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The difference between a light, medium and deep chemical peel

Chemical peels are an effective skin treatment with a wealth of benefits, from skin brightening to collagen production to managing acne. For people exploring their options, it is useful to understand the different types of peels available and how they work

We’ve broken down the difference between light, medium and deep chemical peels to help you to navigate the differences and be able to discuss with your cosmetic dermatologist which peel will be the most appropriate for you.

The terms ‘light’ or ‘superficial’, ‘medium’ and ‘deep’ describe how deeply the peels will penetrate the skin. Peels work by mimicking the skin’s natural exfoliating process by breaking down the bonds between the skin cells on the outer layer of the skin. New cells are revealed and rejuvenate themselves for a brighter complexion, reduced in imperfections.

Light peels 

As the name would suggest, these peels are the gentlest option. One of the advantages of this kind of peel is that it requires no downtime. It is recommended for skin brightening and can also help with hyperpigmentation and acne.  

The lactic peel is another type of superficial peel is a lactic peel. It is derived from milk and is generally one of the best tolerated, gentlest types of chemical peel. It works similarly to the other acid peels to produce new collagen and is considered a good option for people with dry or sensitive skin.


Medium Peels

Medium peels penetrate to a deeper level of the skin to stimulate collagen production to improve elasticity for firmer skin. Trichloroacetic acid and glycolic acid are commonly used for medium chemical peels and these procedures are often chosen to treat acne scars, deeper wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.  The ZO 3-Step Peel is a popular option amongst doctors. It utilises a blend of exfoliants, retinol and multi-action agents to help improve skin health and treat many signs of ageing. They are a more intensive treatment, which require a couple of days downtime.

Deep Peels

More intensive peels are used to deliver significant improvement to skin conditions and concerns, such as deep scene scarring and coarse wrinkles. Compared to the light and medium options, deep chemical peels have more dramatic results, and usually only a single treatment is needed. A phenol peel is typically used for this kind of treatment uses carbolic acid to treat the skin. It is suitable only for treating the whole face, rather than specific areas. You will have more downtime with this kind of treatment, with redness and peeling lasting about a week.

Make sure to choose a dermatologist, who is experienced in administering chemical peels and discuss your aims and medical history thoroughly before committing to any cosmetic procedure.