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Skin Peels

Written by: Alice Hart-Davis

Updated by: Becki Murray

Last Updated: 12 January 2024

Skin peels are treatments that remove some of the top layer of skin from the treatment area in order to freshen up the skin’s surface and improve its texture and appearance. The improvement comes from fresh skin growing to take the place of the skin that was removed.

If you’re primarily interested in their use for facials, head to my dedicated skin-peeling facials page.

What many people know about skin peels is that Samantha, in Sex and the City, had a full-on skin peel (just before Carrie’s book-launch party) which left her face red and raw. That was way back in 2002, and it played up for comic effect, but it has made a whole generation of women shake their heads and shudder at even the idea of a skin peel.

But today’s skin peels are not going to leave you looking like that! Many different types of skin peels are available. These peels use various peeling agents and differ greatly in both the amount of peeling involved and the length of time it takes the skin to recover. But most of them are more tolerable than you might think. Scroll down for all the info and FAQs about skin peels.

EXPECT TO PAY

£ 60 - 1500

TWEAKMENT TIME

20 - 30 minutes

LONGEVITY

Indefinitely

ANAESTHESIA

None

DOWNTIME

Redness and peeling (depending on peel)

Find a Practitioner

Postcode

How do skin peels work?

Skin peels use acid to dissolve the bonds that are holding old, dead skin cells onto the skin’s surface. The dead skin cells then slough off, leaving fresh skin beneath.

Skin peels use different types of acid depending on the degree of peeling the practitioner is aiming to achieve. For example, a superficial peel uses a relatively mild acid such as glycolic acid, retinol, or salicylic acid; a medium-depth peel typically uses a moderate concentration of trichloroacetic acid, which is a stronger acid; and a deep peel uses a higher concentration of trichloroacetic acid.

The practitioner paints the acid on to the skin of the treatment area and leaves it for a short time to do its work. After that time, the practitioner applies a neutralising agent to neutralise the acid; some mild acids don’t need this step, as they neutralise themselves, and can be left on longer. The patient then washes off the neutralised acid, together with outer layers of dead skin that it has loosened and dissolved.

Why not download my full factsheet all about skin peels so you can refer back to it later?

How to choose a Skin Peel TTG

Skin peels

What are skin peels good for?

Peels can treat various skin conditions on your face and body, depending on the depth of the peel:

Superficial peel

A superficial peel treats wrinkles, fine lines, large pores, and dark spots and pigmentation. A superficial peel can also tighten the skin of the treatment area.

Medium-depth peel

This type of peel is good for treating sun spots, pigmentation and acne scars. On the face, it can treat dark circles or crepey skin under the eyes.

Deep peel

This type of peel is used to treat deeper-seated problems such as severe acne scars and unevenly pigmented, sun-damaged skin. A deep peel can also tighten your skin more than a shallower peel can as it stimulates more collagen growth.

Where can you have a skin peel?

Peels can be used to treat skin concerns all over your face and body. That includes fine lines and large pores on your face; sun spots and wrinkling on your hands; ‘bacne’ scarring on your body; and crepey skin from head-to-toe. The strength of your peel should tend on the sensitivity of the area that is being treated and the specific goal you have in mind.

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What is it like to have a skin peel?

Your experience of having a skin peel will vary greatly depending on the type of peel you choose and the area you have treated.

Some of the acids used for skin peels can sting severely, especially on sensitive areas, such as the face; and the practitioner leaves the acid mixture on the treatment area for only a short time before neutralising it. The practitioner then typically applies a soothing mask to the treatment area.

Other acids used for skin peels feel as gentle as a moisturiser, and you can simply leave the acid on for an extended period of time, such as eight hours or overnight; the acid gradually neutralises itself.

skin peel 1

Are there any side effects to skin peels?

If you are hoping to address pigmentation issues in your skin, you need to discuss this in detail with your practitioner (and make sure that your practitioner is properly experienced, as always), because if peels are not done carefully, there is a risk of either hypopigmentation (where the skin loses too much pigment) or hyperpigmentation, where there is a rebound effect and the skin creates more pigment.

If peels are relatively light and superficial, they are unlikely to cause problems beyond a bit of stinging at the time they are done, but it is vital to be extra vigilant with sunscreen after any peel, to protect the fresher skin that has been revealed, and reduce any chance of developing hyperpigmentation.

What’s not a good idea is to do too many of the old-style, doctor’s-office aggressive peels, or you end up with a strange, unhealthy, translucent look to your skin. But moderate use of peels will do your skin good rather than harm.

You can download my full skin peels factsheet to have all this information on file.

Skin Peel - Before & Afters


FAQ ABOUT Skin Peels


Are skin peels safe?

Your skin protects your body from the outside world, so it’s no surprise that many people are concerned that peeling will ‘thin the skin’ and therefore be harmful.

It’s true that skin peels thin the skin, but it’s only a little thinning, and only on the very surface. A chemical peel dissolves the cellular ‘glue’ that keeps old dead skin cells stuck to the surface of the skin. Removing these dead skin cells gives a very small thinning of the outermost layers of the epidermis, revealing a fresher surface beneath. This fresher surface is smoother, reflects light better, and absorbs skin products better.

A related concern is that ‘thinner’ skin will mean skin that is more fragile and worse protected, but because the ingredients used in chemical peels also stimulate skin repair in the lower levels of the skin, they actually thicken the dermis (the lower layer of the skin) and improve its health, so overall, your skin will be left in better shape.

Do skin peels work?

Yes, skin peels definitely work. They are a proven way to freshen up the surface of your skin.

The more skin the peel removes, the greater the effect on the surface of your skin, but the longer the recovery time needed. Old-fashioned peels using stronger acids make most of the top layer of skin peel off, and it takes a week or more for fresh skin to grow. But these days you can also choose peels that use less ferocious acids; these acids make less skin peel off, and your skin recovers much more quickly.

Do skin peels hurt?

This depends on the type of skin peel, the acid or acids used, and the sensitivity of the area you’re having treated. With some acids, you may feel no discomfort at all – but other acids can make your skin itch and sting until they are neutralised.

Where can I get a skin peel?

You can use the Find a Practitioner tool on this website to find a practitioner who offers skin peels.

How much do skin peels cost?

The cost of skin peels varies depending on the type of peel, the clinic, and the area you’re having treated. A light peel may cost £60 to £100, whereas a deep peel may cost up to £500.

Many clinics offer discounts on courses of light peels. You would not normally need a course of deep peels.

How long do skin peels take?

A skin peel typically takes from 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the details of the treatment.

After a medium-depth peel, you will likely need three to seven days of downtime while the new skin grows. After a deep peel, you will need up to two weeks of downtime.

How long do skin peels last?

How long the effects of a skin peel last depends on the depth of the peel:

A light peel typically lasts from one to two months.
A medium-depth peel normally lasts from two to six months.
A deep peel can last several years.

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