas that are very affected by sun damage.
CONS: Usually contains some salicylic acid, thus not good for those with aspirin sensitivity (like the BHA peel).
Read on to find out about two more types of chemical peels.
#4 Phenol Peel
The deepest chemical peel available, it achieves maximum exfoliation by using carbolic acid as the main ingredient.
PROS: Can produce excellent results.
CONS: Not recommended for very sensitive skin or those with darker skin. May take up to three months to see maximum results. Risk of scarring if burns occur during the peel.
#5 Trichloracetic Acid Peel
This peel penetrates underneath the top layers of the skin to remove blemishes and reverse the signs of aging.
PROS: Great for patients with deeper pigmentation or deeper acne scars.
CONS: You will need to take at least several days off work as it will take a while for your skin to heal.
The interval between getting each peel redone depends on the strength of the peel. For mild peels like the AHA peels, you can safely do it monthly.
For medical grade peels, it is best to have the treatment done with an experienced doctor or medical professional as he/she will know what type of peel suits you best and also how long to leave the peel on for optimum results. Choosing the wrong type of peel or leaving it on too long may result in burns.
Dr Yeak Hwee Lee is the Medical Director of the Singapore Aesthetic Centre (SAC), a lifestyle medical centre that caters to the needs of the urban society, including full aesthetic services, complementary weight management programmes and health screening services. Prior to this, she was an aesthetic practitioner with the Raffles Medical Group (2001–2007).
Dr Yeak was also a resident physician with Stamford and Clifford Medical Centres, Singapore (1992–2000) and a medical officer in the Departments of Dermatology, Plastic Surgery, General Medicine and General Surgery (1987–1992). She is licensed in Laser, Botox, Fillers, Chemical peels, non-surgical facelifts, and Intense Pulsed Light medical procedures.
Dr Yeak’s academic achievements and awards include a Distinction in Biochemistry, conferred by the Dean of Medicine, National University of Singapore (1983), MBBS (Singapore) (1986), a Merit Award in Dermatology, University of Wales, Cardiff, UK (1998) and Diploma in Practical Dermatology (University of Wales) (1998).
Dr Yeak has been practising aesthetic medicine since 1996, and her special areas of professional interest include acne and acne scarring, and skin rejuvenation. Her personal interests range from modern dance to yoga, and she was an Aerobic Dance instructress at the YMCA Singapore.