Chemical peels are a common medical aesthetic procedure where a specific formulation of chemicals is used to treat the skin. This procedure is typically done on either your face, hands or neck. This chemical solution causes the skin to be exfoliated and eventually “peels” off, hence the name. The skin post-treatment is usually smoother and more unblemished than before.
What are chemical peels usually used to treat?
There are a variety of benefits and uses for chemical peels. The conditions can be used to treat include:
- Acne, particularly comedonal acne
- Fine lines & crow’s feet
- Age spots
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
- Acne scars
- Rough skin
What are the different types of chemical peels?
While chemical peels generally serve the same purpose, there are a variety of different tiers of peels. Different chemicals or formulations within the same depth of peel have different special properties which may make them better for certain indications
Light or Superficial peels
Superficial peels only seep through the outermost layers of the skin in order to create a gentle exfoliation effect. Commonly, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are used for these sorts of peels. Superficial peels are able to correct mild blemishes or acne as well as smoothen rough patches of skin while having almost a “facial” like effect in refreshing the skin.
Medium peels penetrate past the outermost layers of the skin and are used to eliminate dead skin cells around the middle layers of the dermis. It can correct deeper forms of pigmentation while improving wrinkles and fine lines. Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) or glycolic acid are commonly used for medium peels.
Deep peels that penetrate deeply into the middle layers of the skin can have the added effect of curing scarring on top of removing pigmentation from the outer and middle layers of the skin. Trichloroacetic acid or phenol is used for deeper peels. You will have to have an IV to deliver fluids to your body during this procedure.
What is the process of getting a chemical peel like?
Dr Wan will first review your medical history as well as inspect the skin where you are about to receive the peel. He will determine what sort of peel will work best for you and your desired results – your skin tone, as well as skin thickness, will be important factors to determine what sort of peel will fit you the best.
Before the procedure, your eyes will need to be protected with protective ointment or goggles in order to prevent any chemicals from getting into them. Depending on the peel you chose, topical numbing cream might have to be applied beforehand in order to minimize discomfort.
Dr Wan will use an applicator to apply the chemical solution evenly to your skin. Cold air will be blown against your skin to minimize discomfort. For some peels, the doctor will apply a neutralizing solution to wash the chemicals off once the peel is done. For self-neutralizing peels, it is not necessary to neutralize the chemical. Moisturizer and sunblock are applied after the peel.
The outer layers of skin will eventually flake or “peel” off. The duration for the skin to renew itself depends on the depth of the peel.
Are there any side effects? What is the downtime like?
There are no major side effects associated with the proper application of chemical peels. Side effects such as pigment changes or redness can occur. Deeper peels have to be used with care to avoid scarring. For deep peels, due to the exposure to phenol, they aren’t supposed to be repeated and are generally only done once.
For medium peels, the treated skin is commonly red and swollen after the treatment. You will feel a stinging sensation for up to 20 minutes after the treatment. Ice packs and painkillers will be given to you in order to reduce any post-treatment pain or discomfort.
With proper ointment and sunscreen use, any redness or swelling should fully heal up within 2 weeks and new skin will be fully developed by then.
Frequently Asked Questions
let us clear your doubts!
Yes, it is common to combine chemical peels with other treatments such as lasers in order to deal with issues such as hard to treat pigmentation like melasma.
For deep peels, only one peel is required or recommended. For light and medium peels, it is recommended that you have 6-8 peels over the span of 3 months. It is generally recommended to have more lighter peels than one more aggressive peel in order to avoid unnecessary damage to the skin.
In general, patients who have darker skin tones are less suitable to get a chemical peel. If you have a darker skin tone, it’s more likely that you develop pigmentary problems post-treatment, so it is better to consult Dr Wan to assess if you would be suitable for a chemical peel.