A chemical peel is a method of skin resurfacing and rejuvenation that improves skin tone and texture, evens out pigmentation, promotes cell turnover and provides varying levels of exfoliation depending on the depth of the peel.
About Chemical Peel
The Best Chemical Peel Candidates
Considering a chemical face peel
Facial skin resurfacing with a chemical peel may be recommended to treat a variety of skin conditions, or simply to help you maintain a healthy complexion chemical peel. Some of the specific cosmetic concerns a chemical face peel can address in men and women include:
- Dull, rough skin
- Acne scars and other surface irregularities
- Hyperpigmentation and freckles
- Sun damage
- Actinic keratoses (pre-cancerous skin growths)
- Fine lines and wrinkles
Deeper chemical peels provide more anti-aging benefits, such as wrinkle reduction and sun damage treatment, whereas lighter chemical peels provide superficial improvements in skin tone and texture.
Chemical peels can be used to treat skin on the face, as well as the neck, decolette and hands. Because a chemical peel is such a versatile skin treatment, it may be appropriate for both adults and teens.
Chemical peeling may not be suitable for patients with darker skin tones, as this may lead to chemical peel side effects such long-term pigmentation changes.
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Types of Chemical Peels
Choosing the right chemical face peel
There are a variety of chemical peel solutions that may be used to treat your skin. The most popular types of peels include:
- Alphahydroxy acid peel (AHA peel)
- Salicylic acid peel (Jessner's peel)
- Trichloroacetic acid peel (TCA peel)
- Phenol peel (Deep peel)
A chemical peel, which may also be referred to as a micro peel, can also be a combination of acids or peeling agents, including proprietary blends used in name brand chemical peels (e.g. Obagi blue peel, Vi Peel).
Glycolic peels, lactic acid peels and fruit acid peels are types of AHA peels and generally represent the mildest chemical peels. Each peeling agent can be applied at different concentrations to increase or reduce the depth of the peel, but in general, these AHA peels provide superficial improvements in skin texture and pigmentation.
AHA peels can smooth and brighten your skin, require virtually no downtime and pose very few risks. Your doctor will make this decision during your consultation and as the treatment proceeds. In low concentrations, an alphahydroxy acid, such as glycolic acid, may also be used in face washes or lotions as part of your daily skin care regimen.
AHA peels can also reduce acne, however salicylic acid peels are typically best treating acne.
The most commonly recommended chemical peel for anti-aging treatment is a TCA peel. Like salicylic and AHA peels, TCA chemical peels may be applied in a variety of concentrations to customize the depth of the peel. The lower the concentration, the less downtime and more superficial the benefits of the peel. The higher the concentration, the more downtime and more dramatic anti-aging benefits you will see.
The deepest and strongest chemical solution is the phenol peel. A phenol peel treats deeper wrinkles, blotchy or severely sun damaged skin, as well as actinic keratoses. Because of the risk of hypopigmentation and scarring, phenol peels should only be performed on patients with fair skin and should be applied only to the face, not the neck, chest or hands.
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Chemical Peel For Acne
Treating acne with chemical peel treatment
The best chemical peel for treating acne is a salicylic acid peel.
Salicylic acid is a type of betahydroxy acid, so salicylic acid peels are sometimes also referred to as BHA peels. A salicylic acid peel may also be called a Jessner's Peel, which is a proprietary, brand name formulation.
Acne treatment is the most common indication for a salicylic acid peel, however a salicylic peel provides many of the same skin rejuvenation benefits as a glycolic peel or other AHA peel. The depth of a salicylic peel is generally somewhere in between an AHA peel and a TCA peel, so downtime after a salicylic peel is minimal.
Chemical Peel Treatment
What to expect during your chemical peel
In order to prepare your skin for a chemical peel, Retin A is sometimes prescribed to preemptively thin the skin's surface layer to allow for deeper penetration of the peeling agent (usually TCA). Bleaching agents, such as hydroquinone, may also be used as a chemical peel pre-treatment. Lighter peels, such as AHA peels, or skin care products containing AHA or BHA may also be recommended before a deeper peel is performed.
Immediately before your chemical peel is performed, your face is cleansed, however no other in-office pre-treatments are required. After the peel solution is applied, it may burn or sting slightly for a few moments. Depending on the depth of your peel, the solution will be neutralized and removed after anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour.
For a deep chemical peel, only a single treatment is generally necessary. A light chemical peel may be performed as part of a series of chemical peel treatments, or periodically as a way to maintain healthy, glowing skin.
Frequently, light chemical peels are combined with microdermabrasion to achieve both chemical and physical skin exfoliation.
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Chemical Peel Recovery
After any chemical peel, common temporary side effects include:
- Skin peeling, flaking or scaling
- Dry skin
For deeper peels, scabbing, crusting and swelling may also occur after your chemical peel. A deep moisturizing ointment, such as vaseline or Aquaphor, will be recommended to protect your skin if any of these side effects occur. Following post-treatment care instructions is extremely important during this phase of recovery to ensure your face heals properly.
Deeper peels require a few days to two weeks of downtime before patients may return to normal actvities. The deepest peels will require several months for all redness to fade.
Side effects from light chemical peels resolve within a few days to a week, and no downtime is needed. Patients may return to work and daily activities immediately after treatment, although makeup may be needed to cover mild redness.
It is very important to avoid sun exposure and use full specturm sunblock following your chemical peel and during the recovery period, as sun exposure during this crucial healing time may cause permanent damage to your skin. It is also critical that you refrain from picking or pulling at skin as it peels and flakes, as this, too, may cause long-term skin damage and even scarring.
After your face is healed, and you are enjoying smoother, healthier-looking skin, use sunblock as part of your daily skin care regimen to maintain your results.
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