Everything You Need to Know About Chemical Peels
What is a Chemical Peel?
A chemical peel is a technique used to improve the appearance of the skin on the face, neck, or hands by removing the damaged top layer to reveal healthier new skin underneath. A chemical solution is applied to the skin that causes it to peel off and the new layer underneath is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin.
Chemical peels are commonly used to correct acne, age spots, discoloration, fine lines (particularly those around the eyes and mouth), freckles, melasma, and sun damage.
There are three basic types of chemical peels which include mild chemical peels, medium-strength chemical peels, and deep chemical peels.
Mild Chemical Peels
Mild chemical peels – also referred to as superficial or lunchtime peels – are a great option for busy people because, as the term “lunchtime peel” suggests, they require little downtime. These use milder chemicals to improve acne scars, mild skin discoloration and texture, diminish fine lines and wrinkles, and reduce the effects of sun damage.
What To Expect From Mild Chemical Peels
After a thorough cleansing of the face, the peel is applied using a brush, cotton pad, or cotton swab.
You’ll feel a slight tingling sensation that lasts the duration of the peel followed by a short-term pinkish or ruddy glow to the skin. The results are very pronounced and almost immediately you’ll notice a brighter complexion with gradual improvement in fine lines, texture, and pigmentation.
Typically you’ll need a series of mild peels for optimal results and maintenance following these sessions is very important. Apply a mild lotion or cream until the skin heals and use sunscreen daily. You can wear makeup immediately following this treatment.
Medium-Strength Chemical Peels
What makes a peel medium strength is the percentage of active ingredients. Medium-strength peels use the same chemicals and acids as mild peels, just at a higher concentration.
TCA, Glycolic, or Lactic acid is applied to penetrate the outer and middle layers of skin to remove damaged skin cells. Medium-strength treatments are used not only to remedy hyperpigmentation, moderate fine lines and wrinkles, and acne scars but also to treat some precancerous skin growths.
What To Expect From Medium-Strength Chemical Peels
Since these peels hit deeper than mild peels, your skin will be red and swollen and blisters may form and break open. Your skin crusts and peels off in one to two weeks. Medium peels require seven to 14 days to heal.
Maintenance includes applying mild lotion or cream to the treated area and avoiding sun exposure until healing is complete. Makeup can be worn about a week after the procedure. A follow-up appointment is necessary in order to monitor progress.
Deep Chemical Peels
Phenol peels are the most powerful chemical peels out there in which trichloroacetic acid or phenol is applied to deeply penetrate the middle layer of skin to remove damaged skin cells. This procedure is only done on the face because the skin on the neck and hands is thinner and more delicate.
At Virginia Surgical Arts, we offer a medical-grade peel called the VI Peel that doesn’t require anesthesia or downtime.
What To Expect From Deep Chemical Peels
Due to the strength of these peels, anesthesia may be required and you can expect some downtime following the procedure from 14-21 days. Crusting and post-procedure redness are pretty much inevitable and the treated area will be bandaged.
Following treatment, you’ll have to soak the skin four to six times daily, followed by ointment application for the first 14 days. Other maintenance steps may be taken but those will be discussed with your doctor immediately following the procedure.
Deep chemical peels require you to avoid sun exposure for three to six months and schedule several follow-up appointments to monitor progress.
So, while there is significant downtime and other factors to consider, deep peels produce dramatic and long-term results, doing things that a facelift can’t. They can improve the quality of environmentally-damaged skin and more severe skin changes and wrinkles.
What Does a Chemical Peel Entail?
Chemical peels are an outpatient procedure, meaning that while there is downtime, there’s no overnight stay.
The skincare professional doing your peel will start by thoroughly cleaning your skin. Then s(he) will apply one or more chemical solutions – depending on the strength of peel you have previously decided upon – to small areas of your skin. This creates a controlled wound, revealing the new layer of skin underneath.
During a chemical peel, you will most likely feel a burning sensation that lasts about five to ten minutes, followed by a stinging sensation. The stinging can be eased with a cold compressed put directly on the skin.
What Are the Potential Side Effects and Complications of Chemical Peels?
- Temporary swelling
- Reactivation of cold sores
- A temporary or permanent change in skin color, particularly for women taking birth control pills
- Permanent sensitivity to sun exposure. Following a chemical peel, you should avoid sun exposure and smoking because they can cause infection and scarring.
How do I Prepare for a Chemical Peel?
Before you get a chemical peel, discuss with your doctor if you have a history of scarring, cold sores, or facial X-rays. S(he) may ask you to stop taking certain drugs and prepare your skin using other medications depending on the determined depth of your peel. This is dependent upon the condition of your skin and your goals for the treatment.
Is a Chemical Peel Right For Me?
The best candidates for chemical peels are generally fair-skinned and light-hair patients. That’s not to say that darker skin will not have good results, but there is a higher chance that you will have an uneven skin tone after the procedure.
Chemical peels are ideal for reducing the appearance of skin conditions like acne scars, age spots, crow’s feet, hyperpigmentation, rough or uneven skin texture, sun-damaged skin, and wrinkles.
Deeper peels may not be right for you if you have sensitive skin. But a few light or medium-strength chemical peels can often achieve the same results as one deeper peel with less risk and shorter recovery time. Be sure to consult your Virginia Surgical Arts physician beforehand about your goals to see if a chemical peel is right for your concern and your skin.