Chemicals Peels For Skin: Types, Precautions, Procedures, Expected Results, Complications

In this article:

  • What are chemical peels?
  • Who is an ideal candidate for a chemical peel?
  • What are the different types of chemical peels?
  • What are the precautions required before you get a chemical peel done?
  • How are chemical peels done?
  • What results can one expect after a chemical peel?
  • Possible complications after the chemical peel is done?
  • Are over-the-counter chemical peels as effective as professional chemical peels

What are Chemical Peels?

Chemical peels helps to improve the appearance of the skin. This treatment can used for skin on the face, neck or hands. In this procedure a chemical solution is applied to the skin that causes it to blister and then eventually peel off. The regenerated skin is less wrinkled and smoother than the old skin.

You can get a chemical peel in a doctor’s office or in a surgery centre. It’s an outpatient procedure, meaning there’s no overnight stay. The skin is cleaned with the help of cleanser. After the skin is cleaned chemical solution, such as trichloroacetic, glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid or carbolic acid is applied on the skin. The solution helps to create controlled wounds that make the skin to exfoliate and ultimately peel off. The new skin that comes is healthier, smoother and blemish free with less wrinkles

During the procedure, most people feel a burning sensation on the skin that may last for about five to ten minutes, this may be followed by a stinging sensation. A cool compresses on the skin may help to ease the stinging. Some people may need a pain medication after a deeper peel.

Chemical peels can be used to:

  • Reduce the fine lines under eyes and the mouth.
  • It helps to treat the wrinkles caused due to aging skin.
  • Helps to restore the skin after sun damage.
  • Helps treat types of acne scars.
  • Helps to reduce freckles, melasma and age spots.
  • To get radiant and glowing skin.

Some facts about a chemical peel:

  • A chemical peel produces a superficial wound by damaging the skin in a controlled manner.
  • Natural healing process heals the skin and this helps in improving the skin’s appearance.
  • The nature of the chemical peel applied to the affected area determines the depth at which the damage occurs.
  • The nature of the skin problem determines the kind of peel which is used.Skin problems like damage due to sun exposure respond well to chemical peels.
  • A recuperation procedure is required after a chemical peel.
  • There are risks like scarring, infection, and undesirable colour change after a chemical peel procedure.
  • The skin is very sensitive to the sun after a chemical peel procedure. Application of a broad–spectrum sunscreens highly recommended. It is advisable to wear a wide brimmed hat when out in the sun.

Who is an ideal candidate for a chemical peel?

People with fair skin and light-hair are better candidates for a chemical peel. Patients with darker skin, may also have good results, but it depends upon the type of problem that is being treated. There may be a chance to have an uneven skin tone after the treatment.

People with severe wrinkles, skin sags and bulges may need laser resurfacing, eyelid lift, brow lift,  a facelift or soft tissue fillers etc. These are different cosmetic surgical procedures. A dermatologist can prescribe the ideal procedure required for after examining your skin.

What are the different types of chemical peels?

Chemical peels can be broadly defined by the depth of damage that they do to the skin. They are:

  • Superficial: These peels does not damage the skin below the epidermis. That is why it requires no recovery time. The skin will be initially red and may scale after this peel. It requires around 1-7 days to heal. Creams or lotions can be applied till the skin heals. Sunscreen is a must.

Salicylic acid, Glycolic acids and Lactic acids:

These peels are made from beta hydroxy or alpha hydroxy acids, also known as BHAs and AHAs. It is quite common to use certain fruit acids and enzymes from natural sources like cranberries, pumpkins, and pineapples. This advanced peeling systems offer results which one would expect from a medium depth peel with very little side effects like that of a superficial peel. In these peels active ingredients are used which help to deliver vitamins and anti-oxidants into the skin .This encourages new skin cells to grow healthier and stronger. Generally six to 10 sessions are recommended for optimum results.

 Salicylic acid is an acne-fighting ingredient found in most over-the-counter products like toners, cleansers, and moisturizers. Salicylic acid works at reducing the dead skin cells that may be trap inside the pores, thus preventing the formation of acne, blackheads and whiteheads. Glycolic acid helps to remove dead skin cells and helps in tackling inflammation caused due to acne.

  • Medium: These peels may reach the superficial layer of the dermis, which is the deeper layer of the skin. The skin will be initially be red and swollen after this kind of peel. Healing process takes about 7-14 days. Swelling will be bad for the initial 48 hours. Sun exposure must be avoided till the healing is complete. Anti-viral medication is prescribed for 10 to 14 days. Camouflage makeup can be used after about 7 days. Follow up appointment with the doctor is required to monitor the effect of the procedure.
  • Deep: These peels reach the deeper layers of the dermis. Healing takes 14 to 21 days. The skin which has been treated will be bandaged. It must be soaked four to six times a day. You will be asked to apply an ointment for the initial 14 days on the affected areas. A thick moisturizer is prescribed for the next 14 days. Antiviral medication is prescribed 10 to 14 days to help deal with any infection. Sun exposure to be avoided for three to six months. Makeup may be used to camouflage the affected area after 14 days. Regular follow-up appointments will be required to monitor progress.

The nature of the concentration of the chemical peel depends on depth of damage and the time it is allowed to interact with your skin Smoking and exposure to the sun must be avoided after a chemical peel as they cause unwanted side effects which includes infections and scarring

What are the precautions required before you get a chemical peel done?

If you have a history of scarring or if you have suffered from cold sores that keep coming back then you need to inform your dermatologist about the same.

Before the procedure, your dermatologist may prepare your skin with medication like Retin-A, glycolic acid or Renova. Antibiotics or an anti-viral drugs may also be prescribed.

Work with your doctor to determine the depth of your peel. This decision depends upon the condition of your skin and your goals for treatment.

Ask your doctor in advance whether you will need to have someone drive you home after your peel.

How does a Chemical Peel work?

Chemical peel can be used on skin which has been damaged because of exposure to the sun, acne scars, wrinkles and scars caused due to any previous injury. In this procedure a chemical solution is applied to the skin that causes it to blister and then peel off. The renewed skin is less wrinkled and smoother than the old skin.

What result can one expect after a Chemical Peel?

A lot depends on the type of chemical peel that has been applied on the skin, a reaction quite similar to a sunburn occurs after the procedure is done. Redness of the skin is followed by scaling that takes about three to seven days to clear up. Mild peels can be repeated between one to four-week intervals, or till you get the look you’re after.

Medium-depth and deep peels may result in some swelling and blisters that break, turn brown, and then peel off over a period of about seven to 14 days. If required, the medium-depth peels may be repeated in six to 12 months.

After the procedure is over, bandages may be required for several days on the skin that was treated.

Exposure to the sun has to be avoided for several months after a chemical peel procedure has been done as your new skin will be fragile.

 What are the Possible Complications after the peels is done?

In some cases the skin develops a temporary or sometimes even a permanent colour change after a chemical peel. Birth control pills, pregnancy after the treatment, or a family history of brownish discoloration on the face may make it more likely.

There may be a low risk of scarring especially in some areas of the face.  But even if scarring does happen, it can be treated with good results.

Medication can be prescribed for people who have a history of herpes outbreaks as there may be a risk of reactivating cold sores. The medication can help prevent or treat the condition.

Are over-the-counter chemical peels as effective as professional chemical peels?

Over-the-counter peels are not as effective as the professional peels. These peels do not damage the skin like the professional peels done by a dermatologist, hence there is no formation of new skin. After a professional chemical peel is done the skin has a more radiant and youthful texture with uniform colouration.

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