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9 Myths and Warnings about Chemical Peels

9 Myths and Warnings about applying chemical peels

Transcript: When you are working with acid - knowledge is power. I am going to go over 9 Myths and Warnings about chemical peels so that when you are ready to take the leap to amazing skin – you will be 100% prepared. 

  1. This first one is more of a Warning.

There is a common misconception that a percentage in one acid is equal to the same percentage in another acid. This could NOT be farther from the truth and is very dangerous if you follow it.

Each acid has its own properties, irritation and penetration associated with it.

For example

  • 30% TCA – is extremely, extremely strong. It will penetrate very deeply into the skin’s layers – down to the dermis- can cause extreme irritation, and will cause excessive flaking in the skin.
  • While a 30% glycolic acid is very weak in comparison. It can only penetrate into the outermost stratum corneum, and will barely cause irritation and only superficial flaking in the skin.

I am going to give you an approximate breakdown on strengths between acids so you can have an idea how they progress. Now this is obviously subject to interpretation. I am just trying to show you close acid strengths and irritation and how the percentages are all over the place with the different acids.

Going from Weakest to Strongest:

  1. 3% Salicylic
  2. 50% Lactic, Mandelic Azelaic 22, 30% Glycolic, Mandelic 40, TCA 7%
  3. 50% Glycolic and 15% Salicylic, and 13% TCA (at 1 layer)
  4. 25% Salicylic
  5. 70% Glycolic, 13% TCA (at 3-5 layers)
  6. Jessners , 20% TCA (1-2 layers) , Progressive Peel
  7. 30% TCA

All these different acids are hard to tell apart and keep in order. That's why we made the chart above, which shows the approximate increase in strength between each peel level. Even though these different types of chemical peel acids are compared, remember that everyone's skin is different and reacts differently. This chart can be used as a tool to help you decide what the best chemical peels for your skin are.

But if you are confused or need more information please don't be afraid to ask of help. Peels are an acid, and can cause severe irritation if used incorrectly. Always make sure you are 100% certain you have the right product and technique before you apply it.

  1. This next one is a Myth.

It is a common misconception that those with darker skin can not do a chemical peel.

This is not correct at all. Yes, they are more prone to run into Post inflammatory hyper pigmentation than their lighter skinned counterparts, but with proper skin preparation we can bring that level down to normal.

In truth – anyone can experience PIH. It doesn’t matter how light your skin is or if you have done 50 peels and never dealt with it. On that 51st peel you could be looking at splotchy, pigmentation on your face. It happens and is always one of the warnings of performing a chemical peel.

Now what causes the PIH in the first place?

When an irritating or strong substance is applied to the skin, your skin responds with an OUCH! It gets inflamed. When that inflammation dies down you are left with areas that have darkened. You will see this happen when someone gets a pimple. It swells and when the inflammation goes away you have PIH left. *this is not a scar by the way – it is Post inflammatory hyper pigmentation.

How can we avoid – or GREATLY lessen the chances of getting PIH?

The best thing you can do is have healthy skin. Use antioxidants, Vitamin A such as Retinol and SPF every day. Now… prior to performing a peel, you need to start using a melanin inhibitor to slow down the production in your skin. Alpha Arbutin is an excellent such ingredient and we recommend that 2x per day by using our Fade Bright Lightening Gel.

Prepare your skin for a minimum of 2 weeks and preferably 4 weeks if you are prone to dealing with pigmentation or have very dark skin.

Will this guarantee that you don’t get PIH? No, but it will greatly lessen your chances. For reference, other common melanin inhibitors are Kojic acid, Vitamin C, hydroquinone, bearberry, licorice root, azelaic acid, and other hydroxy acids. You will find SEVERAL of these in our pre-made Fade Bright Serum.

  1. MYTH – chemical peels hurt.

Why this is a myth is because everyone’s pain tolerance is completely different. If you take a 30% glycolic and apply it to 3 different people you will get 3 different comments. One will think it burns, the next will feel a light tingling and the last person will think it was just water. So how can we state that a specific acid will be irritating and even HURT? We can’t.

In general though, some acids are more irritating than others.

Salicylic is definitely an acid with a bite! When you apply it you can feel a sharp tingling/burning. It will last for a few minutes and when you rinse with cold water it will dissipate. Keep rinsing until the irritation is completely gone and the acid is diluted.

