Have you ever wished you could get rid of those skin problems and peel them away as if you were removing a mask, taking any blemishes, breakouts and scarring along with it? And all that remained would be smooth, soft skin free of scars and blemishes?
While that scenario may only exist in science fiction, you might be able to get the next best thing with a chemical peel, a treatment frequently used to correct skin imperfections and reduce the signs of aging. Here’s a guide to the science behind chemical peels and why they might be yet another valuable weapon in your anti-acne arsenal.
What Exactly Is A Chemical Peel?
During a chemical peel, a chemical solution is applied to the skin causing the dead skin to slough off and peel away. Skin cells respond to this forced exfoliation by speeding up the production of new cells, resulting in a quicker turnover of dead skin and regeneration of new skin that is usually smoother and less wrinkly than the old skin.
Chemical peels can also be applied to hands, but they are most commonly used on the face and neck. Treatments done in spas or salons involve only the epidermis, or outer layer of skin, but this is effective enough for most people's needs. People generally experience redness after a chemical peel with intensity and duration varying based on the strength of the treatment.
Types of Chemical Peels
- Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) peels are the lightest of the three types of chemical peels. The acids used in AHA peels are obtained from natural sources such as fruit or sour milk, so redness and recovery time are minimal. AHA peels are good for mild cases of acne or minor facial wrinkles.
- Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) peels are moderately stronger than AHA peels. Different concentrations of TCA, the active ingredient, can be customized to address specific needs such as for spot treatments or on isolated patches of skin.
- Phenol peels use carbolic acid, a powerful chemical that is used for serious conditions such as sun-damaged skin and heavy scarring. Recovery is significantly longer, but results are dramatic and longer lasting.
AHA peels and certain TCA peels can be performed by estheticians in salons and spas. Stronger TCA peels and phenol peels can only be done under the supervision of a physician.
In addition to acne relief, chemical peels provide a number of benefits for overall skin health.
- While moisturizers and creams have more of a superficial, short acting effect on lines and wrinkles, chemical peels are a quicker solution that treats the problem directly.
- Chemical exfoliation stimulates production of collagen, which keeps your complexion supple and smooth.
- If your skin is sun-damaged, chemical peels give the natural healing process a boost.
- Peels are often referred to as "lunch-hour treatments" because they can be done in a short amount of time and have no extensive recovery periods.
What to Watch Out For
Chemical peels are generally safe and effective, but as with any cosmetic procedure, there are certain considerations to keep in mind.
- AHA and TCA peels are not permanent. Repeat procedures are often needed to attain desired results. On the other hand, the results of a single phenol peel can last several years.
- Chemical peels are not intended to replace everyday skin maintenance. Treatments should be used in conjunction with a good skin care routine.
- Your post-peel complexion will be more sensitive to the sun, so be sure to use plenty of sunscreen and avoid direct sunlight following treatments.
- Medications can affect a chemical peel both positively and negatively. Prior to the procedure, consult your physician about any drugs that you should or should not be taking in conjunction with the treatment.
- Spas and salons usually package chemical peels with other treatments like facials and massages, making it a great opportunity for overall pampering and relaxation.
Does a chemical peel sound like it would make a good complement to your skin care routine? Chemical peels are a great skincare maintenance option to consider but there are some safety issues to keep in mind as well. Make sure the chemical peel is properly administered either by the dermatologist her/himself, a registered nurse who is supervised by a dermatologist, or by a trained and appropriately licensed esthetician.
Above all, make sure to consult your dermatologist for the solution that's right for you.