Salicylic acid peels are one of the most popular types of chemical peel. It offers a deep exfoliation that clears out your pores, reduces inflammation, and rejuvenates your skin.

In this guide, we’ll explore how the treatment works, what happens during a chemical peel session, and who can benefit most from a salicylic acid peel. 

Keep reading to find out if this is the right treatment for you. 

What Is a Salicylic Acid Peel?

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) used for skin care for over two millennia. It’s an active organic compound that comes from natural resources such as bark from a willow tree and sweet birch or wintergreen leaves. 

It is a safe and effective treatment to remove the outer layer of the skin and treat conditions such as seborrhoeic dermatitis, acne, psoriasis, calluses, corns, keratosis pilaris, acanthosis nigricans, ichthyosis, and warts.

Clinic-used salicylic acid is an exfoliation treatment used primarily to treat acne. When your dermatologist applies salicylic acid to your skin, the acid helps remove the dead skin cells from the top layers. As a result, it helps decrease inflammation, redness, and swelling. 

The salicylic acid peel helps the skin regenerate, speeds up the healing process, and reduces the number of spots and pimples on your skin. The treatment is also commonly known as dermal peeling or chemexfoliation.‌

How Does It Work?

The salicylic acid peel contains various chemicals in the compound, such as glycolic acid, mandelic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid. These active ingredients affect the skin at different depths. It causes a desmolytic reaction that breaks the bonds holding your skin together and encourages it to peel away. Salicylic acid is relatively gentle compared to some exfoliation acids.

As with any skincare procedure, it’s always wise to seek a consultation with a trained clinician before the treatment. They will carefully assess your skin to ensure that a salicylic acid peel is the correct treatment for you.

What Happens During a Salicylic Acid Peel?

Your clinician will gently clean your skin before applying an evenly distributed layer of the salicylic acid peel.

The salicylic acid peel is left on your skin for between three and five minutes. You’ll probably experience a stinging or mild burning sensation. It might feel a little uncomfortable, but at no stage should it be painful. 

Some clinics will use a fan to cool your skin during the peel. Once complete, the peel is neutralized, and your skin is thoroughly washed with clean water. Finally, a mild healing moisturizer is applied. 

Having one peel will leave your skin with a bright and healthy glow and feel soft and baby-bottom smooth. 

How Many Sessions Are Needed?

Skin resurfacing procedures such as the salicylic acid peel induce improvements to your skin’s texture and appearance by harnessing the normal wound-healing behavior following intentional or accidental skin injury. 

If you need to treat other skin issues, it’s best to book a series of peels spaced over a few months to help with difficult skin conditions. This depends on your desired results, time commitment, and the all-important budget. The salicylic acid peel has numerous benefits, including the relatively low cost, flexibility, and speed of the treatment. 

What Are the Benefits?

The salicylic acid peel has a whole host of benefits. Salicylic acid is known to lower the inflammation, redness, and swelling caused by acne. It also has anti-fungal benefits, which can help treat fungal acne. 

Salicylic acid has comedolytic properties, which deep clean pores and slough away dead skin cells that can, over time, build up around your hair follicles and cause spots and blemishes. 

If you have a course of treatments, the peel can reduce oil production. Sebum is an oil that your skin naturally produces to maintain moisture. If too much is produced, the excess oil and dead skin cells can clog your pores, causing a breakout. 

In addition, some clinical studies show that salicylic acid can help slow the growth of cells that can cause tumors on your skin; typically, this is a result of severe skin damage.

Post-Peel Care

Straight after your peel, your skin will likely appear tight, shiny, and a little red. The burning or stinging sensation could last up to two hours after the peel; it will feel like wind or sunburn.

Depending on how many layers of peel you have, you may experience peeling or flaking skin, but don’t worry; it’s perfectly normal and should resolve itself within a week. Because you have quite literally stripped your skin of its top protective layer, for the first few days, you’ll have to treat your skin with the utmost care. 

Only use mild cleansers, moisturizers and ensure you use sunscreen every day. Your new skin will be sensitive to the sun, and you don’t want to risk sunburn, which could cause damage.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Generally, chemical peels are safe procedures, but the deeper the peel, the higher the chance of side effects. Expect to have tender skin, some dryness and possibly scabbing, and abnormal lightening or darkening of the skin. If you are prone to herpes simplex blisters or cold sores, keep your Zovirax to hand, just in case you have an outbreak from the irritation.