A chemical peel is a beauty technique that uses controlled injury to the skin which will promote the growth of new skin with an improved appearance. It can be done on the face, neck, or hands. This cosmetic treatment can:
- Reduce fine lines under the eyes and around the mouth
- Treat wrinkles caused by sun damage and aging
- Improve the appearance of mild scars
- Treat certain types of acne
- Reduce age spots, freckles, and dark patches
- Improve the look and feel of the skin
The first step is to have a consultation with your skincare professional. There, you will receive information on the different levels of peels and determine which is right for you. The levels vary from light exfoliation peels, called “lunchtime peels” due to their quick recovery time, to deep peels which would require anesthesia and monitoring of vital signs.
Your appointment will begin with a thorough cleansing of your skin. Then, the predetermined chemical solution (glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid “TCA”, salicylic acid, lactic acid, or phenol) is applied. This is when most people feel a burning sensation that lasts about five to ten minutes, followed by a stinging sensation. Putting cool compresses on the skin may ease that stinging. You may need pain medication during or after a deeper peel.
After your consultation, the skincare professional may advise you to take some pre-peel precautions. These may include:
- Priming the skin with applying a depigmenting agent, such as a hydroquinone or retinoic acid and the use of sunscreens. This may need to be done for at least 2-4 weeks, and then discontinued 3-5 days before the procedure.
- Discontinued used of bleach, wax, scrubbing agents, or massage.
- Rescheduling or not scheduling any important events the week prior to the peel.
- Special care of any cold sores.
Depending upon the type of chemical peel, a reaction similar to sunburn occurs following the procedure. Peeling usually involves redness followed by scaling that ends within 3-7 days. Mild peels may be repeated at 1-4 week intervals until you get the look you're after. Medium-depth and deep peeling may result in swelling as well as blisters that may break, crust, turn brown, and peel off over a period of 7- 14 days. Medium-depth peels may be repeated in 6-12 months, if necessary. After treatment, you may need bandages for several days on part or all of the skin that was treated. You'll need to avoid the sun and wear sunscreen daily for several months after a chemical peel since your new skin will be fragile.
Depending on your skin type and level of peel, there may be some temporary or permanent color change in the skin. Taking birth control pills, subsequent pregnancy, or a family history of brownish discoloration on the face may make that more likely. Although the risk of scarring is low, some people are more prone to it. However, it can usually be treated with good results. There is also a small risk of reactivating cold sores, but your doctor can prescribe medication to prevent or treat this.
Am I a Good Candidate?
Chemical peels are not for everyone. Best results are shown in light-haired and fair skinned people. It does work on dark-skinned people, but your technician should be well trained to care for dark-skinned patients. Other people who should not consider a chemical peel include:
- Women who are nursing or pregnant
- People with any active skin disease
- People with psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, or rosacea
- Have taken Accutane in the last 6 months
- Have used Retin-A, Renova, prescription skin care products, products that contain ascorbic acid, bleaching or skin-lightening agents or other acid-based products in the last 48 hours.