Chemical Peels for Dark Skin: A Guide for Practitioners

By Florence Goulbourne

Aesthetic medicine caters to a broad spectrum of clients around the globe irrespective of race, gender, or identity, making it an inclusive industry for all. Recognising this diversity, practitioners are called upon to not only acknowledge but also wholeheartedly embrace the varied characteristics and individuality of their clientele. As we strive for inclusivity in this cosmetic landscape, understanding how chemical peels for dark skin work correctly and effectively, amongst other treatments, is essential.

In this blog, we’re providing valuable insights into administering chemical peel products for clients with skin of colour. We aim to help practitioners enhance treatment outcomes for their clients while maintaining the highest standards of safety and effectiveness. Practitioners should adopt a customised and bespoke approach, tailored to the unique needs of each client they serve – particularly when dealing with diverse skin tones. In aesthetic medicine, there is no universal, one-size-fits-all solution, emphasising the crucial importance of recognising and embracing individual differences when administering treatments.

Understanding Skin of Colour

In appreciating the diversity of aesthetics, it’s crucial to grasp the distinctive qualities of dark skin. Individuals with darker skin tones, typically falling within the Fitzpatrick Scale of 4-6, have higher melanin levels, making them more susceptible to pigmentation issues post-aesthetic treatments like chemical peels. To simplify, skin of colour produces twice the amount of melanin as white skin, distributed more evenly across the outer layer. 

Studies have revealed that melanocyte cells, responsible for melanin production, are larger and more active in skin of colour. Additionally, darker skin experiences a slower breakdown of melanosomes, the structures handling melanin distribution as they age, therefore there are differences when it comes to chemical peels for black skin for example as opposed to white.

Understanding these features is essential for a more inclusive approach to beauty. From wholly understanding the physiology of skin of colour to also considering other factors like cultural influences, myths, and expectations, practitioners must be well-informed to offer  tailored services to meet  the diverse needs of all clients who enter their clinics.

Using Chemical Peels for Dark Skin

“Skin of colour” is a term that refers to people with darker skin tones than the likes of Caucasian people, including but not limited to Asian, African, Hispanic, and Native American clients. This classification is important in various fields, especially aesthetics; recognising the diverse needs of different skin types is of great importance.

Whilst chemical peels are generally considered safe and effective for addressing various skin concerns such as wrinkles and scars, it’s important to note that they may pose specific challenges for individuals with skin of colour. Darker skin, which is rich in melanin, reacts differently to temperature, chemicals, and various dermatological procedures than white skin does. Aesthetic professionals need to have a thorough understanding of melanin dynamics to customise treatments that address specific concerns without compromising skin health.

Are Chemical Peels Safe for Dark Skin?

It’s crucial to acknowledge that people with dark skin are more susceptible to adverse effects from chemical peels. One significant concern is the heightened risk of hyperpigmentation, characterised by the development of darker-than-normal spots on the skin. Among the various types of chemical peels, deep peels tend to be the most problematic in causing hyperpigmentation, whilst lighter peels such as SKINPROJECT NANOPEEL JESSNER are generally gentler and less likely to lead to complications. A bespoke approach is essential to ensure that chemical peel treatments are tailored to the unique needs of individuals with dark skin, minimising the risk of unwanted side effects and promoting optimal skin health. 

Kemi Omisakin, owner of Koko MediSpa and a Nurse Skin Expert with 12 years of experience, told us: “The darker the skin your clients have, the more prone they are to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It is always best to increase the strength of the peel being used gradually rather than to begin too aggressively. A slow and steady approach is key in minimising inflammation. It’s essential to note that not all peels are suitable for skin of colour, and diverse skin tones require distinct treatment considerations.” 

Preparations for Chemical Peels for Black Skin

Like with any treatment, clients require treatment plans tailored to their goals and conditions. This is especially crucial due to the diverse range of skin tones within the ‘skin of colour’ group. Our guide explores specific steps and precautions to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the procedure while addressing the unique considerations associated with chemical peels for dark skin.

