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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a dual-board-certified dermatologist with over 90 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

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Chemical Peel for Dark Spots: Dermatologist Explains

Updated: Mar 3

Chemical peels involve the application of a chemical solution to the skin, causing controlled exfoliation and the removal of damaged outer layers.


For dark spots, these peels target hyperpigmentation by accelerating cell turnover and promoting the growth of new, evenly pigmented skin.


Benefits of Chemical Peel for Dark Spots
 

Table of Contents

 

Types of Chemical Peels

The type of peel to be used depends on the intensity of the dark spots.


Very Superficial Peels

These peels are generally not used for dark spots.


Superficial Peels

Ideal for mild dark spots, these peels use alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like Glycolic Acid or Salicylic Acid to exfoliate the outer layer of the skin. A low concentration (10 - 30%) of TCA (Trichloroacetic Acid) is also used for superficial peels.


Medium Depth Peels

This is used for high-intensity dark spots.


A higher concentration of glycolic acid (70%) applied for a longer amount of type can be used as a medium-depth peel.


Trichloroacetic acid (TCA), with concentrations ranging from 35 - 50%, is also used to penetrate deeper into the skin, addressing pigmentation concerns.


Deep Peels

Deep peels are very rarely used. They often involve phenol and provide more profound results but require careful consideration due to their potential for extended recovery (longer downtime).


How Many Sessions Are Required?


This depends on the intensity of the dark spots, the type of chemical peel being used, and your skin type. Your dermatologist will be the best person to suggest the number of sessions required. However, in general, the following are the number of sessions:


Glycolic Acid

This may require anywhere from 4 - 12 sessions. The gap between subsequent glycolic acid peel sessions can vary, on a case-to-case basis, between 2 - 6 weeks.


Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA)

Superficial TCA peels are typically administered every 2–4 weeks, and achieving the desired outcome usually requires approximately four to eight sessions. Maintenance peels can be performed as needed. For medium to deeper peels, it is advisable to initiate them either after six months or, preferably, a year later.


Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid peels are typically conducted every 2–4 weeks, and achieving the desired results generally necessitates a total of four to eight peels. Subsequent maintenance peels can be performed either monthly or as needed.

Benefits of Chemical Peels for Dark Spots


Improved Pigmentation


Chemical peels can significantly reduce the appearance of dark spots by promoting the growth of new, evenly pigmented skin.


Enhanced Skin Texture


Beyond addressing pigmentation, chemical peels contribute to smoother, more refined skin texture by removing damaged layers.


Stimulated Collagen Production


The exfoliation induced by chemical peels stimulates collagen production, enhancing skin elasticity and reducing the signs of aging.


How Do Chemical Peels Work - Mechanism of Action

Chemical peels work by creating inflammation and coagulation in the skin, which is followed by a healing process called re-epithelialization. This is particularly applicable to peels of superficial to medium depth.


In deeper peels, additional processes like the formation of granulation tissue, angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels), and remodeling of collagen also take place.


In the case of glycolic acid (GA) peels, when used at lower strengths, they reduce the adhesion between skin cells, leading to the shedding of the outermost layer of the skin (stratum corneum), resulting in a smoother skin texture. However, at higher concentrations, GA causes the separation of these skin cells.


Considerations Before Opting for a Chemical Peel


1. Skin Type


Consult with a board-certified dermatologist to determine your skin type and the most suitable peel for your needs.


2. Sun Exposure


Limit sun exposure before and after the treatment to minimize the risk of complications and ensure optimal results.


3. Recovery Time


Consider the downtime associated with the chosen peel and plan accordingly, especially for deeper peels that may require more recovery time.


4. Post-Treatment Care


Follow the dermatologist's post-treatment care instructions diligently to maximize the benefits and minimize potential side effects.


Conclusion


Chemical peels offer a targeted and efficient solution for individuals grappling with dark spots. Before embarking on this transformative journey, consult with a board-certified dermatologist to assess your unique needs and ensure a tailored approach.


With the right information and professional guidance, chemical peels can unveil a brighter, more radiant complexion, leaving dark spots a distant memory.

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