What is a chemical peel?
Chemical peels are cosmetic treatments that can be applied to the face, hands, and neck. They’re used to improve the appearance or feel of the skin. During this procedure, chemical solutions will be applied to the area being treated, which causes the skin to exfoliate and eventually peel off. Once this happens, the new skin underneath is often smoother, appears less wrinkled, and may have less damage.
There are a number of reasons people may get a chemical peel. They may be trying to treat a variety of things, including:
- Wrinkles and fine lines
- Sun damage
- Acne scars
- Uneven skin tone or redness
During the chemical peel, the dermatologist will first apply the exfoliating acid to dull areas such as the chin, nose, and cheeks, before applying it to the thin areas around the eyes and mouth.
Chemical peels often cause redness, which can take 1 to 2 weeks to go away. It is important to keep your face dry and use a face wash for the first 24 hours. People should not wear makeup until the skin is healed.
Types of chemical peels
There are three types of chemical peels, depending on how deeply they exfoliate the skin:
- Superficial peels
- Medium depth peels
- Deep peels
Many dermatologists use the Fitzpatrick scale to determine the best skin type. This scale classifies skin into 6 types:
- White skin always burns and never tans.
- White skin usually burns and does not drink easily.
- Slightly dark white and tanned skin.
- Moderate brown skin rarely burns and is mild.
- Dark brown skin rarely burns and is very light.
- Black skin does not burn and is very light.
A chemical peel contains a variety of acids, including:
Alpha-hydroxy acids: These include glycolic acid, lactic acid, and citric acid. Manufacturers often include alpha-hydroxy acids in exfoliating home treatments.
Beta-hydroxy acids: Salicylic acid is one example and is extremely beneficial for acne-prone skin and large pores.
Trichloroacetic acid: It is commonly used by dermatologists in medium or deep chemical peels.
Phenol: This powerful chemical agent is useful in deep skin peels.
Some chemical factors in peels cause the skin to develop a white coating, which a dermatologist calls “glaze.”
Dermatologists recommend peeling if skin problems only affect the epidermis. Because superficial skins do not penetrate the deeper layers, they have a lower risk of side effects and recover faster.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), superficial peels take between 1 and 7 days to heal. It is important to use sunscreen after treatment. Because superficial skin is more sensitive to the skin than other skin types, people can take 3-5 professional treatments to see the desired results. People undergo superficial peels every 2 to 5 weeks.
Medium depth peels
Dermatologists recommend these for medium-depth peels:
- Fine wrinkles
- Sun-damaged skin
- Minor hyperpigmentation
- Small pimple scars
Medium-depth chemical peels reach an area called the papillary dermis. This is the second top layer, the one closest to the surface of the skin. The dermatologist will provide you with a solution and it is important to use it as recommended. Also, avoid sun exposure during healing.
The dermatologist may also prescribe antiviral medications, which the person takes for 10 to 14 days. People can put on makeup after 5 to 7 days.
Dermatologists do not typically use deep peels because laser treatment often provides better results in the deeper layers of the skin.
However, a dermatologist may recommend a deeper peel if a person has:
- Damaged by strong sunlight
- Moderate to severe wrinkles
- Moderate to severe hyperpigmentation
The dermatologist recommends washing the skin with a special solution four to six times a day, followed by an ointment for 14 days. The person will then need to use a thick moisturizer. A person with a deep chemical peel should not wear makeup for at least 14 days after this procedure.
What are the benefits of chemical peels?
Chemical peels can improve many skin issues. Let’s look at some of the most common ones that chemical peels may help treat.
Acne is a common inflammatory skin condition. It’s often treated with topical products or oral medication, but chemical peels may also help.
The procedure can:
- Break down comedones
- Decrease oil production
- Kill bacteria
- Reduce inflammation
- Increase absorption of topical treatments
- Light and medium chemical peels are usually used to improve acne.
As acne heals, the skin creates new collagen fibers in an attempt to repair lesions that have been created by inflamed skin.
The production of new collagen fibers can create hypertrophic scars, which are bumpy and raised, or atrophic scars, which create depressions in your skin.
A chemical peel can help by exfoliating the top skin layer, which removes excess collagen. Medium chemical peels are typically recommended for acne scars.
Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition that causes redness, swelling, and red bumps. If it also causes acne-like breakouts, it’s known as acne rosacea. Sometimes, a chemical peel can help relieve these symptoms. It’s typically recommended for mild or moderate rosacea.
Why has chemical peel done?
