Chemical peels are cosmetic treatments that exfoliate the skin with acids. The acid uniformly removes damaged skin cells over the treatment area. When done properly, the skin can heal with little scarring or color change.
Chemical peels can affect the epidermis and dermis of the skin. The epidermis is the visible outermost layer, with the dermis just below it. This deeper layer contains nerve endings, sweat glands and hair follicles.
All chemical peels remove a certain number of skin cells from the epidermis. A more aggressive peel may also remove a small amount of dermis.
What are chemical peels used for?
Dermatologists can use chemical peels to address the following issues:
- acne scars
- Fine lines and wrinkles
What can you expect during a chemical peel treatment?
A dermatologist applies an exfoliating acid to the thicker areas of the skin, such as the chin, nose, and cheeks, and then to the thinner areas around the eyes and mouth during a chemical peel.
The dermatologist may use cold saline compresses to remove any remaining exfoliant after the chemical peel.
They may advise you to use an emollient on your face for a few days after the treatment to help the skin heal.
What to Expect After a Chemical Peel?
The procedure can cause swelling and peeling, which can take 1 to 2 weeks to resolve, depending on the depth and intensity of the peel. It is critical to keep the face dry and not shower or use face wash for the first 24 hours. Also, avoid wearing makeup until the skin has healed.
Types of Chemical Peels
Chemical peels are classified into three types based on how deeply they exfoliate the skin:
- Superficial Peels
- Medium peels
- Deep Peels
The best option is determined by a person’s skin type and shade, as well as the problem they want to address.
If skin problems affect only the top layer of the skin, the epidermis, your dermatologist will recommend superficial peels.
Because superficial peels do not penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, they have less chance of side effects and the skin can recover more quickly.
Superficial peels heal in 1-7 days. During this time, it is critical to wear sunscreen.
Since superficial peels are the gentlest, a person may need up to five sessions to achieve the desired results. Every 2-5 weeks people can have superficial peels.
Dermatologists may recommend medium-deep peels for:
- fine folds
- sunburnt skin
- slight hyperpigmentation
- small acne scars
Medium peels heal in 7-14 days. They cause swelling that worsens 48 hours after treatment and can cause blisters.
The dermatologist recommends a treatment to help the skin heal. It is also critical to avoid excessive sun exposure during the recovery period.
A dermatologist may also prescribe an antiviral medication to be taken for 10-14 days. After 5-7 days, people can wear makeup again, but they should avoid direct sunlight until their skin is completely healed.
Deep chemical peels are rarely used by dermatologists. Laser therapy often produces better results for problems that affect the deeper layers.
Types of Chemical Peeling Acids
Chemical peels can contain several acids, including:
Glycolic acid, lactic acid and citric acid are examples of alpha-hydroxy acids. These acids are commonly found in at-home exfoliating treatments.
Salicylic acid is an example of a beta-hydroxy acid that is particularly beneficial for acne-prone skin and enlarged pores.
Trichloroacetic acid is often used by dermatologists in medium or deep chemical peels.
Phenol is a strong chemical that is useful in deep peels.
Some peeling chemicals cause the skin to develop a white layer, what dermatologists call “enamel.”
Frosting indicates the end of a peel. Its presence and size help the doctor determine if the peel was effective enough.
A chemical peel can have minor side effects. However, some people experience long-term negative consequences, such as:
- Temporary dark spots on the skin
- Temporary light spots on the skin
The best way to avoid these is to see an experienced dermatologist and follow their aftercare instructions carefully.
In general, people with brown or black skin can safely undergo superficial peels. However, the risk increases with deeper peels.
When performing a medium-depth chemical peel treatment in Mumbaias a dermatologist I am extremely careful to avoid unwanted reactions.
Chemical peels at home
Many commercial products contain the same ingredients as chemical peels. However, they contain lower acid concentrations and thus gradually exfoliate the skin.
Products containing the following ingredients can exfoliate the skin in the same way as a professional peel, but with less dramatic results:
Glycolic Acid can be used to treat surface pigmentation, mild signs of aging, fine lines and sun damage.
Lactic acid can also be used to treat minor sun damage, fine lines and hyperpigmentation. It works the same way as glycolic acid.
Mandelic acid is useful for treating superficial redness and uneven skin tone.
Salicylic acid can be beneficial for oily or acne-prone skin.
Professional versus do-it-yourself treatments
It is critical to select a dermatologist who is experienced in chemical peels. This is especially important for people of color, whose skin is more sensitive to the side effects of chemical peels.
The dermatologist will explain what type of peel is best for a person’s skin and which products help the skin heal afterward.
Professional treatments, which contain higher concentrations of acid than commercial products, may provide better results for people with more severe skin conditions.
Although home products are less expensive, they contain weaker chemical solutions. These may be more suitable for those with milder skin problems, such as mild sun damage.
While no downtime is needed for products to cure, it is still important to avoid sun exposure.
Even when used by professionals, strong acids can have serious side effects. Never use professional chemical peels at home.
Even less potent ingredients in commercial products can cause burns. Use with caution and pay close attention to the instructions.
Chemical peels can help reduce skin damage and give skin a more youthful or blemish-free appearance. Your dermatologist will determine the best chemical peel treatment for a person based on their concerns and skin type.
Superficial peels are the least harmful for all skin types. However, each type of chemical peel requires some recovery time and can lead to side effects such as redness, skin peeling and sensitivity to sunlight.
Commercial products contain weaker versions of the chemical peels. They are significantly less expensive than professional peels, but take much longer to produce results.