A chemical peel is a skin-resurfacing procedure in which a chemical solution is applied to the skin to help peel away the top layers. The skin that grows back after a chemical peel may be smoother and younger looking. Chemical peels are used to help treat wrinkles, skin discolouration and scars – typically on the face. Chemical peels brighten and smooth the skin texture, even out discolouration, reduce acne scarring as well as frown lines and wrinkles. A chemical peel can be done alone or in combination with other cosmetic procedures.
Chemical peels can be done at different depths – light, medium or deep – depending on your desired results. Each type of chemical peel uses a different chemical solution. Deeper chemical peels may produce more dramatic results but also involve longer recovery times. Results from any treatment may vary according to the individual as everyone is unique and may respond differently to the treatments mentioned.
A chemical peel comes in varying strengths. At lower strengths, it is used as an exfoliate, and at higher strengths, it is used as a mild chemical peel. As an exfoliate, it softens and loosens the dry, dead skin cells that form a barrier layer on the skin surface. This allows the skin to shed the dead cells.
It is important to note that you should always wear sunscreen, even more so when you do peels, as your skin is more susceptible to sunburn when you use facial acids. Too much sun exposure for up to two months before a peel can cause permanent irregular pigmentation in treated areas. A chemical peel may be used to treat various skin problems and depending on the issues you’re addressing with the procedure, you will choose a chemical peel from one of the three depths.
The peel procedure before, during and after.
Light Chemical Peel
If you have a light chemical peel using glycolic acid, your skin care specialist might recommend the use of a glycolic acid lotion for two weeks before treatment
A light chemical peel or a superficial chemical peel acts as an exfoliator, which means it, helps to remove the outer layer of skin (Epidermis). It may be used to treat fine wrinkles, uneven skin tone and dryness. You might have a light chemical peel as often as once a week for up to six weeks – depending on the results you want. It’s great for anyone looking to reveal younger-looking skin.
With a light chemical peel; the peel solution typically contains glycolic acid or salicylic acid. Once applied, your skin might begin to whiten. You might feel mild stinging while the chemical solution is on your skin for up to ten minutes. A neutralizing solution or wash will be applied to the treated area to remove the chemical solution.
After a light chemical peel, the treated skin could be red, dry and mildly irritated, although these effects might be less noticeable with each repeat treatment. Your skin care specialist might apply a protective ointment, such as petroleum jelly to sooth the area.
In some cases, a crust might form over treated skin as it begins to heal. Treated areas develop new skin about three to seven days after a light chemical peel. The new skin might temporarily be lighter or darker than usual. A light chemical peel may improve skin texture and tone, as well as decrease the appearance of fine wrinkles. The results may be subtle at first but could increase with repeated treatments. After a light chemical peel, avoid sun exposure until the new skin completely covers the treated area.
Medium Chemical Peels
This type of chemical peel helps to remove skin cells from the epidermis and portions of the upper part of your middle layer of skin (dermis).
A medium chemical peel may treat wrinkles, acne scars and uneven skin tone. It can lighten discolouration of the skin, such as sun spots, age spots, and even help those with acne prone and blackhead-prone skin. You might repeat a medium chemical peel every six to twelve months to maintain results. More often, this will thin out your skin.
The medium chemical peel typically contains trichloroacetic acid that might be combined with glycolic acid and when applied to your skin , it will begin to whiten. After a few minutes, a cold compress will be applied to your skin to soothe the treated area. Your skin might also be fanned to cool it down. No neutralizing solution is needed, however, you might feel stinging and burning for up to twenty minutes.
After a medium chemical peel, treated skin will be red, tight and swollen. You’ll feel stinging and your skin care specialist might apply a protective ointment, such as petroleum jelly, to sooth the area. Use ice packs for comfort and sleep in a semi-reclined position to reduce-swelling.
You will most likely have a check-up scheduled twenty-four hours after treatment and another check-up two to three days after treatment so that your doctor can monitor healing. As swelling decreases, treated skin will begin to form a crust and might darken or develop brown blotches. Treated areas develop new skin about five to seven days after a medium chemical peel, but redness might last for months. If you have a medium chemical peel, treated skin will be noticeably smoother after the procedure. Your doctor might recommend avoiding sun exposure for several weeks.
