Chemical peels are tried and true. Chemical peels have been around for a long time for good reason—they work. See how a chemical peel could heal your skin woes, from acne scars and uneven skin tone to melasma and fine lines and wrinkles.

Everything old is new again, and chemical peels are experiencing a rebirth of sorts as growing numbers of cosmetic doctors turn to these oldies but goodies to address a wide range of skin concerns and conditions. In 2015, there were 603,305 chemical peels performed, up nearly 25 percent from 2014, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports. Chemical peels are in high demand. What’s great about chemical peels is that they’re low tech and not intimidating when compared to lasers, and they address the same problems—skin discoloration, texture, and wrinkles. Women have been using peels for over 2,000 years! Cleopatra soaked in milk baths to smooth her skin. The active ingredient in milk is lactic acid (an alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA) and these acids (along with beta-hydroxy acids or BHAs) are still among the most commonly used types in modern peels. 

Why get a chemical peel?

These days, the term ‘chemical peel’ applies to so many different formulations ranging from weaker glycolic peels that can be done at home to the strongest Phenol peels often require sedation or general anesthesia. These workhorses can correct acne, age spots, discoloration, tone, fine lines (especially under the eyes and around the mouth), freckles, melasma, sun damage, and more. Some peels produce changes that are relatively light and freshen the skin through exfoliation. Moderately deep peels will help various kinds of pigmentation issues. The deeper peels are effective at correcting wrinkles. Peels tend to cost less than laser skin resurfacing, averaging anywhere from $100 to $500 per treatment based on the type of peel.

What is a chemical peel?

A chemical peel is a technique used to improve the appearance of the skin on the face, neck or hands. A chemical solution is applied to the skin that causes it to exfoliate and eventually peel off. The new, regenerated skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin. The new skin is also temporarily more sensitive to the sun. There are three types of chemical peels:

Superficial (Mild) peels

For more Information about  superficial chemical peels, please click here

Medium-strength peels

What makes peels a medium strength is the percentage of active ingredients. These chemical peels penetrate the outer and middle layers of skin to remove damaged skin cells. The treatment is used to improve age spots, fine lines and wrinkles, freckles and moderate skin discoloration. It also can be used to smooth rough skin and treat some precancerous skin growths, i.e. actinic keratosis. Medium-strength peels use some of the same acids in mild peels, just at a much higher level. For example, trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels when used at more than 25 percent are medium strength, but anything lower would be considered superficial or mild. Here’s what you can expect: Since these peels are deeper, your skin will be red and swollen after application, and blisters may form and break open. Your skin crusts and peels off in one to two weeks. Your doctor may suggest taking antiviral medication for 7 to 14 days starting before and continuing after the peel if you have a history of cold sores. Other aftercare instructions include applying a lotion or cream to the treated area and avoiding the sun. Makeup is OK after about one week. It is usually one and done for a while because there is downtime with these medium-strength peels. Look to medium-depth peels—such as the 25-35 percent TCA and Jessner’s solution—to remedy hyperpigmentation and moderate wrinkles. You may also be a candidate if you have heavy sun damage, leathery skin, and coarse wrinkles that are visible even at rest. Medium-strength chemical peels will also help correct acne scars.

Deep chemical peels

Phenol or more concentrated trichloroacetic acid peels are the strongest chemical peels out there, and they target deep wrinkles, sun damage, and uneven tone. The more deeply penetrate the middle layer of skin to remove damaged skin cells. They are very helpful in treating vertical lines around the mouth, the so-called smoker’s lines and they work best on lighter skin since there is less risk of hypopigmentation or bleaching. Phenol peels are ordinarily used on the face only since the skin of the neck and hands tends to be thinner and more delicate. Here’s what you can expect: Given the strength of these peels, some form of anesthesia is usually required in most individuals. There is some real downtime with phenol peels. Crusting and post-procedure redness occur across the board and can last for weeks. The tradeoff is often dramatic and long-term results. These deep peels will do things that a facelift will not—improve the quality of environmentally damaged skin. Phenol or stronger TCA based peels can be used for more severe skin changes and wrinkles, but these deep peels are not as common given the availability of lasers as well as phenol’s possible link to heart issues.

What are the potential complications or side-effects of a chemical peel?

  • A temporary or permanent change in skin color, particularly for women on birth control pills, who subsequently become pregnant or have a history of brownish facial discoloration.
  • Scarring
  • Reactivation of cold sores.

What to expect after the procedure

All chemical peels require some form of follow up care to maximize your results and avoid potential complications. Afterward, patients experience a reaction similar to sunburn in the treatment area.

Medium peels require 7 to 10 maybe up to 14 days to heal. Treated skin will initially be red and swollen. Swelling worsens for the first 48 hours. Eyelids may swell shut. Blisters may form and break. Skin crusts and peels off in 7 to 14 days. Skin must be soaked daily for a specified period, followed by an ointment application. Antiviral medication is taken for 10 to 14 days. Mild lotion or cream may be applied. Avoid all sun exposure until healing is complete and for a few months afterward. Camouflage makeup may be worn after five to seven days. A follow-up appointment will be necessary to monitor progress. Medium-depth peels may be repeated every 6 to 12 months.

Deep peels require 14 to 21 days to heal. The treated area will be bandaged. Skin must be soaked four to six times daily, followed by an ointment application for the first 14 days. Afterward, a thick moisturizer is applied for the next 14 days. Antiviral medication is taken for 10 to 14 days. Mild lotion or cream may be applied. Avoid all sun exposure for three to six months. Camouflage makeup may be worn after 14 days. Several follow-up appointments will be necessary to monitor progress. 

Sun exposure and smoking after a chemical peel must be avoided because they can cause unwanted side effects, including infection and scarring.