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Side Effects and Risks of Brazilian Peel and Other Skin Chemical Peels

Tim Boyer's picture
Brazilian Peel

Home chemical peel kits to tighten skin and remove skin damage--such as the popular Brazilian Peel Professional Strength kit--are a popular product with women seeking affordable home skin care.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2006 chemical peel treatments were 2nd only to Botox under the category of minimally invasive cosmetic procedures performed by plastic surgeons and dermatologists in the U.S. In 2007, a reported 1.03 million chemical peels were performed.

The popularity of chemical peels is due to ease, convenience and quick results. Chemical peels are used to remove or improve the appearance of:

• Light sun damage
• Light freckling
• Tiny scarring
• Fine lines
• Skin discolorations from hyperpigmentation
• Age spots

Do-it-yourself home chemical peel kits typically consist of one or two chemical solutions that are available in a range of strengths that are classified as for light, medium or deep peel treatment. The primary chemical in a peel kit is typically a mild acid such as glycolic or trichloroacetic acid that works by removing the top layer of skin (the epidermis) that consists of dead skin cells, causing the eventual peeling off of the layer. Below the dead skin layer lays the dermis where the chemical(s) work on the live skin cells stimulating them to produce new cells and collagen. After the new epidermis heals, the benefit is an improved skin surface with reportedly less wrinkling and lightening of age spots or other discolorations.

Brazilian Peel

One example of a popular at-home skin peel kit is the Brazilian Peel Professional Strength Glycolic Acai Facial Treatment. According to advertisements of the product it consists of:

• Glycol acid that acts by damaging the dead upper layer of skin so that it will peel off from the underlying healthy skin.

• A patented Q-Mag Mineral Neutralizer that acts to neutralize the glycolic acid to stop the acid once it gets past the dead layer of skin by raising the pH of the acid to a level that prevents irritation or reddening.

• A South American antioxidant called “Acai” that counters negative environmental factors that affect the skin.

The active ingredients of the Brazilian Peel kit comes in a two-tubed syringe like the type used in certain glues that mixes an accelerator to the glue in order to activate the glue only when needed. One tube possesses the glycolic acid and acai, the other tube possesses the neutralizer.

When the syringe is depressed, all three ingredients flow out and are then mixed together before applying to the skin. One user review states that you can actually feel a sensation of warmth on your skin when applying, while another user review describes it as a burn, but a “good burn.”

Acid Types in Skin Peels

The burns described by users of products such as the Brazilian Peel are describing the actual sensation as the active acid chemicals essentially burn the skin. In some cases of chemical peels, a dermatologist or plastic surgeon may apply an anesthetic to relieve the patient of the pain during the treatment. Therefore, understanding the reason for the burning sensation in choosing a chemical peel product is important because not all chemical peel acids are the same.

Typically there are three types of acids used: AHA, TCA and phenol.

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AHA stands for “alphahydroxy acid” and is typically considered to be the lightest acid treatment, although a recent advertised acid called BHA (betahydroxy acid), may be even lighter. Among the AHA acids the glycolic acid in Brazilian Peel is the one used.

TCA stands for “trichloroacetic acid” and is the next level up in burning power. It is typically used for medium strength chemical peels to go deeper into the skin to treat irregular pigmentation, acne scars and pronounced wrinkles.

Phenol is the strongest of the aforementioned acids and is reserved for treating the worst cases of skin damage that may benefit from a chemical peel. However, phenol is very corrosive and can be very painful.

Inconveniences, Risks and Side Effects of Chemical Peel

The inconveniences, risks and side effects of chemical peel treatments are not predictive for the individual because everyone’s skin is slightly different from everyone else’s and therefore can either make you less susceptible or more susceptible to adverse reactions.

That said, a general rule is that the stronger the acid used the more likely you will have an adverse reaction to the treatment. The following is a list of possible adverse effects you may experience, regardless of the strength of the acid used in the chemical peel treatment.

In one review by a customer who used the reportedly gentler AHA Brazilian Peel treatment, she stated that after 4 weeks she developed a rash and dryness around her mouth and noticed that her skin had lightened on the areas where she applied the treatment.


1. A chemical peel can take 1-3 weeks to heal.
2. You may likely have to avoid all makeup and avoid sunlight for 2 weeks.
3. Need to apply sunscreen to the new skin after it heals.
4. Sensations during the treatment can range from mild warmness to burning pain.

Risks and Side Effects

1. Skin may breakout during the first two weeks of healing.
2. Skin may appear like suffering from sunburn.
3. Light peels usually result in redness and temporary skin peeling, whereas stronger peeling treatments can result in weeping blisters, scabs, swelling and prolonged skin peeling leaving your skin open to the risk of a staphylococcal infection.
4. Severe skin reaction requiring ointment, oral steroids and dressings until the treated skin heals.
5. Permanent scarring.
6. Increased sun sensitivity.
7. Permanent pigment change for individuals with darker skin

Chemical peel Summary

In summary, in spite of the usually unlisted side effects and risks of chemical peels both at-home and in the dermatologist’s office, they are considered generally safe and may even prove to be beneficial to the user. However, risks such as permanent scarring and unwanted permanent hypopigmentation are a good reason to see a dermatologist before deciding to try a product out for his professional opinion and to ensure that you understand how to use a product correctly. Furthermore, it is recommended that if you have a history of heart disease, recurring fever blisters or cold sores or a tendency to scar that you should see your physician before undergoing a chemical peel treatment of any kind.

Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia


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