Chemical Peels for Dark Spots: Are They Effective?

A chemical peel is a procedure where you use a recommended chemical solution to peel off the top layer of skin to get rid of discoloration and stimulate new skin growth.
Some skin conditions that can be improved using chemical peels include acne scars, sun-damaged skin, wrinkles, melasma, and a variety of other skin conditions. Chemical peels are also very effective in lightening dark spots. 
There is a widespread misconception that people with melanin-rich skin cannot get chemical peels treatment. We’d like to debunk that misconception. 
Several factors influence the effectiveness of chemical peels; the type of peel, the concentration, the duration of the application, and the number of coats.
These factors also influence the risk of undesirable outcomes in dark-skinned people, sometimes resulting in a condition known as Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. However, these are just side effects in very few cases, not the norm. Only 4% of African American individuals had some unfavorable side effects, according to one study. 
Therefore, it is important to consult your dermatologist to find the type of chemical peel that is suitable for your skin type and condition. 
With that said, let's take a closer look at how this treatment (chemical peels) can help lighten dark spots.

How Do Chemical Peels Reduce Dark Spots?

Dark spots or hyperpigmentation are caused by the clustering of excess melanin (the pigment in the skin responsible for color). Sun exposure, hormonal changes, and inflammation are some of the causes of this “clustering”. 
Chemical peels work to combat this by shedding off the top layer of the skin, giving room for more healthy and new skin. Excess melanin responsible for the dark spots is removed as well, making way for an evenly pigmented new skin. 

Types of Chemical Peels 

It's important to know the different types of chemical peels and what's in them before getting one. This understanding will aid you in comprehending what occurs throughout the procedure and determining whether or not the treatment your provider recommends is appropriate for you. 
In this section, we’ll talk about the types of peels. Then we’ll talk about the ingredients next. 
Chemical peels are divided into three categories: superficial, medium-depth, and deep. 
  • Superficial Peel 
Superficial peels target only the outermost layer of the skin up to an area called the papillary dermis. They work to remove pigment and provide improvement while posing a lesser risk of complications. 
This is because stronger and deeper peeling agents can result in greater inflammation, which can aggravate pigmentation.
A week or more is usually required to heal after a superficial peel procedure.
  • Medium-depth Peel 
Medium depth peel penetrates the outermost layer of the skin and works its way to the middle layers. This category of peels is more effective, compared to superficial peels, in removing dead skin and treating discoloration. 
To maintain a clear complexion, you might want to repeat this procedure between three to nine months. The recuperation time following a medium-depth peel procedure is usually two weeks.
  • Deep Peel 
Deep peels penetrate the skin's middle layer, breaking up deep acne scars and hyperpigmentation. Deep peels should only be done with the guidance of a board-certified dermatologist. 
These peels necessitate pretreatment, and a recovery period of several weeks is required. The results of deep peels might last up to ten years. You’ll need at least two to three weeks to heal from deep peels. 
As we have earlier noted, people with dark skin can also benefit from chemical peels. But the right type of peel is needed to prevent undesirable outcomes. The question now is which type of peel is suitable for dark skin? To answer the question, the best option for darker skin tones is superficial peels as they pose lesser risks.

Ingredients Responsible for Lightening Dark Spots in Chemical Peels 

Your chemical peels can either be made using an alpha-hydroxy acid (glycolic and lactic acid), a beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid), or trichloroacetic acid (TCA). 
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are plant and animal-derived acids which can help exfoliate and brighten your skin in different concentrations. AHAs also promote blood flow and collagen formation.
Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) are oil-based organic compounds that help unclog pores, decrease oil, and clear acne among other things.
  • Glycolic acid 
Glycolic acid, also known as fruit peel, is the most common type of AHAs peels. It's easy to use, affordable, and doesn't require any downtime. Glycolic acid peels have keratolytic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
30-70% concentration is effective for treating melasma for a total of 4-6 treatments scheduled 2-3 weeks apart. 
  • Lactic acid 
Lactic acid is derived from milk. It works by reducing the cohesiveness of skin cells. At 92% strength, lactic acid can help lighten dark spots. Each session will be repeated at 3 weeks intervals and for each session, the peel should be applied with double coats for 10 minutes. 
  • Salicylic acid 
Salicylic acid has an inherent potential to reduce inflammation, which makes it a highly beneficial treatment for lightening dark spots. The risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is reduced with salicylic acid. 
Salicylic acid peels with a concentration of 20-30% help to remove pigments from the top layer of the skin. It exfoliates the top layer of skin, leaving a smooth feel afterward.
  • Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) 
TCA is a cousin to vinegar, and it works on the skin at different depths (depending on the concentration) to improve skin conditions. The more the concentration, the deeper it penetrates, hence, more skin cells will be damaged and eliminated. 
Superficial TCA peels can help lighten dark spots and even skin tone. TCA can work as a superficial peel at 15% strength and can be used every month usually in four sessions to get an even skin tone. 

Post-Treatment Care 

Here are a few post-care tips you’ll need after a chemical peel procedure 
  1. Even if you feel the urge to, don’t pick at the skin. Otherwise, it may take longer to heal and you could get scars. 
  2. Keep your skin hydrated by using a good moisturizer like Perfec-tone miracle moisturizer
  3. Use sunscreen, at least SPF 30. Before treatment, during treatment, and of course after treatment, use sunscreen. 

Conclusion 

Nothing boosts a person’s confidence more than the knowledge that their skin is evenly toned, with no blemishes —just smooth and glowing.  
Chemical peels are considered one of the effective treatments for dark spots, among other skin conditions. For darker skin tones, superficial peels are best and a dermatologist should be consulted.
You can also search for other skincare products that can help you with that glow you want here. You don’t need to be specific, you can search “by concern” and get a perfect match. 

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