Aesthetic Medical Doctor, Dr Tego Kirnon-Jackman spoke to Fox Pharma about treating different skin tones, saying: 

“The Fitzpatrick (FP) Skin classification is useful in estimating how a patient’s skin may react to certain treatments, allowing you to choose the right treatment agents for their skin type and also to determine any skin prep necessary. In the context of chemical peels, stronger peel agents (i.e. high concentration and pH glycolic acid) carry a higher risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation in FP skin types 4-6.”

Risk Assessment

Conduct a thorough risk assessment before administering chemical peels. Darker skin tones are more prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and keloid formation. Understanding your individual client’s skin history and potential risk factors is crucial for safe and personalised treatment plans and ensures your chemical peels are safe for dark skin.

Choose the Right Chemical Peel for Black Skin

Opt for chemical peels with ingredients suitable for darker skin tones. Mild alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like lactic acid and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) such as salicylic acid are generally safer options. Always start with lower concentrations and gradually increase based on the skin’s response. 

Dr Tego Kirnon-Jackman advises that practitioners consider the following questions before choosing the right chemical peel for their clients:

  • Do they already use chemical exfoliants in their skin routine? 
  • Have they had any chemical peels/resurfacing treatments beforehand and how did their skin react? Did they experience any post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation? 
  • Do they have melasma? (higher risk of PIH/exacerbating melasma) 

Remember That Preparation is Key

Effective pre-treatment care is crucial for clients with skin of colour. Whilst the approach should be customised for each patient, typically, skin preparation spans 2-6 weeks, depending on the client’s skin condition and the planned treatment. It usually involves a homecare routine with the primary active ingredients used in their chemical peels. For example, if Glycolic peels are recommended, the preparation should incorporate Glycolic acid at a lower level than the treatment, allowing the skin to build tolerance for optimal results without sensitivity. Some brands have specific preparation protocols, whilst others rely on a broader range of products. Darker skin may require longer preparation and a slower increase in treatment strength to avoid complications such as hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation.

Post-Treatment Care

Aftercare is crucial for preventing complications and ensuring safe chemical peels for dark skin. Advise patients to use hydrating creams, anti-inflammatory products, and, most importantly, high-SPF sunscreen. Remind them to keep their skin moisturised for faster healing and better results in future peel sessions. In the two days following the treatment, suggest avoiding intense exercise, saunas, steam rooms, and swimming to minimise irritation and promote a smooth healing process.

In cases of post-treatment irritation, Dr Tego Kirnon-Jackman advised that “If the skin is inflamed/irritated/sensitive, they should follow a skin-barrier repairing routine for up to 6 weeks (no harsh active ingredients and use of anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredients). Any burns can be treated with ice packs/cooling and petroleum jelly ointments. Once the skin barrier is repaired, [they] can start a tyrosinase inhibitor i.e. hydroquinone to address the hyperpigmentation.”

Summary of Chemical Peels for Dark Skin

Chemical peels are great for PIH, melasma and brown spots.  The darker skin you have, the more prone clients are to these conditions. In the ever-evolving landscape of aesthetics, embracing diversity is not just a trend but a professional responsibility. By understanding the complexities of treating dark skin with chemical peels and implementing the best practices outlined in your training, professionals can elevate their services, ensuring optimal results while prioritising the safety and satisfaction of their diverse clientele. 

Chemical Peels From Fox Pharma

Explore chemical peels available at Fox Pharma to leave your clients with an unbeatable glow and even skin tone. Exclusive to Fox Group, SKINPROJECT penetrates deep into the skin for the  maximum shedding of dead skin cells and an even and rejuvenated complexion. With three peels to choose from, you can ensure your clients receive a service tailored to their unique needs, skin type  and goals. Discover more market-leading aesthetic supplies from Fox Pharma, including cutting-edge skin boosters and dermal fillers.

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