What is a Chemical Peel?
A chemical peel is a procedure in which an acid solution is safely applied to the skin to improve the color, texture, and smoothness of the skin. There are various solutions that can be used, however all work by removing damaged outer layers of the skin allowing fresh rejuvenated skin to grow. Chemical peels have been proven to be among the most popular nonsurgical cosmetic procedures chosen by patients.
What can a Chemical Peel do for my Skin?
Chemical peels can be very effective in improving the signs of photoaging or sun damage, which include brown spots or freckles, fine lines, keratoses, and dullness to the skin. Other pigmentary issues such as melasma also known as the ‘mask of pregnancy’, and excess brown pigment as a result of inflammatory processes such as acne can also be dramatically improved with chemical peels. Inflammatory acne lesions, as well as blackheads and whiteheads respond nicely to certain types of chemical peels, and can help maintain weeks of clearance while brightening your complexion. Acne scars can be improved with deep chemical peels and precancerous keratoses can be minimized with these treatments. Chemical peels work well in combination with Botox/Dysport/Xeomin, soft tissue fillers, and a variety of laser procedures.
What are the most common types of Chemical Peels?
Chemical peels vary according to their specific ingredients and strength. The actual depth of the peeling depends on the type of solution used, and how long it remains on the skin.
Chemical peels are usually classified according to their depth of penetration as superficial (light), medium, or deep. Superficial peels exfoliate gently without causing much irritation, and therefore most people do not experience any downtime. Alpha-hydroxy-acids (AHAs) and Beta-hydroxy-acids are the most common types of superficial to medium depth chemical peels. The AHAs include glycolic, lactic or fruit acid. Salicylic acid is the most common peeling agent in the Beta-hydroxy-acid category.
Glycolic Acid Peels
Glycolic acid is a naturally occurring compound that is a member of the chemical family referred to as Alpha-Hydroxy-Acid (AHA). Glycolic acid is made from natural sources such as fruits, sugar cane, and milk acids. Glycolic is the most effective and most commonly used of the AHAs. Glycolic acid is one of the most beneficial AHAs because it is the only one small enough to penetrate skin cell walls to exert its beneficial effects. Once inside the cell, glycolic acid triggers new formation of collagen and stimulates the production of dermal glycosaminoglycans to plump up the cell, and the structural framework of the skin to reduce wrinkles on the skin’s surface. It also helps improve texture, acne, brown discoloration from sun damage (freckles), melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Glycolic acid peels take approximately 6 minutes to perform. We use concentrations of Glycolic acid from 20-70%. The peel is neutralized and post-peel moisturizers are applied to the treated area. There is a slight amount of pinkness to the skin after the procedure, which typically lasts a few hours. It is best to do a series of 4-5 treatments spaced 2-3 weeks apart. Maintenance treatments should be performed once per month or every other month. Glycolic acid is safe for all skin types and is a simple way to rejuvenate your skin.
Salicylic Acid Peels
Salicylic acid is a colorless and crystalline beta hydroxy acid that occurs naturally as a plant hormone. Salicylic acid like all peels gently exfoliates the top, dead layers of skin, allowing brighter fresher layers underneath to be visible. Salicylic acid chemical peels can help reduce the appearance of acne and have been proven to be effective against blackheads, whiteheads, signs of premature aging, wrinkles, and blemishes or pigmentary issues creating an uneven skin tone. Salicylic acid can be applied to the skin in concentrations of up to 30%. The solution is usually left on the skin for up to 10 minutes depending on one’s skin type. Multiple treatment sessions are necessary to achieve optimum benefits. Salicylic acid is safe for all skin types. You should however, let your provider know if you are allergic to Salicylates.
TCA (Trichloroacetic acid)
TCA is considered to be a medium depth peel. It is great for sunspots, fine lines, keratoses, and improving the texture of the skin. TCA is used on the face, undereyes, as well as other areas of the body such as hands, forearms, and chest. Prior to the treatment, all patients are pre-medicated with antibiotics and an anti-viral medication. The skin is cleansed and the solution left on for 2-4 minutes. It is then neutralized with water and aquaphor is applied. We recommend that patients do cool water soaks several times daily, and keep the skin moisturized with aquaphor. It is best to be repeated every 3-6 months. TCA penetrates deeper than superficial peels, and therefore the skin will be redder, and light crust will form, which may last up to one week. TCA is not safe for all skin types. Dr. Daniels will help you decide which type of chemical peel agent is right for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do Chemical Peels feel like?
Local anesthesia is not necessary with superficial and medium depth peels. You will experience a mild stinging sensation during the procedure, however chemical peels only take 2-10 minutes to perform (depending on which solution we are using). The stinging may persist for 15 minutes after a superficial peel and a few hours following deeper chemical peels. Some patients may require pain medication for higher concentration TCA peels.
What will I look like afterwards?
The appearance of the skin after a peel depends on what type of peel was performed. Superficial peels cause the skin to look a little pink whereas deeper peels will cause intense redness. There may be light exfoliation or a dry sensation to the skin with superficial peels, however deeper peels will cause some oozing and crusting necessitating cool compresses and Vaseline for wound care.
When should I see results?
Your skin will look and feel fresher after just one week, but most peels require a series of treatments to obtain the best results.
Are Chemical Peels safe for all skin types?
No. Higher strength TCA peels are not safe for darker skin types, and should not be performed on skin of color. Superficial chemical peels are safe and effective in all skin types. However, it is important to have a consultation with an experienced Physician so that a treatment plan can be established specifically for you.