Deep Chemical Peel
A deep chemical peel helps to remove skin cells from the epidermis and from portions of the mid to lower layer of your dermis. Your doctor might recommend a deep chemical peel if you have deeper wrinkles, scars or precancerous growths.
It is advised to avoid cosmetics, moisturiser and hair products- such as conditioner, mouse and hairspray – for twenty-four hours before a medium or deep chemical peel.
If you are going to be sedated during a medium or deep chemical peel, we would advise that you have someone with you to take you home.
With the deep chemical peel, you will be given intravenous (IV) fluids and your heart rate will be closely monitored. Your doctor will use a cotton-tipped applicator to apply carbolic acid (Phenol) to your skin. Treated skin will begin to turn white or grey. To limit your exposure to phenol, your doctor will do the procedure in portions at ten to twenty minute intervals. A full-facial procedure might take sixty to ninety minutes.
After a deep chemical peel, you’ll see a dramatic improvement in the look and feel of treated areas. You will need to protect your skin from the sun permanently to prevent changes in skin colour.
After a deep chemical peel, you could experience severe redness and swelling. You may also feel burning, and throbbing, and your eyelids might swell shut. Your doctor will apply a watertight dressing containing zinc oxide to treated skin. He or she might also prescribe painkillers.
Sleep in a semi-reclined position to reduce swelling.
You will likely schedule a check-up twenty-four or forty-eight hours after treatments so that your doctor can remove the dressing and clear away any yellowish liquid oozing from treated skin.
Treated areas will develop new skin within about two weeks after a deep chemical peel.
The treated skin might become darker or lighter than normal or lose the ability to tan.
You might prefer to remain at home while you’re healing from a deep chemical peel. Once new skin completely covers the treated area, you can use cosmetics to conceal any redness.
After a deep chemical peel, you will see a dramatic improvement in the look and feel of treated areas. You’ll need to protect your skin from the sun permanently to prevent changes in skin colour.
Various side effects you may encounter with a peel include;
A chemical peel may cause the skin to become red. After a medium or deep chemical peel, redness might last for several months.
Rarely, a chemical peel can cause scarring – typically on the lower part of the face. Antibiotics and steroid medications can be used to soften the appearance of these scars. Here, at The Institute of Aesthetic Options, you can also look at our RF (radio frequency) treatments for scarring caused by products/procedures.
Changes in Skin Colour
A chemical peel may cause treated skin to become darker than normal (Hyperpigmentation) or lighter than normal (hypopigmentation). Hyperpigmentation is more common after superficial peels, while hypopigmentation is more common after a deep peel. Changes in skin colour are more common in people who have darker skin, and this can be permanent.
Tiny white bumps (milia) on the skin are possible after a chemical peel. Acne also commonly develops as the treated skin heals – due to previous acne or the use of oily creams on the newly formed skin.
A chemical peel may cause a flare-up of the herpes virus, (the virus that causes cold sores). Rarely, a chemical peel may lead to a bacterial or fungal infection.
Your medical history is very important to us, and you need to be very honest when giving us this information as it can affect your treatments/procedures especially any heart, kidney or liver conditions if you’re considering a deep chemical peel.
Medications you might use can make your skin sensitive to the sun – as well as any cosmetic procedures you had in the past. It is important to mention that any retinoid creams can enhance the penetration of some chemical peels.
Always remember that the tone and the thickness of your skin might affect your results. Also, communicate your motivations and expectations to your doctor, so that he/she can advise you correctly. Make sure that you also understand how many treatments you might need, how long the healing process is and what results to expect.
Should you have a history of herpes infections around your mouth, the doctor will likely prescribe an antiviral medication before and after treatment to help prevent any viral infection.
If you have a light chemical peel using glycolic acid, your skin care specialist might recommend the use of a glycolic acid lotion for two weeks before treatment. Before a light or medium chemical peel, the use of a retinoid cream may also be prescribed to shorten your treatment time and to help speed up the healing process.
Before the procedure, your skin care specialist will clean your face and might cover your eyes with ointment, gauze, tape or goggles and put protection over your hair.
After a chemical peel of any depth, follow your skin care specialist or doctor’s directions for cleaning, moisturising and applying protective ointments to your skin.
Keep in mind that the results of your chemical peel might not be permanent. As you age, you will continue to acquire lines by squinting and smiling. New sun damage can also reverse your results and cause changes in your skin colour.