In simple terms a chemical peel is a treatment that uses an acid to remove the outer layers of the skin. The acid is allowed to penetrate in a controlled manner into the superficial layer of the skin (epidermis) to produce a quick exfoliation and freshen up, or deeper into the skin (dermis) to achieve correction of skin problems.
Chemical peels stimulate the growth of new skin cells to improve the texture and appearance of the skin. They are used to treat skin that has been affected by conditions such as acne sun damage. There are different types of peel, the deepest of which are usually administered by a healthcare professional under hospital care.
Glycolic and fruit acid peels
Glycolic acid , salicylic acid, mandelic acid and lactic acids are examples of the most commonly used peels. They will generally produce superficial peeling or exfoliation only and require very little downtime. Salicylic acid peels are a useful treatment for active acne especially on the chest and back. Recovery is usually in one or two days.
Trichloroacetic acids are the basis for these types of peels, they can be used as a superficial exfoliation or a medium depth peel. They can improve scarring and produce skin tightening. Exfoliation can occur over several days.
Phenol peels are the deepest of all peels and should only be performed by appropriately qualified doctors and surgeons. Commonly they will be performed in hospital with ECG monitoring due to the danger of toxicity to the heart and kidneys. Results are significant and can be long lasting. Once completed, exfoliation proceeds for several days, and healing is complete within 10-14 days.
Do I need to prepare my skin for a peel?
Skin should be prepared for at least six weeks prior to having a peel. Healthy skin heals and regenerates better than unhealthy skin so properly prepared skin will respond better to a peel.
Can I expose my skin to the sun after a peel?
The first reason for having a skin peel is often to reduce and reverse the effects of sun damage. Secondly, the skin which regrows after a deeper peel will be more delicate than the skin you had previously. If you wish to benefit long-term from the skin peel you must protect yourself from ongoing sun damage and always wear sunscreen with SPF 50 and above, with UVA and UVB protection. The sunscreen is to be applied daily, even indoors, and repeated two-hourly between 10am to 3 pm.
- What are the benefits of a chemical peel?
- Texture of the skin will improve
- Sun damage will be reduced and pigment will become more even
- Pores will reduce in size
- Fine lines will diminish or disappear
- Skin will tighten
- Scars can be reduced especially soft acne scars
- Skin will return to a youthful translucent and dewy look.
What are the complications of a chemical peel?
Most people suffer no complications. Many listed complications are self-limiting and need no specific treatment. However, more serious problems like infection and abnormal healing and scarring may be treated if detected early.
- Delayed healing.
- Persistent erythema (redness).
- Secondary infection
- Perioral dermatitis
- Acne flare-up
- Milia (milium cyst)
- Skin sensitivity
- Hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation