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A Chemical Skin Peel: What is it, how does it work and is it right for you?

The chemical peel is one of the most honest skincare treatments around. It doesn’t hide behind fancy name. It is what it says: a chemical solution that harnesses your body’s natural processes of renewal, which can largely be summed up as “discard old skin cells to make space for new ones.” In other words it causes the skin to peel so that the new skin can grow in its place.

The idea of peeling away small amounts of skin might sound scary initially, but chemical peels are one of the most common treatments for correcting skin and achieving visible results – especially in winter, when skin needs a bit of a lift – simply because they have proven so very effective in rectifying damage and renewing skin.

How do chemical peels work?

To understand the science behind peels, what conditions they can help alleviate and to be able to make informed decision, it’s best to start at the beginning: how renewal naturally happens in the skin. Different chemical types have their own properties, but generally, chemical peel acids penetrate the skin and break the bonds between the layers of skin, so the top layers will start peeling off. The type of peel, its concentration and the exact chemical composition will determine how deep it penetrates (and thus how deep the peel is). Always, but always have a peel done by your expertly trained and trusted skincare therapist. You’ll go for assessment first, as one specific peel or combination peels and concentrations might be best for your individual skin. Your therapist will know just what’s right for you.


Regenerating Skin:

Lifecycles are very important in nature, and our bodies are no different. It is just as important for skin cells to drop off and make space for new cells as it is to live healthily. In fact, our bodies rely on it (cancer is a prime example of what happens when cells don’t “die” when they are supposed to).

We shed a lot skin, constantly. In fact, your skin seems to completely renew itself every 30 days or so (ideally). Why? Because you skin there to protect the rest of your body – it is designed to grow quickly from the deepest layers through to the uppermost, so that it can shed. This process allows your skin to keep impurities out of your body. And there are a lot of impurities to go around.

Nearly every minute of every day, your skin has to fend off a barrage of attacks from pollutants, chemical, ultra violet rays, changes in temperature and climate, bacteria and a host of potential infections. These all pose a threat to you, and your skin is there to save the day. And, naturally, fending off these elements has an impact on your skin in the long run, especially as we get older and the natural renewal process slows down a little. This “impact” (damage) can show up in a few ways, from wrinkles, lines and sagging to hyper-pigmentation and even acne – all of which you’ll recognise as conditions you’ll want to have corrected timeously and effectively.

If, at this point, you were thinking along the lines of, “Hey, why not use the body’s natural regenerative processes to correct this type of damage?” then you are right on the money. Because that is exactly what chemical peels do.


How much skin do we shed?

It’s estimated that we have around 1,6 trillion skin cells on our bodies (estimated by how much of your bodyweight skin accounts for, because no one has managed to sit down and count them all yet). And we shed around 30 000 to 40 000 of them every hour – that’s around a million a day, or 3,6 kg per year.


The purpose of chemical Peels:

  • Erase imperfections

  • Remove damaged skin

  • Improve skin tone and texture

  • Allow new skin to grow


What conditions are treated with chemical peels?


Chemical Peels are used to treat:

  • Acne

  • Ageing

  • Hyper-pigmentation

  • Scarring 


But they are also great for:

  • Firming and tightening

  • Rejuvenation

  • Resurfacing of skin

  • Improving complexion

  • Stimulating healthy new tissue growth


How long does a treatment take?

The peel itself is usually no longer than five minutes. But there is usually prepping and care involved, so bank on a at least 15 minutes.


What does it feel like?

It depends on the product used. Alpha and Beta peels cause only some tingling, while a TCA peel is slightly more intense. Any discomfort subsides after a minute or two, though.


What about after the treatment?

On average, with Alpha and Beta peels, your skin will look youthful and glowing. It may be a little red, but that will subside very quickly. With a TCA peel, some recovery time will be needed.


How long do the results last?

With proper home care, months or even years.


What to expect when considering a skin peel?

Now that we have wrapped our heads around what chemical peels are and what they are used for, it’s important to note that, if you want to give your skin a bit of a pick-me-up, your first port of call should be your trusted skincare therapist.


  • Your therapist will do an assessment beforehand, and make recommendations based on your skin and your requirements.

  • More than one type of peel may be required to achieve results.

  • A home-care and post-treatment regimen will be recommended for optimal results.

  • Note that a chemical peel is not a once-off fix: several treatments over an extended period of time may be needed to achieve results safely.

  • The peel is only part of the treatment: the entire treatment includes a whole array of products to prep and boost your skin.



Which Peels do we offer to our clients? 



Malic Acid and Citric Acid have both Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acid function, and so provide much more benefit than many other acids.

