What is a chemical peel?
A chemical peel is a treatment which is best performed by a medical professional such as Dr. Whitlock or an aesthetician. The process peels off the older, wrinkled layer of skin for purposes of regeneration. After the peel is applied and removed, the skin is smoother and softer and, therefore, more youthful looking. A chemical peel, also referred to as a derma peel or chemexfoliation, is a minimally invasive way to improve your appearance. While chemexfoliation is often performed on the face, it can also be useful in improving the skin’s appearance on the hands and neck.
Chemical peels can assist in improving skin problems resulting from UV damage, scarring, irregular pigmentation, acne, liver spot, wrinkles, fine lines, and dry or rough patches. The type of chemical peel you choose depends upon the type of skin problem you are addressing.
Types of Peels:
The phenol peel penetrates deeply into the skin and often provides dramatic results. Only a single treatment is needed to achieve a better appearance. A phenol peel is recommended to correct skin blotches resulting from age or UV exposure, as well as to smooth out wrinkles. Care must be taken when applying a phenol peel as some side effects may include lightening of the skin or sun sensitivity.
A retinoic acid peel is often used to remove scarring, wrinkling, or irregular pigmentation. The solution for the peel is applied in the office, and the peeling takes place a couple of days after the application. Typically, the patient will require a couple of treatments before the desired results are obtained.
TCA peels, referred to as trichloroacetic acid peels, are deep skin peels that are often suggested for patients with darker skin. The peels are used to correct irregular pigmentation, get rid of blemishes, and smooth out wrinkling. Usually the patient will need to use sunblock for several months after the peel is applied. In addition, an application of AHA cream, Retin-A, or glycolic acid is recommended before the peel is administered. Healing generally takes a little longer than other chemical peels because a TCA peel reaches farther into the skin. An Obagi Blue Peel® is an example of a TCA-type peel.
Sometimes a TCA peel is used in combination with a Jessner’s peel, which is made up of lactic acid, resorcinol (an active ingredient in skin care and acne formulations), and salicylic acid. A Jessner’s peel opens up the pores so the TCA can better penetrate the skin.
Alpha Hydroxyl acids peel
Although not recommended for treating deep wrinkles, chemical peels that are made up of alpha hydroxyl acids, also called AHA peels, are helpful for smoothing out dry areas and fine wrinkles or removing acne. These kinds of peels can cause some redness and irritation and several treatments are usually needed to achieve the desired results. Examples of alpha hydroxyl acids include citric acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid.
Beta Hydroxyl acid peels
Acne sufferers often find relief with chemical BHA peels, or beta hydroxyl acid peels. These peels are recommended for pimples because of their ability to reach deeper inside the pores. Plus, these kinds of acne peels not only slough off dead skin cells better than AHA peels, they also control the excess formation of sebum – all which contribute to the development of blackheads and whiteheads. Salicylic acid is the primary ingredient in these acne-removing peels.
Preparing for a Medium or Deep Peel
If you are going to undergo a medium or deep peel, you will need to prepare accordingly. If you smoke, you’ll need to significantly cut down on your nicotine consumption or quit smoking approximately a month before the procedure. Smoking can increase the risk of infection. In addition, you’ll need to organize your work schedule so you can take time off after the peel as healing generally takes about two weeks.
Applying either glycolic acid or Retin-A each day a week before your appointment is also beneficial. If you possess a darker skin tone, using a cream with alpha hydroxyl acids as well as a bleaching agent will keep your skin from getting blotchy after you undergo the procedure.
Side Effects and Pain Relievers
Deeper chemexfoliations pose increased risks for complications, which is why you need to have the peel performed by a qualified plastic surgeon such as Dr. Whitlock or an aesthetician. Changes in the textural nature of the skin can also result in erythema or redness. For any light chemical peels, such as an AHA peel, the patient will not require the use of anesthetics, since any discomfort, such as stinging, is minimal.
TCA peels are often performed as outpatient treatments and can be more painful, thereby necessitating the use of a pain reliever or tranquilizer. However, these kinds of medium peels do not generally require the use of an anesthetic when they are applied. Deep phenol peels can be uncomfortable and painful, so in most instances, an anesthetic or an intravenous sedative is often administered.
Who are the best candidates for chemical peels?
Usually, the best recipients for a chemical peel possess lighter skin tones because darker complexions are more susceptible to pigmentation problems after the application. Also, patients who have severe wrinkling usually do not benefit from a chemical peel and must opt for another cosmetic procedure, such as facial filler or a facelift.
How does a chemical peel differ from microdermabrasion?
While a chemical peel can result in a bit of stinging or sensitivity, a microdermabrasion treatment is totally painless. Both procedures remove dead skin cells and smooth over fine lines and wrinkles. However, microdermabrasion involves exfoliating the epidermis with microcrystals or a paddle with an abrasive surface. For patients with sensitive skin who do not want to experience the downtime that is involved in obtaining a medium or deep peel, microdermabrasion is a viable alternative.
What can you expect after a chemical peel?
Usually, after a peel is performed, the skin will be red and follow-up care will be required. Dr. Whitlock will provide you with care instructions in this regard. Patients are warned against smoking or UV exposure as doing so can result in infection or scarring.
Typically, superficial peels, such as those used for acne or fine wrinkles, will require that the patient visit the office about three to five times over a couple of months. Medium peels, such as retinoic peels, require a couple of visits for optimum results while you need to visit the office only once for deeper peels, such as phenol peels or TCA chemexfoliations.
The length of time that a peel lasts depends on the type of peel you select. Superficial peels, such as AHA and BHA peels, can be regularly performed as needed or on a monthly or bimonthly basis. Deep peels, such as phenol peels, can last two to three years while medium peels, such as TCA peels, last about a year.
Usually, superficial peels will heal in one day to a week’s time while medium chemical peels, which often result in red and swollen skin, heal in a week to two weeks. Deep peels, which require the area to be bandaged, take about two to three weeks for recovery.
What Post-treatment care is needed?
Superficial peels, such as AHA peels, will require that the patient apply cream after the procedure. Makeup can be worn the following day. Patients usually need to visit the office every other week for a couple of months in order to see the desired outcome.
Patients who receive medium peels will need to take an antiviral medicine for a period of about two weeks and soak the area and apply ointment daily per Dr. Whitlock’s instructions. Cream and sunblock should be applied, and total avoidance of the sun is indicated until after the patient fully recovers from the procedure. A follow-up appointment is required.
Deep peels will require that the patient soak her skin about four times each day and apply ointment to the affected area for a period of about two weeks. Dr. Whitlock will also direct the patient to take an antiviral medicine for a period of about two weeks. Several follow-up visits will be required.