Is Chemical Exfoliation Right For You?

Guest article from Brandi Bovell, LMT, LA, CNHP of

Exfoliation is important for everyone. Shedding our skin (cell renewal) to reveal new skin is a natural part of growth for all living things. After personally struggling with acne most of my life, I learned a lot about what didn’t work for me, and found a few things that did. For people like me with acneic skin that is also hyper sensitive, chemical exfoliation can work wonders. 

Don’t let the commonly used term “chemical peel” scare you. I know the idea of your face peeling off sounds gross and scary, but that isn’t what I’m talking about. Most chemical peels cause an internal sloughing off of skin, which means you don’t even see the skin falling off or notice anything during the process other then dry skin for a few days. 

Your skin is always shedding on its own every day, and the rate at which it renews is known as cell renewal factor. Just like you breathe without even thinking about it, your skin is constantly renewing itself. Chemical exfoliation simply speeds up this process, and usually without pain or discomfort. As we age our skin naturally renews less frequently, that is why as we age we notice more fine lines, or dull looking skin, and sometimes hormonal acne that may just be starting in our 30’s. 

The below chart shows the frequency of the skin’s cell renewal factor based on age:

Age Cell Renewal Factor
Babies Every 14 days
Teens 21 to 28 days
Middle Age 28 to 42 days
50 and older 42 to 84 days

Because our skin renews less frequently on its own as we age, it’s extremely important for us to help it along by manually exfoliating our skin, and I don’t mean with those harsh drug store scrubs with walnuts and apricots. I won’t say any names, but you know who you are and what I’m talking about, so run don’t walk away from those products!

Although the term “Chemical Peel” makes it sound a bit harsh, chemical forms of exfoliation are actually more gentle than their “scrub” or “mechanical” exfoliation counterparts. Chemical peels actually contain very little to no chemicals, and are mostly made up of natural enzymes and acids derived from fruits and vegetables. Many are gluten-free and vegan as well, but not all. 

Some commonly used chemical peeling ingredients are outlined in the below chart:

Type Where does it come


Enzyme or Acid? What’s it

best for?

How does it work?
Glycolic Sugar Cane Acid Aging Skin



Breaks down intercellular cement to cause sloughing off of skin
Tartaric Grapes Acid Acne

Sensitive skin

Anti oxidant Balancing PH


down inter-

cellular cement to cause sloughing off of skin

Lactic Sour Milk Acid Acne

Dry skin

Breaks down intercellular cement to cause sloughing off of skin, hydrates skin
Papain Papaya Enzyme Hyper-


Dull skin

Fine lines

Digests dead skin cells
Bromelain  Pineapple Enzyme Reduce Blackheads

Brightening dull skin

Anti oxidant

Digests dead skin cells
Salicylic Acid Willow Bark Acid Acne

Acne Scarring

Oily Skin

Breaks down intercellular cement to cause sloughing off of skin, hydrates skin

Is peeling right for you? If you have any of the following skin concerns, chemical peeling might be worth exploring:

  • Acne
  • Acne Scarring
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Fine Lines and wrinkles
  • Dry Skin
  • Dull Skin
  • Blackheads
  • Oily Skin
  • Sun Damage
  • Scars

However, chemical exfoliation is contraindicated for some people. If you are experiencing any of the following, you will not be able to chemical peel:

  • Pregnancy
  • Use of certain medications
  • Sunburn
  • History of cold sores
  • Rosacea
  • Darker Complexions
  • Keloid Scarring

The process of chemical peeling or enzyme treatment at Affordable Spa includes a double cleansing of the face, skin prep, chemical peel or enzyme application, neutralization, removal,  application of rescue mask to soothe, followed by toner to restore skin’s PH, serum penetration, moisturizer application, and sunscreen protection.

An enzyme treatment can be added to any facial for $20, and a chemical peel can be added to any facial for $30.

I personally usually do a series of 6 chemical peels, 2 weeks apart once per year to keep my skin youthful and glowy. If you’re ready to come up with a long term plan for living in and loving your best skin, contact Affordable Spa at

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