Because AHAs and BHAs work through natural chemical processes, they can penetrate the skin and produce better results than cosmetic scrubs, which work only on the exposed surface of the skin. And, there is no risk that AHAs and BHAs will cause you to lose too much skin. Technically, there is a drop-off rate, meaning the AHA and BHA will exfoliate just the dead or damaged surface skin and leave the healthy skin alone. It is important to note that continued use of an AHA or BHA product is required in order to maintain skin's smooth, even-toned, healthy appearance.

The primary difference between AHAs and BHAs is that AHAs are water-soluble, while BHAs are lipid-(oil) soluble. This unique property of BHA allows it to penetrate the oil in the pores and exfoliate accumulated skin cells inside the oil gland that can clog pores. BHAs are best used where blackheads and blemishes are the issue and make them ideal for skin conditions that may be a result of bacteria. AHAs are best for sun-damaged, thickened, dry skin where breakouts are not a problem.

It is interesting to note that AHAs provide the added benefit of helping to keep water in the skin at the same time that exfoliation is taking place. This is due to the way they affect skin cells adding increased protection. AHAs can also increase the production of ceramides in the skin, which help keep it moist and healthy. While BHAs penetrate deeper into the pore than AHAs, they can be less irritating than AHAs. AHA and BHA products can definitely smooth the skin, fade signs of sun damage, correct uneven skin tone, improve texture, unclog pores, and give the appearance of plumper, firmer skin (because more healthy skin cells are now on the surface). Unfortunately, they have no residual effect; when you stop using them the skin will go back to the condition it was in before.



Is the mildest and most effective AHA available and is derived from milk or of plant origin. Of all AHAs and BHAs, lactic is one of the most skin friendly and exhibits excellent cell renewal activities. Lactic exhibits additional properties also, it moisturizes and possesses the ability to increase ceramide levels. Lactates are safe and mild and can achieve a significant skin lightening effect. Lactates can be used successfully in combination with other NATURAL AHAs. Lactates work synergistically with Vitamin C with a reported skin lightening result. Formulating at a lower pH, as with the strictly NATURAL acids, there is an increased effectiveness in lightening with better penetration and exfoliating action.



Malic Acid is derived from apples and it is an AHA and BHA so has dual power providing benefit for more skin types and rejuvenates mature, sun damaged skins as well as unblocking oily, acneform skins. It is a natural humectant, which draws water into the epidermis. This helps keep the skin hydrated. Malic Acid is also a known antioxidant. In addition to its exfoliating and moisturizing properties, malic acid can help protect the skin against free radical damage due to sun and pollution exposure.



Citric acid is derived from citrus fruits and it is an AHA and BHA, and so has dual power providing benefit for more skin types and rejuvenates mature, sun damaged skins as well as unblocking oily, acneform skins. Citric acid also has the particular benefit of evening out pigmentation. It has a powerful action without the irritation experienced with some other acids that are adulterated by chemical stabilizers.



Research shows extracted components of the plant have antioxidant, antitumor, and anti-inflammatory properties. It inhibits pigmentation, limits the melanin transfer and has a moisturizing and lightening effect on the skin while at the same time exfoliating. This subtropical flower contains a mixture of various hydroxyacids and polysaccharides. Their mild action improves the skin's structure and moisturization, making it appear more even. This ingredient is extremely effective in stimulating cell regeneration in the skin - improving the overall condition, health and appearance of the skin.



Pure natural sugar cane is very different from synthesized glycolic acid. The sugar cane plant absorbs trace elements/micro nutrients from the soil, so it is enhanced and therefore, besides glycolic acid, also contains: calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, boron and cobalt. Some of these elements serve as activators for several enzymes involving the synthesis of fatty acids, DNA and RNA. One obviously does not get these extra elements with synthesized peels, so it is a very unique ingredient.



Often referred to as lunchtime peels; they may produce results on early signs of ageing only. Polyhydroxy (PHAs) acids have a large molecular structure so they do not penetrate and only work on the outer epidermis. (Ingredients MUST be of a MICROMOLECULAR structure in order to achieve penetration). It therefore works very superficially and is extremely mild. Of course this results in reduced irritation and less potential side effects and there will be no subsequent photosensitivity. The reason for this? Because there is very superficial penetration. This type of 'pseudo peeling' will be achieved by using any face scrubbing abrasive. These very superficial peels are therefore only beneficial to people in the 20s and 30s with fine lines and very mild pigmentation. They are of little benefit to the mature, sun damaged, ageing skins because of the limited penetration into the skin.

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