Ever wish you could peel back the top-most layer of your sun-damaged, acneic, line-filled skin to reveal a flawless, fresher, and brighter complexion? Chemical peels may be the answer you’ve been searching for. By dousing the skin with exfoliating acids to rejuvenate and revive dullness (among other skin issues), chemical peels are touted by many as the secret to glowing skin.

That said, there are certain nuances to be aware of when it comes to chemical peels—namely, your various options, what skin type they’re meant for, and potential side effects. To help us learn everything we need to know about all of the chemical peel benefits, we tapped celebrity esthetician Shani Darden and board-certified dermatologist Anna Guanche.

What Are Chemical Peels?

Guanche explains that a chemical peel is a method in which a chemical solution (usually an acid) is applied to the skin and removed after a certain amount of time. “During this time, the solution penetrates the uppermost layers of the skin allowing the peel to achieve a certain depth,” she says. “This causes the skin to peel, lifting off sun damage, smoothing the skin, and even treating acne. The skin cells that peel off are naturally replaced with new ones.” Standard ingredients in a chemical peel are alpha hydroxy acids (think: lactic acid, glycolic acid, tartaric acid, malic acid, and citric acid) along with the beta hydroxy acid acne-prone skin is all too familiar with: salicylic acid. Here’s how they work: the peel is painted onto the face by a dermatologist or trained cosmetologist. The stronger the formulation and the longer it’s left on, the more powerful the “peel.” The peel is then washed off and you may notice instant results.

What Are the Benefits of Chemical Peels?

Both experts agree that chemical peels are brimming with skin-loving benefits.

  • Prevents acne: “Chemical peels help with acne because they lower the pH of the skin, making bacteria uncomfortable and unable to survive,” notes Guanche, who says that peels are suitable for most types of acne. “They help remove the surface skin debris leading to a healthier complexion with less clogged pores.”
  • Improves efficacy of other skincare products: Because peels remove the top layer of skin, it’s able to help other products you put on your skin penetrate deeper.2 This is especially helpful if you’re pimple-prone and are slathering on acne treatments.
  • Refines fine lines and wrinkles: “A peel will help to remove dead skin that has settled into fine lines, making them less visible,” says Darden. “A medium-depth peel will help the most with wrinkle refinement.”
  • Reveals clearer, glowing skin: Guanche explains that chemical peels remove the flaky, irregularly-attached dead skin cells from the face, leading to a compact stratum corneum that reflects a beautiful glow. “In addition, there is a slight inflammatory component that may occur, and this creates a collagen boost when healed,” she adds.

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