A chemical peel is a procedure in which a chemical solution is topically applied to remove the damaged outer layers of the skin. The skin that grows back after a chemical peel appears softer, less wrinkled and with improved texture. It is one of the oldest skin-resurfacing techniques used by dermatologists. A chemical peel may also be combined with laser resurfacing, dermabrasion or soft-tissue fillers to address the individual needs of the patient.
Benefits of Chemical Peels
A chemical peel is used to treat a variety of cosmetic and medical conditions, including the following:
- Acne scars
- Uneven skin pigmentation
- Precancerous growths
Depths of Chemical Peels
Chemical peels vary in depth from light to deep. During the initial evaluation, the doctor will determine the appropriate depth and type of chemical peel for the patient's specific condition.
- Light chemical peel - removes the outer layer of skin, or epidermis
- Medium chemical peel - removes the epidermis and portions of the upper-middle skin layer, or dermis
- Deep chemical peel - removes the epidermis and portions of the middle to lower dermis
A light chemical peel can be repeated as often as once a week for up to six weeks, to achieve the desired results. A medium chemical peel may be performed every six to 12 months to maintain results. A deep chemical peel is not typically a repeated treatment.
Types of Chemical Peel Solutions
A number of chemical solutions are used for chemical peels, including the following:
- Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
- Glycolic acid
- Trichloroacetic acid (TCA)
The doctor will discuss the types of chemical peels and help choose the appropriate type for the individual patient. Every chemical peel solution is customized to the needs of each patient.
The Chemical Peel Procedure
Chemical peels are performed in the doctor's office. Anesthesia is not required for most peels; however, AHAs may produce a slight stinging which is treated by neutralization of the peel or gentle cooling.
Before the procedure, the skin is cleaned. Then, the chemical peel solution is applied with a brush, cotton ball or sponge. This will cause a burning sensation which may last for five to ten minutes in most patients, followed by a stinging sensation which may last up to 20 minutes. A neutralizing solution will then be applied, or the treated skin may be washed to remove the solution. Cool compresses may be applied to reduce swelling.
After the Procedure
With an AHA peel, there is no need for "after-peel" ointment or covering. The chemical peel can cause redness, irritation, flaking or crusting, and swelling which lasts about a week, depending on the strength of the peel used.
Considerations and Risks of Chemical Peels
Chemical peel treatments can cause various side effects, including the following:
- Changes in skin color
The doctor will discuss all possible side effects with the patient prior to the procedure, as well as the potential risks.
After a chemical peel, the patient should use careful sun protection to maintain benefits of the peel. The doctor may prescribe a sunscreen for long-term care. The doctor may also recommend using a retinoid cream (tretinoin) and a bleaching agent before or after the treatment in order to prevent skin darkening.
All chemical peel treatment types carry potential risks such as infection and scarring.
For patients with a history of cold sores or herpes outbreaks, the chemical peel may increase risk of outbreak and patients may need to be treated prior to or following the procedure.
Medical skin care products, or cosmeceuticals, are functional cosmetic products that go above and beyond their intended function of external beautification and enhancement of the skin by offering additional therapeutic and antiaging benefits. These products are formulated to improve the skin's health and appearance as well as having positive physiological effects on the skin on a cellular level.
WassermanUlitsky Dermatology carries a full line of cosmeceuticals that can be customized to your individual skin needs.