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Light Chemical Peel


Also known as glycolic acid peels or AHA chemical peels, light chemical peel is a non-invasive treatment that removes the upper layers of dead and damaged skin and encourages skin cell regeneration. This type of peel provides gentle treatment for fine lines, acne, chronic dry skin, and uneven pigmentation. The formulation of the chemical solution used in a light chemical peel depends on the needs of the individual patient.

What is a Light Chemical Peel?

Light chemical peels are also known as glycolic acid peels, AHA chemical peels, or salicylic acid chemical peels. Glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that occurs naturally in sugar cane, is the most common ingredient of light chemical peels. The ingredients and formulation of a light chemical peel, however, depend upon the specific patient’s skin care needs. With light chemical peels, the chemical solution is left on the skin for a relatively short amount of time.

When applied to the face or another part of the body, the AHA chemical peel solution works by removing the outer layers of skin so that a new, smooth layer of skin is revealed. The action of the chemical solution stimulates the production of elastin and collagen, essential components of healthy, youthful skin.

Candidates for Light Chemical Peels

Good candidates for light chemical peels are patients who have relatively mild skin imperfections and conditions, and who want to rejuvenate and enhance the appearance of their skin without the recovery time of harsher treatments. Glycolic acid peels ( AHA chemical peels) are a safe and effective way to improve the look of sun-damaged skin, and they are helpful in reducing mild acne scars and fine lines. Because these light chemical peels exfoliate the surface of the skin and unclog pores, they are also considered and effective type of chemical peel for acne treatment.

Light Chemical Peel Application

In preparation for a light chemical peel, the patient’s skin is first gently cleansed. Then the chemical solution is applied to the targeted areas. The specific formulation and concentration of the glycolic acid (AHA) solution depend on the patient’s needs.

An anesthetic is usually unnecessary for light chemical peels, although a patient may request a local anesthetic or sedative to help avoid discomfort. As the chemical solution works on the skin, the patient will typically feel a warm tingling or stinging sensation. After the chemical solution has been on the skin for the prescribed amount of time, the physician will wash it away with water and apply a soothing lotion.

The entire process of a light chemical peel usually takes less than an hour, and the patient typically experiences little or no skin redness or other side effects. After a light chemical peel, the patient can expect to return to daily activities immediately. Multiple treatments are usually necessary to achieve optimal results.

AHA (Glycolic Acid) and BHA (Salicylic Acid) Peels

Light chemical peels contain alpha hydroxy acids and/or beta hydroxy acids. Physicians who perform light chemical peels select an appropriate chemical solution (or mix of solutions) based on each patient’s needs.

Chemical peels primarily containing alpha hydroxy acids may be referred to as “AHA chemical peels” or “ glycolic acid peels.” Glycolic acid is the most common type of alpha hydroxy acid used in skin care. Salicylic acid chemical peels are the most common type of beta hydroxy acid peel.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are derived from fruit, sugar, sour milk, and other natural sources. AHA chemical peels often contain:

  • Glycolic acid (extracted from sugar cane)
  • Lactic acid (extracted from milk)
  • Malic acid (extracted from pears and apples)
  • Citric acid (extracted from oranges and lemons)
  • Tartaric acid (extracted from grapes)

Beta hydroxy acids are simple organic acids derived from fruit. When a physician refers to “ salicylic acid chemical peels,” he or she is referring to a beta hydroxy acid. Though closely related to alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids differ slightly in their molecular structure, and rejuvenate the skin in a slightly different way.

The most common beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, has been used for decades as an acne remedy, and salicylic acid chemical peels are especially effective in eliminating acne. Beta hydroxy acids are helpful because they can exfoliate oily skin and deeply penetrate the skin with no irritation.

Regardless of the specific type, alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids gently rejuvenate the skin and encourage skin cell regeneration with little or no irritation or discomfort. Glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and other alpha hydroxy acids are so gentle, in fact, that they are common ingredients in home skin care products, and patients who undergo a light chemical peel may be asked to use such products to improve on their results.

Light Chemical Peel Recovery

Light chemical peel side effects are few, and in most cases light chemical peels require no recovery time. Though your skin may be flake mildly or be slightly irritated after a glycolic acid peel (or, AHA chemical peel), you should be able to return to work or everyday activities almost immediately after treatment.

After your peel, your physician will give you guidelines to follow to help ensure the success of your treatment. Generally, patients are instructed to use a gentle cleanser and specified moisturizing lotion, and to avoid exposing the treated skin to the sun.

Following your light chemical peel, you will notice that the treated skin has improved tone, texture, and pigmentation. You should see further improvement as your course of treatments progresses.

Are Multiple Light Peels Required to Achieve Desired Results?

Unlike deep chemical peels, which require only one session, patients generally undergo five to eight light chemical peels to achieve optimal results. Just as the formulation of the light chemical peel solution is customized for each patient, the number and spacing of the treatments varies according to individualized treatment plan for each patient. To learn about the ideal treatment for your particular skin enhancement needs, it is best to consult a cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist.

DocShop – Connecting Patients with Dermatologists

Though a light chemical peel is gentle and non-invasive, to achieve optimal results, it is important to choose an experienced dermatologist to administer your treatment. DocShop has a comprehensive directory of dermatologists offering glycolic acid (AHA) chemical peels in your area. Use the directory to locate a cosmetic dermatologist near you who is experienced in administering light chemical peels.

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