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Laser and skincare specialist Cherie sheds light on peels for darker skin tones.

A question, I am often repeatedly asked is – ‘are peels safe for darker skin types?’

Whilst there have been a lot of myths and misconceptions over the years, the short answer is yes – darker skin tones can have peels, but with caution.

I will take you through the ins and outs of peeling, different types of peels and the precautions that you need to follow to ensure a successful skin peel experience.

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What is a Peel?

Simply put, it is the process of removing dead skin cells and the outermost layers of the skin. This eliminates old, dull and poor performing skin cells which encourages the skin regeneration process by stimulating collagen and elastin and giving the skin a radiant glow. 

Why have a skin peel?

  • fading age spots
  • improved texture  
  • smoothing rough skin
  • fading scarring
  • hyperpigmentation and imperfections
  • tackling early fine lines and wrinkles
  • rejuvenating ageing skin and reducing outbreaks of spots and acne


Chemical peel– a chemical peel is a skin-resurfacing procedure in which a chemical solution, which includes natural fruit sugars, enzymes or vitamins, is applied to the skin to peel away the accumulation of dead cells on the surface of the skin


Laser peels– Laser skin resurfacing removes skin layer by layer with precision using a specific laser machine. The heat from the laser tightens the skin and stimulates collagen. The new skin cells that form during healing give the skin a smoother younger looking surface. The procedure can be done alone or with other cosmetic surgeries on the face.

What type of Chemical Peel’s are suitable for darker skin types?

 Lactic Acid (AHA)– This is a gentle peel derived from soured milk and good for sensitive skin types.
What is it good for? – mild skin ageing, early onset wrinkles, mild hyperpigmentation, refining the skin texture, rosacea.

Mandelic Acid (AHA) – This has gentle surface action and is both anti-bacterial and anti inflammatory.                                                          What is it good for? – oily and congested skin, superficial to medium acne, superficial hyperpigmentation.

Salicylic Acid (BHA) – Great for oily and congested skin types. It is a mild anti-inflammatory peel that can deep cleanse pores to remove debris and built-up oil.                                                                                                                                                                                      What is it good for? – deep cleansing the skin prior to other peels, controlling oil production, reducing pore size.

Glycolic Acid (AHA) – One of the original chemical peeling solutions made from sugar cane. A highly efficient, high performance work horse for many aestheticians.
What is it good for? – mild to severe ageing skin, loose skin, lines/wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, sun damage, acne and associated scarring.

Citric Acid (AHA) – Derived particularly from oranges and lemons. It creates a mild peeling effect but is often added to other peels as a gentle booster for its antioxidants, plumping and brightening effects.
What is it good for? – light pigmentation, smoothing and reconditioning skin and brightening.

Cherie’s Tips?


Have the correct peel for your skin type Make sure you have had a thorough consultation with your skincare specialist to determine the ideal peel for your skin type, skin condition and lifestyle. Choosing the right peel for your skin is absolutely vital.

Important to note Medical-grade chemical peels should always be carried out by a trained professional, and ideally in a medical environment. Experience in recommending the correct peel for the patient profile is essential, especially when it comes to performing deeper types of resurfacing peels.

Go easy on the moisturizer Apply enough just enough moisturizer to make the skin feel comfortable. Over mosturising can delay the peeling effects

Healthy skin will always react better when it comes to skin peeling. To get the best results you want get your skin into the best shape possible.  Use antioxidants, Vitamin A (Retinol) and SPF.

Pull It Back Pulling your hair back away from the face with a hair band can help prevent you from touching and keep breakouts at bay. It’s important to allow the skin to go through its naturally peeling process, without accidentally contacting your skin while brushing back your hair. Touching the skin with dirty fingers and hands will only aggravate the new skin and may lead to breakouts. If breakouts do occur, don’t treat them yourself! Have your medical aesthetician treat them for you or just leave them alone.

Hands Off The main goal of a chemical peel is to pull up and slough off the damaged skin cells, revealing healthy, glowing skin underneath. When the dead skin starts to shed, avoid touching, picking or scratching it with your fingers. Let the dead skin shed off naturally, and don’t peel the skin off with your own fingers – using fingers to remove the dead skin can lead to possible scarring.

