Chemical Peels at a glance
Chemical peels (chemexfoliation) help restore one’s skin to its original youthful appearance. The chemical peel is said to be one of the oldest cosmetic procedures in the world, used by people dating back to the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
A Chemical peel improves and smoothes the texture of the facial skin by removing its damaged outer layers with a chemical solution, leaving skin looking younger, tighter and clearer. Chemical peels as part of a skin rejuvenation regimen also helps remedy uneven skin pigmentation (blotchy skin) and is sometimes used to help control acne. If you’re skin is sun-damaged, acne scarred, wrinkled, or otherwise blemished, a chemical peel maybe suitable for you.
Chemical peels may be combined with other procedures, but they are not a substitute for facial surgery. It’s important to note that some lines, heavier wrinkles and other blemishes may only be helped by other procedures or additional treatments. Likewise, a chemical peel cannot slow or otherwise affect the skin’s natural aging process. Your doctor may offer one or more chemical peel options or suggest a combination of peels that will best work for you. The chemical peel formula used by your doctor may be adjusted to precisley meet your individual needs or skin type. Your doctor may also recommend laser treatments, fillers or BOTOX® Cosmetic to help achieve your desired results.
What to discuss with your doctor
When choosing a provider, you should make sure your dermatologist, cosmetic surgeon, or medical aesthetician has training and experience with chemical peels and skin resurfacing.
During your consultation, you should ask questions and discuss your goals, expectations and concerns with your medical provider. You should also discuss the procedure, the benefits and risks and the level of care and recovery time needed to achieve the best results.
Many peels require minimal recovery time or post-op care, but deeper peels such as Phenol peels often require sedation and extensive recovery time. Chemical peels are generally not covered by medical insurance unless they are medically necessary to address other problems.
If you have a history of herpes, you should inform your physician prior to the procedure. A history of herpes may exclude you from being a candidate for chemical peels. Oral herpes can spread to the surrounding, healing skin and cause weeping sores which will damage and scar the skin. If you have herpes, a release from your primary physician may be necessary and a prescription regimen for oral medications to decrease your risk of an outbreak may be given during the process.
Common Chemical Peels
TCA Peels (Trichloroacetic acid)
A TCA peel is often used to address superficial blemishes and fine surface wrinkles. TCA peels are also used to correct pigment problems with the skin. TCA peels sometimes require pre-treatment with creams such as Retin-A or AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid). In addition to the face, TCA peels can also be applied to the neck and other areas of the body. The “depth” of a TCA peel can be adjusted to the patient needs. TCA peels are preferred for darker-skinned patients.
TCA treatments typically take between 10-15 minutes to apply. Recovery time varies based on the strength of the peel when it is applied. Immediately after a TCA peel, there may be significant swelling and mild pain medication may be prescribed to relieve any discomfort. Swelling and discomfort normally subsides within the first week and patients typically resume normal activity within two weeks. It is imperative to follow your doctor’s specific post-op instructions and you should avoid sun exposure for several months unless you are adequately protected with a recommended sun block.
Salicylic Peels (Beta Hydroxy Acid)
Salicylic Acid peels are gentler than most other peels. Salicylic peels are used for superficial peeling and can be adjusted in strength based on the application. As an effective oil reducing and pore cleansing agent, Salicylic Acid is most appropriate for combination, oily skin and acne-prone skin. It is gentle enough for use on patients with Rosacea and is commonly used to address minor blemishes such as enlarged pores, sun damaged skin, Melasma, and blotchy skin or hyper-pigmentation. Salicylic acid peels stimulate new healthy skin cell production and increases collagen formation.
Salicylic Acid peels take approximately a half hour to administer and recovery time is minimal. Patients may return to work or other activities right away, but the skin may look sunburned. It’s is not uncommon for patients to experience mild stinging and whitening or “frosting” of the skin during the peel. Some gradual peeling and dryness may occur. The results normally present themselves within 5 days, with the skin looking more youthful and rejuvenated. For best results, your doctor may recommend a series of salicylic peels or a combination of peels.
Phenol is the strongest of chemical peels. Phenol peels are for patients with deep, coarse wrinkles and lines due to sun damage. Phenol peels are also used to address hyper-pigmentation and is often used to wrinkling around the lips and chin area. Phenol peels are reserved solely for the face and is not used on any other area of the body. Patients with dark or oily complexions may not see the best results from a Phenol peel. The results from a Phenol peel are long-lasting and the difference in the appearance skin is considered to be one the most dramatic cosmetic changes.
The Phenol peel is an extensive procedure, taking 1-2 hours to perform and requiring sedation and the monitoring of vital statistics. The recovery time for a Phenol peel is long, with patients returning to work and normal activities in approximately 2 weeks. Phenol peels sometimes have a bleaching effect on the skin that may require patients to match treated areas with make-up. Patients undergoing deep peels are at risk for delayed healing, scarring and other post-op complications. In some cases, the skin may never regain its ability to tan after a phenol peel. Be sure to discuss your questions and the risks and benefits of a Phenol with your doctor before considering any deep peel.
Obagi Blue Peel
The Obagi Blue Peel is a medium strength peel used to correct blotchy skin (pigmentation problems) and damage due to sun exposure. It is suitable for light skinned individuals and is used for complexions ranging all the way to olive-skinned individuals. It is also used to address fine wrinkles and superficial blemishes and is commonly used to reduce the size of large pores. The Obagi Blue Peel is aptly named for its characteristic effect of turning the skin blue immediately following the procedure.
The Obagi Blue Peel requires a pre-treatment regimen to be used 4-6 weeks prior to the treatment and takes 1-2 hours to perform. Recovery time is moderate, so allow 7-10 days before returning to work or resuming normal activities. Sun exposure should be kept to a minimum and a recommended sunscreen must be applied 4-6 weeks prior to the peel with continued application 6 months after the peel.
The Jessner’s Peel
The Jessner’s peel combines resorcinol, lactic acid, and salicylic acid. It is a gentler peel designed to smooth and rejuvenate skin. A Jessner peel uses a mild peeling agent to treat mild to severe acne, discoloration or hyper-pigmentation, light to moderate wrinkling and sun damage. The Jessner’s peel is recommended for all skin types and is one of the most effective light peels available. The Jessner’s peel yields a greater degree of exfoliation in the outer layers of skin cells, revealing the healthier layers of skin underneath. Recovery time is minimal with patients experiencing noticeable flaking and exfoliation during the three to four days following the peel. The best results of a Jessner’s peel are seen in about a week.
Beta Peel (Beta-Hydroxy Acid)
The Beta Peel is used primarily to reduce acne lesions and shrink pores. The Beta Peel exfoliates the outer layer of skin and rejuvenates the skin by bringing healthier skin to the surface. The Beta Peel is used for the treatment of acne, acne scars, hyper pigmentation, and enlarged pores. It is also used to address minor sun-damage and tiny surface blemishes. It also aids in softening fine lines. There is little to no recovery time for a Beta Peel and Beta peels can be used on all skin types. Beta peels take approximately 5 minutes to perform with only occasional, mild stinging seen in some individuals. The skin may peel for approximately 3 to 5 days. The best results are typically seen within a week.