Under the right circumstances, at-home chemical peels can be an effective solution. However, the at-home peel could have potential harmful effects on your skin and is not as effective as a medical strength peel done by a dermatologist.
At-home peels consist of several alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic or lactic acid and work by dissolving and exfoliating the superficial layers of dead skin thus revealing new skin underneath. The glycolic acid generally makes up to 30% or less of the solution. Some at-home peels contain salicylic acid which is attracted to your oil glands and helps unclog pores. Some also may contain enzymes that are meant to exfoliate but are not as effective as hydroxy acids. The at-home peels provide a mild improvement to acne, skin texture and overall skin tone. It is important to consult with your dermatologist before using an at-home chemical peel. Some situations in which you should consult your dermatologist include:
- If you have underlying skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis
- If you used retinoid products
- If you have a tan
- If you have had cold sores in the past
In contrast, medical strength peels are stronger containing glycolic acid of 30 to 70%, trichloroacetic acid (TCA), or phenol solutions that penetrate more deeply into the skin. Therefore, they are much more effective in treating pigmentation problems, fine wrinkles, scarring, and deeper sun damage. The stronger peels often require a pre- and post-peel topical treatment to help ensure evenness and quick recovery. Your dermatologist will be able to advise you on which strength peel would be best for your skin because they have the medical training needed to make informed and correct decisions.
Lastly, when buying over-the-counter or internet chemical peels, you should consult a dermatologist to check the ingredient list to ensure you will not be burned or scarred from using these solutions.