TCA is very mild but since it is layerable the irritation can go up quickly. A 1 layer 13% is actually quite mild with some light tingling that goes away after a few minutes when it naturally neutralizes. Now add on your layers – let’s say you are working up to 3 layers…

You applied your first layer. Waited 5 minutes. Now applied your second layer. Waited 5 minutes or so….. By the time you get that 3rd layer on, your skin is most likely quite HOT feeling. Dr Fulton described it as “hot peppers” and I think that rings very true. It may take longer than 5 minutes for that feeling to subside. I have waited up to 15 minutes before applying the next layer myself for the irritation to go away.

Glycolic isn’t too bad at all and Lactic is very mild. Same with Mandelic. They are all pretty comfortable to most people. Now, remember this if you are super sensitive but still want to do peels. You can use a topical numbing cream or serum prior to your peel. Apply it according to the directions (some want clean skin and others don’t). When your skin is numb, wash your face well and prep according to your Peel Manual and then apply the peel. You should not feel any irritation at all. Any of the “cain” products are good for this. Lidocaine and Prilocaine are two popular ones that can be separate of combined in a cream.

4. MYTH – you only need to do one peel to get great results.

Boy, this could not be further from the truth. Peels are not a one time event. Ever. You will need to begin with a peel series. That is a grouping of 6-8 peels performed at a specific distance from one another. With the ligher acids like Mandelic or Glycolic, you could potentially do a peel 1x every week. But with higher percentages or stronger acids, you may only be able to do a peel 1x every other week or even 1x per month.

Once you have performed your peel series, then you can take a step back and see if you need to alter your acid or percentage or just continue on performing more peels. Once you get your skin where you want it to be you can decide to stop entirely for months or just adjust your peel schedule. *This is generally the most common as people don’t want their skin’s health and beauty to slip back to what it was prior to the series. A peel 1x per month is a great option to follow. That, and make sure you are using the proper products every day to keep your skin looking great such as:


Acid serums, cleansers toners …

Antioxidants such as vitamin C

Exfoliating scrubs and enzymes.

  1. Myth – you will have to hide your face while peeling.

There is no reason to go into hiding just because you did a peel. In all actuality, for the first 2-3 days your skin will look great and feel smooth. Then around day 3-5 you will notice dryness and some flaking starting in the center of your face (around your nose and mouth) and then it will radiate outwards over the next 3-5 days or so.

The flaking can be very minimal and with some extra moisturizer you will look just fine. Now, if you did a higher strength or stronger acid you will get more flaking – but still it can be just fine to go to work. Just watch out for powders as they will make the flakes look more pronounced. The less makeup the better at this point.

To speed this up – at around day 4 or 5 you can use an Enzyme Mask to help to dissolve some of the dead skin flakes more quickly. You can also gently use our Diamond Dermabrasion scrub to remove some of the excess flaking *as long as your skin feels normal and isn’t sensitive at all.

Remember to, time your flaking to work with your schedule. On average it takes about 3-4 days before your skin starts to flake. Then it flakes for 3-5 more days. Try to time your flaking to when you have days off. Then when you go back to work the majority is done coming off.

  1. Warning – Everyone can have chemical peels done

This is not true. If you have been on Accutane in the past 12 months then you should forego peels altogether until your doctor has cleared you. Also, if you are prone to keloid scarring, have open wounds on your face, have an active infection or are otherwise not in good health, then you should not perform peels.

Being safe is knowing when you need to take a step back. Now, just because you can’t apply a chemical peel does not mean that you can’t improve your skin. Start using products like retinol or an acid serum or cleanser daily to thin the outermost stratum corneum and get your skin looking smoother. Then, concentrate on antioxidants such as Vitamin C and a good SPF of at least 40 to keep your skin protected. Once any issues have cleared and you are ready to try a peel – your skin will be prepared properly by following this protocol.

  1. Myth – chemical peels cannot improve scars.

It is true that the minor, hydroxy acids generally can only help with textural issues on the skin and minor post inflammatory hyperpigmentation after a pimple has gone away. Those are generally incorrectly referred to as (acne scars).

