Chemical peels are used to treat facial skin problems ranging from fine lines and wrinkles, dry patches and sun-damaged skin to deep folds, acne scars and pigmentation problems. Generally, chemicals applied to the face dissolve layers of skin to reveal newer, tighter and more youthful layers. They have the added advantage of helping control acne and helping the skin respond to exposure to wind, cold and other external factors after treatments.
This non-surgical technique generally takes place in a physician's office and requires no anesthesia. The time involved depends on the strengths of the peel and the size of the area being treated.
Chemical peels range in intensity depending on the choice of chemicals, concentration used and exposure time in each treatment.
Mild chemical peels use alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic, lactic or fruit acids and treat the surface layers of the skin. Patients may experience mild tingling or a stinging sensation when they are applied. These procedures generally take about 15 minutes. Patients can return to work immediately. Multiple treatments may be needed to acquire the desired effect.
Moderate chemical peels use trichloroacetic acid (TCA) go deeper than mild peels are preferred for dark-skinned people. These procedures generally take between 15 and 30 minutes. Some swelling and skin crusting is normal following moderate chemical peels. Over-the-counter products may be used to help alleviate facial discomfort for a day or two. Patients generally return to normal activity in about one week.
Harsh chemical peels are the deepest and are used to remove coarse wrinkles and scarring. In some cases, they are also used to remove pre-cancerous skin cells. After a careful skin cleansing, the chemical is applied. It is removed with water to neutralize the effect. Petroleum jelly is applied generously to keep the skin moist while crusting occurs. The physician may also apply a mask for the first day or two. Patients generally return to normal activity within 2 weeks.
The deeper the chemical peel, the more likely patients are to experience increasing degrees of discomfort from the procedure. The physician can prescribe pain medication if needed. With increasing intensity depending on the chemicals used, patients can expect some swelling and puffiness. It is important to keep the skin moist with the ointments recommended by the physician after the procedure. After moderate and harsh treatments, scabbing will occur, which is natural. Do not pick or pull the scabs as this may create permanent scarring. Allow the scab layer to form and fall off naturally in about one week.
All chemical peel patients may experience redness and pinkness of the skin for a few weeks following the procedure. This is normal and can be masked by cosmetic make-up. The full effect of the treatment for moderate and harsh chemical peels is generally not visible for a few months. Chemical peels tend to have a bleaching effect, which may not make them suitable to individuals with dark skin. Patients should avoid sun exposure during the recovery period and use sun blocks.