Salicylic Acid Peels

Information about salicylic peels and what they do |

Lactic acid peel

Salicylic acid peels are a type of beta hydroxy (BHA) peel. The name "salicylic acid" might sound familiar because salicylic acid is very common ingredient in acne treatments. It's no wonder that salicylic acid peels are also great for treating clogged pores and acne.

Salicylic acid peels can be quite strong and penetrating, more so than AHA peels. While they are generally suitable for most skin types, people with oily, acne-prone skin tend to see the best results. People with an aspirin allergy, however, must avoid getting this type of chemical peel.

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of salicylic acid peels and what to expect when you get one of them for your skin.

What do Salicylic Acid Peels Do?

Salicylic acid peels can help improve the following skin conditions:

  • Clogged pores
  • Oily, congested skin
  • Acne
  • Blackheads

As you can see, salicylic acid peels are usually best for those with acne-prone skin. If you are trying to fade hyperpigmentation, lactic acid or glycolic acid peels will probably be better. Salicylic acid peels will probably not be as effective for anti-aging either.

What to Expect from a Salicylic Acid Peel

Your skin will first be primed with some kind of prep solution. This removes any residual facial oils to allow the peel to be more effective. After the prep solution dries, the salicylic acid peel is applied to your skin. The person giving you the peel will set a timer for how long it should be left on your skin. When the time is up, the peel will be neutralized and then gently removed with some water or a cleanser.

During the salicylic acid peel, your skin will feel warm and prickly. It will probably also turn red. And because salicylic acid is more penetrating, you may feel more topical discomfort than other chemical peels (ex. like mandelic acid peels). If you experience pain that you cannot tolerate at all, the peel needs to be immediately removed. To avoid this kind of bad reaction, most places will spot test the peel before doing a full-face peel.

Facial redness, or erythema, post-peel should subside in a few hours. For some people, the redness can linger around for a couple of days later. Even though most salicylic acid peels are only at 15% strengths, they can cause your skin to turn dry and flaky. Your skin probably won't peel off in sheets, but some light peeling might take place.

Is there any downtime?

Unlike TCA peels or laser treatments, there isn't any significant downtime associated with salicylic acid peels. For most people, skin heals and returns back to normal in 3-4 days. The main side effects from salicylic acid peels are facial redness and flaking skin. However, these side effects are usually not severe enough to take time off work or clear out your schedule.

If you get salicylic acid peels for active acne, you might experience some post-peel purging. As the acid exfoliates away the surface of your skin, it brings clogs you have underneath closer to the top, which may erupt as more active pimples.

As with all exfoliating treatments, salicylic acid peels will make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Therefore, it is very important to stay indoors and wear a good sunscreen when you go outside, especially the first two days after you get the peel.

When will you see results?

You will need approximately 4-6 peels for optimum results. Some people will need more, some people will need less. The number of peels you have to get before your skin starts to improve will also depend on the severity of the skin issue you are trying to fix. For blackheads, you will probably see results after 2-3 peels. For mild-moderate acne, it will probably take around 6 peels, more if your acne is more severe.

Salicylic acid peels are great for clearing out mild skin bumps, but if your acne is inflamed and/or moderate-severe, there are no guarantees that getting a series of peel treatments will clear your skin. How well salicylic acid peels treat acne will ultimately depend on how your skin reacts.

Salicylic acid peels can be done once every 2 weeks. However, some people can tolerate getting them every 7-10 days.

Salicylic acid peels might not be the best chemical peel for pigmentation and fine lines, but they are beneficial for people with oily, acne-prone skin.

Last updated: September 21, 2012

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TCA Peels

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