Let It Peel Do not remove any of the dry, dead skin with any sort of rubbing, peeling or pulling during the peeling process. Safe exfoliation can be done as soon as skin is no longer hypersensitive.

Don’t Worry relax and don’t worry about how your skin looks for a few days. The end result is more than worth the peeling and your skin will be looking great in a few days time.

Pre-Treament Instructions:

  1. No Tanning -Absolutely do not go to a tanning salon for at least 3 weeks before or after a treatment.
  2. Discontinue use of Retin-A, Renova, Differin or any derivative of Vitamin A for 5 days before and after your treatment.
  3. Ensure your skin is properly prepped and primed in the weeks leading up to the peel. This could be in the form of a preparatory      peel or using home-care products with similar ingredients to the peel
  4. Use A melanin inhibitor if you are prone to pigmentation. common melanin inhibitors are Kojic acid, Vitamin C, hydroquinone,          bearberry, licorice root and azelaic acid.
  5. It is also important that a full medical history is disclosed and discussed with your skin specialist.
  6. . Apply a SPF 30 everyday to prevent further damage to your skin and post treatment inflammation.

Post-Treatment Instructions?

  1. Moisturise – But Just Enough to Be Comfortable. After receiving a chemical peel, your skin will be sensitive. The only two products you will want to use on your skin during the peeling process are sunscreen and a recovery cream or serum. In most cases, there will be a specific post care moisturisers and serums provided at the time of treatment, which is safe to use, and your aesthetician will walk you through the details.
  2. Flaking is a side-effect of a peel especially a Cosmelan peel or a Microlaser peel – resist the urge to use an exfoliant or harsh scrub to speed up the process. Let the skin heal naturally.
  3. Resist the urge to peel, pick or scratch treated skin as this can cause scarring or pigmentation.
  4. Skin normalizes between 5-10 days depending on the peel.
  5. Deeper peels can take longer with tightness, sunburn sensation, swelling & active peeling.
  6. . Do not re-introduce Retinol, AHAs or other actives until skin has settled.
  7. Use a melanin-inhibiting product if you are prone to pigmentation.
  8. Stay out of direct sunlight for at least a week after peel and then use a high factor, broad-spectrum sunscreen if you need to be outdoors.
  9. Avoid any other facial aesthetic treatment for 2-4 weeks.

Pre and Post Chemical Peel Products?


  • SKINCEUTICALS C E FERULIC is a proven topical antioxidant that promotes collagen synthesis, encourages healing whilst providing protection against free-radical damage.
  • IS CLINICAL SHEALD RECOVERY BALM is a rich, hydrating moisturiser. It helps to restore skin barrier functioning, improving resilience of skin back to optimal levels.
  • IS CLINICAL PRO HEAL SERUM great for normal, combo or oily skin. Helps to reduce redness and discomfort whilst moisturising the skin.
  • SKINCEUTICALS TRIPLE LIPID RESTORE (dry skin) is an ultra-rich lipid-replenishing anti-ageing moisturiser that is suitable for dry, mature skin post-peel treatment.
  • MESOESTHETIC FAST SKIN REPAIR is a barrier supporting post-treatment product that includes antioxidants as soothing agents essential for reducing inflammation.
  • IS CLINICAL HYDRACOOL is a lightweight serum containing hyaluronic acid, that helps hydrates and soothes irritated skin.
  • HELIOCARE 360 SUNSCREEN (skin type dependent) is a range of advanced sun protection that protects against all four spectrums of light UVA/UVB /invisible light and infra-red). In addition, they contain antioxidant properties as well as DNA-repair enzymes.

Speak to one of our specialists about how we can help you with pigmentation.

Cherie Cochrane

Written By Skin & Laser Specialist Cherie Cochrane

Cherie specialises in the aesthetic side of Atlantic Dermatology and Laser. With over a decade of experience in skin, laser and aesthetic treatments, a results-driven approach and over 6 years as a business owner, she has created two successful aesthetic businesses.

Cherie has recently moved to Cape Town and is a proven professional with a results-driven approach. Cherie has trained Doctors, Nurses, Therapists and Professionals to become leading experts within their chosen profession and won the prestigious international “Best Results” Laser competition by Sciton, competing against the top 200 clinics from around the world.

After having your first consultation with Cherie, you will leave here educated and with a proper plan to get the best results for your skin