Sun exposure, acne or just getting older can leave your skin tone uneven, wrinkled, spotted or scarred. If you want your skin to look smoother and younger, consider a chemical peel, which uses a chemical solution to smooth the texture of your skin by removing the damaged outer layers.
A chemical peel, also called chemexfoliation or derma peeling, is one of the least invasive ways to improve the appearance of your skin. Although chemical peels are used mostly on the face, they can also be used to improve the skin on your neck and hands.
You can improve:
How does a chemical peel work?
Chemical solutions are carefully applied to your skin to improve the texture by removing damaged outer layers. The chemicals used are phenol, trichloroacetic acid and alphahydroxy acids. Each one has a different purpose. The formula used by your doctor will be adjusted to meet your particular needs.
Subtle improvements at first, but that healthy glow will increase with more treatments
If you have uneven pigment, dryness, acne or fine wrinkling, a light chemical peel might be the right choice. This kind of peel removes just the outer layer of skin (epidermis) in a light exfoliation and results in a healthier glow. Your healthcare provider will use a combination of alphahydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid and maleic acid. All of these chemicals are the mildest choices. You can repeat these treatments weekly for up to six weeks to achieve your desired results.
Here’s how it works:
Return once a month to maintain your vibrant new look.
Your skin will be noticeably smoother and fresher-looking
Acne scars, deeper wrinkles and uneven skin color can all be treated with a medium chemical peel. The chemicals used for this type of peel will remove skin cells from both the outer layer of skin (epidermis) and upper part of your middle layer of skin (dermis). Your healthcare provider will use trichloroacetic acid, sometimes used in combination with glycolic acid.
Here’s how it works:
You may repeat a medium chemical peel every 6 to 12 months to maintain your glowing new skin.
Results are dramatic, but recovery takes the longest
If you have deeper facial wrinkles, skin that’s damaged by the sun, scars, areas that appear blotchy or even pre-cancerous growths, deep facial chemical peels might be the right choice for you. Your physician will use the strongest chemical called phenol to penetrate down to the lower dermal layer of your skin. For this type of peel, you may need a local anesthetic and a sedative to manage any discomfort.
Here’s How it Works:
A deep chemical peel usually involves some sort of pretreatment for up to 8 weeks. This will prepare your skin for the peel and speed the healing process. Pretreatment may include use of Retin A – a prescription medication that’s derived from vitamin A. This works to thin out the skin’s surface layer, allowing the chemical solution to penetrate more evenly and deeply. If you can’t tolerate Retin A as a pre-treatment, your doctor may prescribe another medication.
Managing your discomfort: Deep chemical facial peels will result in peeling, redness and discomfort for several days. Your doctor will provide painkillers to keep you comfortable. Although the swelling is likely to disappear in about two weeks, your skin may be red for up to three months.
One treatment with a deep chemical peel will produce long-lasting and dramatic results which can last up to 10 years.
You should understand that all chemical peels will carry some risks and uncertainties. It’s usually a very safe procedure when performed by a qualified and experienced plastic surgeon. It happens infrequently, but you could develop an infection or scarring from chemical peels.
For people with certain skin types, there is a risk of developing a temporary or permanent color change in the skin. Birth control pills, getting pregnant, or family history of brownish discoloration on the face may increase the possibility of developing abnormal pigmentation.
If you have suffered from cold sores (herpes) in the past, there is a small risk of reactivation. Be sure to tell your doctor because she may prescribe medication before and immediately after a chemical peel to avoid an outbreak.
Inform your physician is you have a history of keloids (scar tissue overgrowth) or any unusual scarring tendencies.
Other considerations for each type of peel include:
You are likely to experience some redness, stinging, skin crusting and irritation from a light chemical peel. After repeated treatments these side effects will likely subside. Other risks include:
When trichloroacetic acid is used in a medium chemical peel, you’ll experience some redness, stinging and skin crusting just like a light chemical peel. And although these chemicals won’t bleach your skin, you may see some color changes. You’re advised to avoid the sun for several months to protect that fresh new layer of skin. Other risks include:
The chemical used for this kind of peel, phenol, can lighten the skin that’s treated. Your skin tone may be a determining factor as to whether or not this is an appropriate treatment for you. With this kind of peel, your new skin often loses its ability to make pigment, meaning a tan. You will always need to protect your skin from the sun. Phenol also can pose a special risk for people with heart disease. Be sure to tell your surgeon about any heart problems and include it in your medical history. Other risks include:
A deep chemical peel requires that you have an adequate recovery time. You may return to work and some of your normal activities two weeks after treatment. At that point, your skin will be healed enough for you to wear makeup.
Now that you know what a facial chemical peel can do for your skin, it’s important to understand what they cannot do, such as:
You may not be a good candidate for chemical peeling if you have:
Cost is always a consideration in elective procedures or treatment. The cost for a chemical peel may vary based on the expertise and qualifications of the person performing the treatment, type of chemical peel performed, time and effort the procedure or treatment requires as well as geographic office location. In 2009, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimated national surgeons’ average fees were $764 for a chemical peel. Many plastic surgeons offer patient financing plans, so be sure to ask. Additional fees may include:
When choosing a plastic surgeon for a chemical peel, remember that the surgeon’s experience and your comfort with him or her are just as important as the final cost of the procedure.
Most health insurance does not cover cosmetic surgery or its complications.