Chemical peel removes damaged outer layers of the skin, using a chemical solution to improve and smooth the texture of the facial skin. It is helpful for those individuals with facial blemishes, wrinkles and uneven skin pigmentation, and most commonly performed for cosmetic reasons -- to enhance your appearance and your self-confidence. Chemical peel may also remove pre-cancerous skin growths, soften acne facial scars and even control acne.
All chemical peels carry some uncertainty and risk. However, some unpredictability and risks such as infection and scarring, while infrequent, are possible.
Planning and preparing for a Chemical Peel
Sometimes Retin A - a prescription medication derived from Vitamin A - is used to pre-treat the skin. This thins out the skin's surface layer, allowing the TCA solution to penetrate more deeply and evenly. If your skin won't tolerate Retin-A pre-treatment, an AHA cream may be used instead. Hydroquinone, a bleaching agent, is sometimes used in conjunction with Retin-A or AHA pre-treatment, especially if you have blotchy skin areas or pigmentation problems. You may have to spend a month or more in the pre-treatment phase before the doctor will schedule your actual peel.
Alphahydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic, lactic, or fruit acids are the mildest of the peel formulas and produce light peels. These types of peels can provide smoother, brighter-looking skin for people who can't spare the time to recover from a phenol or TCA peel. AHA peels may be used to treat fine wrinkling, areas of dryness, uneven pigmentation and acne. Various concentrations of an AHA may be applied weekly or at longer intervals to obtain the best result. Your doctor will make this decision during your consultation and as the treatment proceeds.
AHA peels/treatments usually take no more than 10 minutes. No "after-peel" ointment or covering is required. Depending on the strength of the peel, periodic treatments may be necessary until the desired effects are achieved.
After an AHA peel, it is common to experience some temporary flaking or scaling, redness and dryness of the skin. However, these conditions will disappear as the skin adjusts to treatment.
- Smooths rough, dry skin
- Improves texture of sun-damaged skin
- Aids in control of acne
- Can be mixed with bleaching agent to correct pigment problems
- Can be used as TCA pre-treatment
- A series of peels may be needed
- As with most peel treatments, sunblock use is recommended
Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is most commonly used for medium-depth peeling. The results of TCA peel are usually less dramatic than and not as long lasting as those of a phenol peel. In fact, more than one TCA peel may be needed to achieve the desired result. The recovery from a TCA peel is usually shorter than with a phenol peel. A full-face TCA peel usually takes no more than 15 minutes. Two or more TCA peels may be needed to obtain the desired result, and those may be spaced out over several months. Mild TCA peels may be repeated as often as every month. With a TCA peel, your healed skin will be able to produce pigment as always; the peel will not bleach the skin. However, TCA-peel patients are advised to avoid sun exposure for several months after treatment to protect the newly formed layers of skin.
- Smoothes out fine surface wrinkles
- Removes superficial blemishes
- Corrects pigment problems
- Can be used on neck or other body areas
- May require pre-treatment with Retin-A or AHA creams
- Treatment takes only 10-15 minutes
- Preferred for darker-skinned patients
- Peel depth can be adjusted
- Repeat treatment may be needed to maintain results
- Sunblock must be used for several months
- Healing is usually quick
TCA peel may also cause significant swelling, depending on the strength of the peel used.
With an AHA peel, the temporary redness, flaking and dryness that you experience will not prevent you from working or engaging in your normal activities. A fresher and improved skin texture will result with continued AHA treatments. Remember, protecting your skin from the sun is also important following these mild acid peels. Ask your doctor to recommend a sunblock with adequate UVA and UVB protection and use it every day.
With a TCA peel, the moderate discomfort and mild swelling you may experience will subside within the first week. In about a week to ten days, your new skin will be apparent and you should be healed sufficiently to return to your normal activities. It is best to avoid sun exposure unless you are adequately protected.
Improvements from AHA peels may be very subtle at first. You may detect a healthier glow to your skin. With continued treatments, you will notice a general improvement in the texture of your skin.