What is a chemical peel?

What is a chemical peel?

Today, chemical peels are primarily performed for cosmetic reasons. Many women and men are choosing chemical peels as an alternative to plastic surgery. A chemical peel is a procedure that uses a chemical solution to peel away the outer layers of the skin to reveal a clearer, brighter complexion with a smoother texture.

While many chemical peels are mainly for cosmetic reasons, there are several other reasons chemical peels are performed. Chemical peels do not replace plastic surgery and/ or are not substitutes either. There are types of chemical peels, which are classified as superficial, medium, and deep. As with any procedure done to the body, there are risks involved.

Superficial peels use solutions composed of Alpha-hydroxy acids, AHA. This type of peel is the mildest chemical peel available. AHA is commonly known as fruit acids which include glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid. The superficial peel damages the outer layer of the epidermis while collagen in the upper layer of the skin is mildly stimulated. AHA peels help to improve sun-damaged skin and even out uneven skin tones.

It can also smooth skin that is lightly wrinkled, rough, and/ or dry. These kinds of peels produce light peel with temporary results. The recovery time for these mild peels are rapid and normally only consist of minor flaking of the skin with redness for a few days. For the best results, it is recommended superficial peels are received on a regular basis.

Medium peels are best for treating sun-damaged skin. This type of peel is also best for reducing the appearance of vitiligo and leukoderma, conditions in which the skin lacks pigmentation in certain areas. Trichloroacetic acid, TCA, is used in medium peels to destroy both the epidermis and upper dermis causing the skin to peel or shed off within five to seven days after the procedure.

Once the skin is shed, the coagulation of the epidermis causes a white frost to form. The white frost soon disappears leaving a red, swollen layer causing burning and/or irritation. The skin will then turn brownish in color, after a day or so, which later changes to a scab or crust. The scab will last between seven and twelve days. Prescribed mild pain medication usually helps to ease the burning and/ or throbbing effects caused by the peel.

In about a week and a half, the new skin will begin to appear and normal activities can be resumed. While medium peels produce better results than superficial peels, more than one peel may be needed to achieve the desired results. Medium peels are also best for people with darker skin.

For the maximum results from a chemical peel, a deep peel should be performed. Deep peels use solutions composed of phenol acid. Phenol acid is very strong and should only be used on the facial area. It is not recommended for use on other parts of the body because it can leave scarring.

Deep peels are mainly used to treat coarse facial wrinkles, skin that is blotchy due to excess sun exposure, and pre-cancerous growth. Phenol can cause permanent lightening of the skin; therefore, it should not be used on dark-skinned individuals. With a phenol peel, the procedure is typically the same as a medium peel. Pain medication is also prescribed to ease the symptoms of the peel.

However, the new skin formed after the procedure loses its ability to pigment causing the skin to be lighter in color. This new skin will always need to be protected from the sun to avoid damage. The results of a phenol peel are dramatic and are long-lasting, but recovery can be slow and take up to several months.

Chemical peels can be great for some individuals, helping them to obtain the cosmetic results they desire. When performed by an experienced plastic surgeon, the results can be wonderful. However, when performed by someone other than a plastic surgeon, the results can be less than satisfying or worse. Many states do not require a person to be medically licensed to perform a chemical peel. It is best to use sound judgment when looking for someone to perform the procedure.

Of course, with any procedure, there are risks involved, which is why it is best to have a licensed, qualified plastic surgeon with experience to perform the chemical peel. It is very important for people who have undergone medium or deep peels to take good care of their new skin to avoid damaging side effects.

It is possible for people with skin allergies to experience a flare-up of their allergies after a peel. Fever blisters, cold sores, infections, and mild scarring are other possible side effects. Very seldom, thick scarring occurs after a deep peel. Abnormal heart rhythms have been noted in some individuals.

Chemical peels can be a great way to rejuvenate the skin. However, they will not stop or slow down the aging process. Be sure to ask questions before, during, and after the procedure to ensure the best care. The best results are obtained when the consumer is knowledgeable about the procedure. The type of peel best for an individual should be determined by a licensed plastic surgeon.

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