Article by Colette van Niekerk

Currently, chemical peels are the most common treatment offered in skin care salons and medispas as a specialised facial treatment, instead of a normal relaxing facial.

The reason is that a chemical peel works much deeper in the skin and most of the people going for a skin treatment, struggle with a specific condition.  Therefore, they are limited with time and they want better and quicker results.

A chemical peel is a solution which is applied to the skin and removes the dead skin cells for an improved skin appearance.  Depending on the type of acid applied to the skin, it works on different skin conditions and this is where you need to know what chemical peel is being applied on your skin.

There are three basic types of chemical peels:

Superficial peel only works on the epidermis

Medium peel penetrates from epidermis to upper dermis

Deep peel works from the epidermis right through to the mid dermis

A skin care therapist (Somatologist) is only allowed to work with the superficial peels whereas medical doctors are the only ones allowed to work up to deep peels due to a deep wound that is created and it is more advanced.

We have seen in the past that even with superficial peels, the skin can exfoliate drastically which leaves one feeling uncomfortable to work in society when going through the healing stage.  With technology that has improved over many years, many skin care brands developed peels that will treat the skin and exfoliate the skin during the treatment session and does not cause a heavy flaking of the skin (only dryness).  In addition, it leaves the skin more comfortable and does not sensitize the skin afterwards, although a stinging or burning/itchy sensation is experienced during the treatment, which will calm down afterwards.

Typical acids used in a peeling solution is your hydroxy acids, glycolic, malic, mandelic, lactic, phytic gluconolactone, trichloracetic acid (TCA) or salicylic acid and many more.  Each acid has certain properties to improve skin texture, radiance, hyperpigmentation, stimulation of collagen and elastin or acne.

Looking more in depth with the different acids, some skin care ranges focus on a combination of several acids to cover all the aspects of skin ageing.  Then, some ranges focus on a selection of acids to concentrate more on a specific condition which is more popular in the skin care industry.  Some of the superficial peels are applied with a thin layer which needs to be neutralized after a few minutes and is called a time dependant peel.

On the contrary, other peels are applied layer upon layer (maximum three), depending on the response of the skin towards the peel and the degree of the skin condition. This peel is called layer dependant peel which it is not neutralized afterwards.

It is important to know that when the skin undergoes resurfacing treatments, the therapist or doctor must explain the type of peel to be used, for which skin indications it will focus on and what the effect will be afterwards.

In addition, when there is a concern about a skin indications, a combination of treatments will have a bigger impact and results will be quicker.  When combining skin resurfacing treatments with photodynamic therapy, skin needling, advanced masks, laser treatments, mesotherapy or platelet-rich plasma (administered by medical doctors), it is more targeted driven and treats the skin in the different levels holistically.

A suggested post-treatment program is always essential to take great care of the skin and to protect and heal the skin.

Indications for skin resurfacing:

  • Smoother skin texture
  • Radiance
  • Acne and acne scarring
  • Enlarged pores
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Melasma
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Chronic Redness


Contra-indications for skin resurfacing:

  • Pregnancy (not complete contra-indication. Only if melasma occur during pregnancy)
  • Tretinoin treatments or any medication with photosensitizing potential
  • Herpes
  • Open wounds

Allow time for a skin consultation when considering skin resurfacing treatments and make sure the best package will be suitable for your condition.

Colette van Niekerk is the owner of Skin Sense Day Spa and has been in the skincare and aesthetic industry for 15 years.  Colette has been working with international brands, was a speaker at national aesthetic congresses which she gained knowledge in the industry and is focussing to grow additional treatments at Skin Sense and to stay updated with the new trends. Visit her award-winning day spa in Rivonia for a vast array of chemical peels and many more treatments. You can find them at

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