A chemical peel is a skin-resurfacing procedure. Depending on the issues you’re addressing with the procedure, you’ll choose a chemical peel is one of three depths:
- Light chemical peel. A light (superficial) chemical peel removes the outer layer of skin (epidermis). It’s used to treat fine wrinkles, acne, uneven skin tone, and dryness. You might have a light peel every two to five weeks.
- Medium chemical peel. A medium chemical peel removes skin cells from the epidermis and from portions of the upper part of your middle layer of skin (dermis). It’s used to treat wrinkles, acne scars, and uneven skin tone. You might need to repeat the procedure to achieve or maintain the desired result.
- Deep chemical peel. A deep chemical peel removes skin cells even deeper. Your doctor might recommend one for deeper wrinkles, scars, or precancerous growths. You won’t need to repeat procedures to get the full effect.
Chemical peels can’t remove deep scars or wrinkles or tighten sagging skin.
Chemical peel risks factors
Chemical peels can cause several side effects, including:
Redness, scabbing, and swelling. Normal healing from a chemical peel involves redness of the treated skin. After a medium or deep chemical peel, redness might last for a few months.
Scarring. Rarely, a chemical peel can cause scarring typically on the lower part of the face. Antibiotics and steroid medications can be used to soften the appearance of these scars.
Changes in skin color. A chemical peel can cause treated skin to become darker than normal (hyperpigmentation) or lighter than normal (hypopigmentation). Hyperpigmentation is more common after superficial peels, while hypopigmentation is more common after a deep peel. These problems are more common in people with skin of color and can sometimes be permanent.
Infection. A chemical peel can lead to a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection, such as a flare-up of the herpes virus the virus that causes cold sores.
Heart, kidney, or liver damage. A deep chemical peel uses carbolic acid (phenol), which can damage the heart muscle and cause the heart to beat irregularly. Phenol can also harm the kidneys and liver. To limit exposure to phenol, a deep chemical peel is done a portion at a time, in 10 to 20-minute intervals.
Side effects for the chemical peel
The side effects of a chemical peel are usually mild. However, some may develop long-term adverse effects, including:
- Red lasts for months
- Temporary dark patches of skin
- Permanently lighter patches of skin
- Spots, which are very rare
How is the chemical peel performed?
Your doctor may treat this area with a topical sedative, especially if you are receiving a deep peel. For deep peels, your doctor may also use a local anesthetic, which will numb large areas. They do this especially if you are treating your face and neck. For deep peels, you will also be given an IV and your heart rate will be closely monitored.
A cotton ball, gauze, or brush is used to apply a chemical solution such as salicylic acid to the treated area during the light peel. The skin begins to bleach and there may be a slight stinging sensation. Upon completion, the chemical solution is removed or a neutralizing solution is added.
During a medium chemical peel, your doctor will use gauze, a special sponge, or a cotton-tipped applicator to apply the chemical solution to your face. May contain glycolic acid or trichloroacetic acid. Blue can be added to trichloroacetic acid, commonly known as blue skin. The skin begins to whiten, and your doctor may apply a cold compress to the skin. You may feel itchy or burning for up to 20 minutes. A neutralizing solution is not required, however, they do provide a handheld fan to cool your skin. If you have blue skin, your skin will have a bluish tinge that will last for several days after the peel.
How do you prepare for a chemical peel?
Before your procedure, you should first consult with a skincare professional. During this visit, they will help you decide what is the best treatment option for you. They will tell you the details about the specific skin you are going to have and ask you about anything that might interfere with the skin. This can include information on whether you have taken acne medication or have a minor scar.
Before you peel off a chemical, you must:
Do not use any type of retinol medication for at least 48 hours. Inform your skincare professional of any medications you are taking. Not in Acute for at least six months
Your doctor may also recommend:
- Take antivirals if you have a history of fever blisters or cold sores to avoid breaks around the mouth.
- Use special lotions to enhance the treatment like glycolic acid ion lotion
- Use retinol cream to prevent darkening of the skin.
- Stop using the hair removal, waxing, or waxing products the week before peeling. You should also avoid discoloration of the hair.
- Avoid using face scrubs and scrubs a week before peeling.
- Arrange for a ride home, especially for medium or deep chemical peels, which should be intoxicating for you.
If your doctor prescribes pain relievers or sedatives, take them according to their instructions.
A light chemical peel improves skin texture and tone. The results are subtle but increase with repeated treatments. If you have a medium chemical peel, treated skin will be noticeably smoother. After a deep chemical peel, you’ll see a dramatic improvement in the look and feel of treated areas. Results may not be permanent. Over time, age and new sun damage can lead to new lines and skin color changes.