Q: Why is it that a sunburn is BAD for your skin (and accelerates the aging of skin), while a chemical peel is GOOD for the skin (and can help you look younger)?!

A: Great question and yes, that could seem confusing! Even though the body’s reaction to the insult may be the same (sloughing off injured skin), the methodology behind the injury is what’s important (and makes the difference)! After you get a sunburn, the deeper layers of your skin (perhaps all the way down to the mid-dermis) are injured with radiation from the sun, which is capable of damaging the cellular DNA. Although you may get peeling after the sunburn, the remaining cells that aren’t sloughed off will carry damaged DNA ←capable of becoming malignant. THIS IS NOT TRUE IN THE CASE OF CHEMICAL PEELS.

In a chemical peel, the superficial skin protein is denatured and destroyed, and the body heals it by “ditching” the damaged skin as it replaces it with new skin.

Here’s what you need to know: We are constantly shedding our skin. In fact, we shed our entire skin about once a month, and as fast as we shed those cells, our body makes new ones to replace them. Often when we develop imperfections such as sunspots or scars, they only affect the top few layers of skin. So logic would tell us that removing those layers of skin would help remove those imperfections.

tanning vs chemical peels

That’s where a chemical peel can help. It literally removes layers of skin so that newer, healthier skin cells can surface. In the process, blemishes and other imperfections are peeled away. Depending on the extent of the damage, one treatment might not completely eliminate imperfections, but it can make them much less obvious.

Bottom line: The purpose of a chemical peel is to erase imperfections and improve skin tone and texture by removing layers of damaged skin. A chemical peel is often applied to “burn off” the top layer of old skin, to encourage the growth of new skin. The result should be lighter, younger looking, smoother skin.

Have more questions? Contact our office!

Dr Michael KulickDr. Michael Kulick, MD is a leading board certified plastic surgeon in San Francisco, California. During an initial consultation, he’ll examine your individual anatomy, discuss all your options, and create a unique treatment plan along with any other necessary procedures. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of plastic surgery and are looking for a qualified cosmetic surgeon, use this online form to request a consultation with Dr. Kulick or call 415-956-2550.