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Chemical Peels for Dark Spots: Are They Effective?

woman receiving a face treatment chemical peel

If you struggle with dark spots or hyperpigmentation, you’ve probably tried just about everything under the sun to try and even out your complexion. But with so many products on the market, and so many different sources recommending different things, it can be difficult to determine which treatments are actually going to help and which ones are just a pricey waste of time.

We’ve all found ourselves blinking at the clock on our phone after realizing we’ve somehow spent the better part of an hour wandering the skincare section looking for a sign, so you’re definitely not alone.

While there are a wide variety of products that actually are great when it comes to reducing the appearance of dark spots, one thing you may not have considered is a chemical peel.

Chemical peels are increasingly popular, and for a good reason — they can be incredibly effective when it comes to treating the appearance of any blemishes that may be getting in between you and total confidence in your skin. They’re also a bit more intense than your average product intended to reduce the appearance of dark spots or hyperpigmentation over time, so even if you have things that work but want to give your skin a bit of a boost, a chemical peel might be for you.

Chemical Peels vs. Chemical Exfoliants

The first thing that probably comes to mind when you hear “chemical peel” if you’re not familiar with the concept but are knee-deep in skincare expertise is chemical exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation is a somewhat more common process, so it totally makes sense if you’re wondering what these two processes have in common if anything.

The truth is, the two things have a ton in common! Chemical exfoliants include ingredients like Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) and Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) which work by breaking the bond between your outer layer of skin and your inner, newer, fresher layer of skin so that you shed dead cells and are left with glowing, resurfaced skin. AHAs include ingredients like Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid, while the most common BHA is Salicylic Acid.

If you’re into skincare at all, you’re probably familiar with a lot of these words! That’s good when it comes to getting comfortable with something new like a chemical peel because most of the time, a chemical peel is just a stronger dose of AHAs or BHAs. So if you are using or have been advised to use a chemical exfoliant to reduce the appearance of your dark spots, a chemical peel is basically just the next level up.

Why Use a Chemical Peel for Dark Spots?

Like chemical exfoliants, chemical peels use chemicals (surprise, surprise) to peel off your top layer of skin. This doesn’t just slough off dead skin cells, it helps rid your face of any grime that may have escaped the notice of your favorite cleanser.

And it doesn’t just let newer, fresher skin cells come to the surface. New skin growth can also reduce the appearance of surface problems on your skin over time, such as blemish scars, hyperpigmentation and other dark spots.

It’s why dark spots or hyperpigmentation sometimes go away on their own over time. Your skin naturally replaces itself, and eventually, the layers of damaged or discolored skin that caused the dark spots will give way to (hopefully!) the clear and even skin of your dreams. There are, of course, some types of hyperpigmentation that go a bit deeper and may not go away over time. But the point is, chemical peels just speed this process along so that you can get your glow on faster.

The one big caveat with chemical peels is skin tone. While chemical peels may help reduce the appearance of dark spots on any skin type or skin tone, you’ll especially want to consult with your dermatologist and proceed with caution if you’re gifted in the melanin department.

Darker skin tones are more prone to Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation, which means that you’re more likely to get dark spots from damage, irritation, or injury to your skin. Since chemical peels can be harsh and irritating, even when they’re effective, it’ll be extra important for you to seek expert advice so you don’t inadvertently make the problem worse.

What Types of Chemical Peels Are There?

There are a few different chemical peels for dark spots out there. Which one you pursue will just depend on your skin’s sensitivity and the severity of your dark spots.

As we mentioned, because chemical exfoliants and chemical peels use similar ingredients, if you already use chemical exfoliants and haven’t experienced any issues, it’s probably a good indication that your skin will be relatively tolerant when it comes to chemical peels. But whether you’ve had exposure to the ingredients already or not, you’ll definitely want to patch test any product first to make sure your reaction isn’t too severe.

There are effectively three levels when it comes to chemical peels: superficial, medium, and deep peels. They’re pretty self-explanatory! If you’re unsure which type of peel is best for you, you’ll want to speak to your dermatologist or the clinician you’re planning on scheduling your procedure with.

Because chemical peels are so much stronger than chemical exfoliants, it’s important to mention that you are likely to have a significant reaction to a chemical peel even if it’s totally safe and fine to use on your skin. The stronger formula of chemical peels can cause redness and irritation. Rather than not really seeing the peel happen, as you probably don’t with chemical exfoliants, you might experience some actual peeling with a chemical peel.

A superficial peel will likely take about a week to heal, whereas a medium or deep chemical peel will take between two weeks and a full month for your skin to recover totally. We know that sounds daunting, but if you’re really desperate to make some big changes to your complexion, it can be a truly compelling option. As long as the procedure is performed safely and carefully and you’re diligent about your aftercare, you’ll be rewarded at the end of your recovery time with a fresher and brighter complexion.

Can You Do It At Home?

If you think a superficial chemical peel might be the best option for you, it’s totally possible to perform a chemical peel on your own at home. Because chemical peels are pretty rough on your skin, even if they’re superficial, you’ll want to use a trusted brand and make sure to read all of the directions.

Our Dermapeel Smooth and Glow Treatment 2 Step System is a great option if you’re looking to do a chemical peel safely on your own. It’s, as the name implies, just two simple steps. The first step is to use our Dermaplaning Tool. Our dermaplaning tool is small and easy to use. You’ll basically just want to use it at an angle across your face to remove any build-up of grime or dead skin cells that may have accumulated on the surface of your skin and to get rid of the peach fuzz that might make the distribution of the chemical peel less than consistent.

The second step is the big one: our Complexion Correction Peel Pads. This is the chemical peel part of the process – the pads are formulated with Glycolic acid, Salicylic acid, and Retinol. After using the dermaplaning tool, all you have to do is swipe the pre-soaked pads across your face to coat it in the chemical solution. And that’s it! Peel completed.

You may notice some peeling or flaking after use. This is totally normal and is actually what you want: to see the old, tired, top layers of your skin give way to new life, for both you and your complexion. After performing a chemical peel, whether you do it yourself or get it done by a professional, you’ll want to be super good about aftercare.

Applying moisturizer regularly to help repair dryness and irritation is key, and keeping your SPF on hand is also crucial. Your skin will be really raw and vulnerable after a chemical peel, so anything that might lead to further damage you’d do best to avoid. It’s also probably best to give any chemical exfoliants or harsher products you regularly use in your skincare regimen a break until your skin fully recovers so as not to delay the time it takes you to heal.

Depending on your skin’s sensitivity to the chemical peel, you can repeat this process weekly or even twice a week if you work up your skin’s tolerance.

In Conclusion

While no treatment will be the magical elixir to help reduce the appearance of your dark spots, consistent use of chemical peels can be super effective in reducing their appearance and getting you back on the road to glowing skin.

By: Ivey Rogers Aesthetician Educator & Community
Engagement Manager