WHAT IS A CHEMICAL PEEL?
A chemical peel is a skin-resurfacing procedure in which a chemical solution is applied to the skin to remove the top layers. The skin that grows back after a chemical peel is smoother and younger looking. Chemical peels are used to treat wrinkles, skin discoloration and scars — typically on the face. A chemical peel can be done alone or in combination with other cosmetic procedures. Chemical peels can be done at different depths — light, medium or deep — depending on your desired results. Each type of chemical peel uses a different chemical solution. Deeper chemical peels produce more-dramatic results, but also involve longer recovery times.
A chemical peel can be used to treat various skin problems. Depending on the issues you’re addressing with the procedure, you’ll choose a chemical peel in one of three depths:
- Light chemical peel. A light (superficial) chemical peel removes the outer layer of skin (epidermis). It can be used to treat fine wrinkles, acne, uneven skin tone and dryness. You might have a light chemical peel as often as every two to five weeks — depending on your desired results.
- Medium chemical peel. This type of chemical peel removes skin cells from the epidermis and from portions of the upper part of your middle layer of skin (dermis). A medium chemical peel can treat wrinkles, acne scars and uneven skin tone. You might repeat a medium chemical peel after three to nine months to maintain results.
- Deep chemical peel. A deep chemical peel removes skin cells from the epidermis and from portions of the mid to lower layer of your dermis. Your doctor might recommend a deep chemical peel if you have deeper wrinkles, scars or precancerous growths. A deep chemical peel can only be performed once.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A CHEMICAL PEEL?
There are many benefits to receiving a chemical peel. Not only do chemical peels reveal a brighter, smoother and more refined complexion, they also improve the overall look and feel of the skin in just one treatment. Other benefits of receiving a chemical peel include:
- Improving the skin’s color, clarity, tone and texture
- Stimulating new collagen and healthy skin cell growth, resulting in a radiant complexion
- Reducing discoloration caused by sun damage
- Helping to clear up breakouts
- Smoothing away the look of fine lines and wrinkles
- Increasing hydration of the skin
- Addressing visible skin imperfections and superficial scars
- Enabling skincare products used at home to be more effective because a peel can remove several layers of skin build-up and congestion, allowing products to penetrate deeper into the skin
For long-term results, we recommend a series of three or more chemical peels, spaced four to six weeks apart. The benefit of receiving a series of peels is that this treatment will be able to target the deeper layers of the epidermis, giving your skin an enhanced exfoliation. This type of deep exfoliation can stimulate cellular turnover, resulting in the production of healthy, glowing skin. The type of chemical peel used will be determined by your clinical aesthetician during your initial consultation based on your skin type, its current condition, your lifestyle and your desired outcome.
Many different chemical formulas are used in various skin peels. Some common chemical peel ingredients include:
- Trichloroacetic acid (TCA)
- Lactic acid
- Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA)
- Vitamin C
- Salicylic acid
- Resorcinol exfoliant
Risks and Side Effects
The many benefits you can get from a chemical peel might sound too good to be true — but not so fast. There are also disadvantages to chemical peels, especially if you have sensitive skin. Chemical peel side effects can potentially include:
- Stinging, numbness and burning of the skin.
- Skin peeling, including excessive peeling if you have a medium-depth or deep.
- Redness, which can range from the color of a mild sunburn to a deeper red, depending on the peel.
- Crusting or scabbing of the skin, due to skin cells being removed.
- Increased photosensitivity (sensitivity to the sun that can lead to sunburns).
- In some cases when someone has sensitive skin, scarring or dermatosis/pigment problems can also potentially occur.
Proper post-peel skin care
Whether you’re using an at-home peel or getting a professional peel, you can minimize your skin’s downtime afterward by practicing these expert tips:
Wash your face with cool water. Warm or hot water might not feel as good as cool or cold water, which can help soothe post-peel sensations.
Moisturize and hydrate. Since peels can temporarily compromise your skin’s protective barrier, it’s important to reinforce that barrier with a medium-to-thick moisturizer. Also, drink more water to help avoid dehydration, which could make your skin feel tight.
Apply sunscreen with SPF30 or more. Your skin is more delicate after a peel, so avoid direct sun exposure, which can lead to even more visible signs of skin aging. If you must be exposed, use a Broad Spectrum physical sunscreen.
Avoid strenuous workouts, dry saunas and steam rooms. Increased blood circulation to the face can intensify warming, tingling, itching, redness or other uncomfortable side effects on freshly peeled skin. Skip such activities on the day you use a peel.
Don’t over-exfoliate. Peels are maximum-strength exfoliants, so you don’t need to use a separate exfoliant (like a scrub, brush or exfoliating cleanser) within 3-4 days of your peel. Over-exfoliating can lead to more redness or sensitivity, so wait until your skin feels up to it.
Once your skin feels “back to normal” after a peel, it’s generally considered OK to resume your normal skin care regimen. For more personalized advice, ask your professional skin therapist how to incorporate peels into your lifestyle.