The deeper acids such as TCA can definitely help with deeper scarring. Specifically indented or ice pick scars that are left behind from inflamed cystic acne and other large pustules.

The TCA CROSS method – which stands for: Chemical Reconstruction of Skin Scars is the procedure when a sharp wooden pick is saturated with a high percentage of Trichloroacetic acid. The saturated pick is pushed quite firmly into the indented scar. Once removed, the skin will frost over inside the hole and just around the rim. This generally is not painful at all since such a small area is being treated. Now after 5 minutes the skin can be washed off and can be repeated again in 5 weeks.

There will be a small scab that forms deep within the scar. You will see it if you look very close in a mirror – but no one else will notice it as it is just skin colored. As long as that scab is there your tissues are regenerating at a quick rate. Never try to remove it early.

The CROSS method causes the dermis to thicken and the shorter tendrils pulling the skin down to be loosened. This aids in visually lifting the skin to fill in the hole. It will take a few times for there to be very noticeable changes in the depth of the scar – but this method works excellent to fill in holes.

We suggest the 30% TCA for home use, but if you have this performed in a doctor’s office they will use a higher percentage – and this is acceptable because a doctor is performing the treatment. Otherwise NEVER touch a higher percentage at home as you will risk creating more scars on your face.

We highly recommend to use SuperCop 2x on a daily basis to stimulate further tissue regeneration after day 2 and an application of pure emu oil or another soothing product to be applied.

  1. Myth – Chemical peels are only for the face.

Not true at all. You can use a peel on any part of your body that is not a mucus producing area. The most common areas are the face, back, arms, legs, mid section, hands and chest.

There are a few things to keep in mind though when you are peeling things other than your face. First is that the skin on your body is many times thicker than the skin on your face/neck area. That means that it will require a higher percentage and a stronger acid to get results.

We generally suggest the TCA 20% for those with medium – dark skin and the TCA 30% for those with light – medium skin for major changes. This includes acne on the back and pigmentation on the arms and legs.

If you are just looking to smooth and refine a certain area, generally something like the 70% glycolic can be enough.

Now, since the skin is thicker, it will also take a longer time frame for the skin to start peeling. We find that you can go up to 2 weeks before seeing any flaking on the body *where the face only takes about 3-4 days. That is why you can only do a peel on the body 1x per month. It takes that long to begin the flaking and then another couple of weeks for it to complete.

  1. Warning – Chemical peels are perfectly safe

I want to address the fact that a chemical peel is something that needs to be taken seriously. There are things that you need to do:

  1. You need to make sure you are purchasing a CERTIFIED peel. That is what we offer here at Platinum Skin Care. With all of the peels running rampant on various shopping sites there are acids available for literal pennies. These are not proper peels formulated in a lab. Nor are they guaranteed to be the actual acid, pH level or percentage that is stated on the makeshift labels that are applied. Do not trust them and run quickly the other way.
  2. Anyone can have a bad result with a peel. The most important thing to do is prepare your skin properly. If you were to step into a dermatologist’s office and ask for a peel, they would not just give you one. They will go over your skin, its condition, your issues and then put you on a pre-peel regimen to get your skin ready to do a peel. Then you would be scheduled to come back in a couple of weeks to get your peel applied. You need to do the same thing at home. Follow the protocols I have outlined prior. Antioxidants, retinoids or acid serums and sun block are the biggies. Also treat any acne or hyperpigmentation issues with preventative treatments such as Fade Bright, or benzoyl peroxide or salicylic with pimples. Then, you can do your peel.
  3. As long as you have prepared your skin properly you will have a much higher chance of success. Remember though, no matter what you have done to prepare, or how many times you have had a peel – things can still go wrong.
  4. Serious complications are very rare with chemical peels though. Especially when proper protocol has been followed. Risks may include infection, unplanned pigment changes and scarring.

The big thing to remember with peels is to prepare your skin. Make sure you have a quality product. Follow your Instruction manual to the T, and always ask if you have more questions.

You know that WE are here to help you Monday – Friday. So give us a call if you want to try a peel but still have questions.

We can help you know the truth. If you still have questions about peels we have an EXTENSIVE library of videos here to watch:

We also have a long document explaining everything you ever wanted to know about peels here:

You can purchase your CERTIFIED Peels here:

Here is a link to our most popular selling peel: