Dangers of DIY Chemical Peels

Sun damage, acne and the aging process can all take their toll on your skin, but there are several skin rejuvenation procedures that can restore your youthful look. Chemical peels are some of the most effective and affordable skin rejuvenation procedures, and can offer results similar to microdermabrasion and laser skin resurfacing. Certain chemical solutions are available over the counter, allowing anyone to perform the procedure at home. However, “DIY” chemical peels do present some risks. Here’s what you need to know about administering a chemical peel at home:

How At Home Chemical Peels Work

At-home chemical peeling solutions are usually less aggressive than medical-grade chemical peels found at the medical spa or aesthetic surgery center. These solutions are applied directly onto the skin to trigger the peeling process, revealing the healthier layer of skin underneath. The peel can be applied onto the skin using a cotton ball or facial brush, and must be left to sink in for a few minutes before washing off. Some milder solutions can be left on the skin without washing off.

DIY chemical peels are typically “light” solutions, and may contain alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) including glycolic, lactic and fruit acids. They penetrate the least into the skin and can be used to treat fine lines, wrinkles and uneven pigmentation. TCA peels, also known as medium peels, are also available in various strengths and can be used to treat surface wrinkles, reduce pigmentation and get rid of superficial blemishes.

Risks of DIY Chemical Peels

While the chemical peel application process is relatively simple, there are several risks involved with performing the procedure at home. Some of the most significant risks of administering DIY chemical peels include:

  • Increased skin sensitivity
  • Superficial burns
  • Excessive scarring
  • Moderate to extreme pain
  • Acne breakouts
  • Infection

The amount of flaking involved with the chemical peel depends on the strength of the peel, and how long the peel was left on the skin.  In most cases, over-the-counter chemical peel solutions do not demand any downtime and will cause minimal discomfort.

The biggest risk involved with DIY chemical peels is the risk of burning and scarring the skin tissue. When performed in a doctor’s office under the supervision of a medical professional, the strength of the chemical peel solution can be controlled and the professional will ensure that your skin will not burn. When you perform the treatment on your own, you will not know if the peel will burn until a few days after the treatment.

Chemical Peels at the Medical Spa

Deeper chemical peels may be required for treating acne scars, excessive pigmentation, or to get rid of unwanted wrinkles. These peels may require some mild sedation, and are available only at the medical spa or aesthetic surgery center. Some medical spas also offer light and medium chemical peels to treat the following skin conditions:

  • Uneven pigmentation
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Superficial blemishes
  • Blotchy skin
  • Sun-damaged skin
  • Pre-cancerous growths

Learn more about chemical peels in our information guide, or consult with a medical spa in your area to find out if you may be a good candidate for an in-office chemical peel procedure.