Chemical Peel Types and Categories
Chemical peels differ in ingredients and strength and the depth of peeling achieved will vary according to how the peel is applied and the amount of time the peel is left on your skin. Before your treatment, the area of your skin to be treated will be thoroughly cleansed. Dr. V will then apply an even layer of the chemical peel solution that will work on the outer layers of your skin for approximately 15 minutes before your skin will be cleansed again. The overall experience is comfortable for most patients who often say the chemical peel produces a tingling feeling on their skin. Those with sensitive skin may note a slight stinging but this will fade as your skin adjusts to the solution. After your treatment, old and damaged skin will flake away as new skin cells emerge. This is a natural response to the chemical peel and for most light peels no ointments are required. If you receive a deep peel however, Dr. V will apply a protective solution.
Chemical peels are divided into three broad categories based on the depth of action of the chemical: superficial, medium depth, and deep. Alphahydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic, lactic, or fruit acids, are the mildest of the peel formulas. AHA peels (superficial depth peels) essentially work by exfoliating your skin and removing the layer of dead cells (keratinocytes) on your skin’s surface (the stratum corneum). AHA peels may cause redness, irritation and crusting however as your skin adjusts, these problems will subside. Symptoms from an AHA peel will not prevent your from resuming your normal activities and protecting your skin from the sun is crucial following any acid peel. Dr. V will recommend a sunblock with adequate UVA and UVB protection for you to use every day. Various concentrations of an AHA may be applied weekly or at longer intervals to obtain the best result and in some cases, an alphahydroxy acid such as glycolic acid can be mixed with a facial wash as part of your daily skin-care regimen.
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Chemical Peel Benefits
Some of the benefits of regular AHA peels include:
- Helping to control acne by stripping away the plugs where acne bumps form
- Treating fine wrinkling
- Smoothing rough, dry spots (keratinocytes)
- Minimizing acne scarring
- Improving the texture of sun-damaged skin
- AHAs can be mixed with bleaching agents to correct uneven pigmentation problems
Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) can be used in many concentrations but it is most commonly used for medium-depth peeling. A full-face TCA peel usually takes no more than 15 minutes and two or more treatments may be needed to obtain your desired results spaced out over several months. With a TCA peel, you will possibly experience moderate discomfort and mild swelling and Dr. V may prescribe a mild pain medication to relieve any tingling or throbbing you may have. To help your face heal properly, it is essential that you follow the specific post-operative instructions provided by The Virginia Institute for Surgical Arts. In approximately ten days, you should be able to resume your normal activities and your skin will be healed enough for you to wear makeup. TCA-peel patients are advised to avoid sun exposure for several months after treatment to protect the newly formed layers of skin. Mild TCA peels may be repeated as often as every month and a fresher appearance will result with continued treatments.
The benefits of a TCA peel include:
- Treating fine surface wrinkles
- Improving superficial blemishes
- Correcting pigment problems
- Removing pre-cancerous skin growths
- Helping to control acne
- Softening acne facial scars
A deep chemical skin peel, or phenol peel, is the strongest of chemical peels reserved for patients with deep wrinkles from sun exposure. A full-face deep chemical peel takes approximately 1 to 2 hours to perform although a more limited procedure (such as treatment of wrinkling above your lip) typically takes less than a half-hour. During your deep chemical peel, a solution will be applied to the area to be treated avoiding your eyes, brows, and lips. You will experience a slight burning sensation however it is minimal since the solution also acts as an anesthetic. After the deep peel solution has worked on your skin, it will be neutralized with water. Approximately one hour after your treatment, a thick coating of petroleum jelly will be layered over your face to cover the protective crust, which develops rapidly over the area. This will stay in place for 1-2 days and in some cases where severe wrinkling is involved; an alternative technique is that the patient’s face will be covered by a mask made up of strips of adhesive tape with openings for the eyes and mouth. Some patients report discomfort after a deep chemical peel but this can be controlled with medication. A few days after your procedure, new skin will appear with a bright pink color similar to a sunburn and the pinkness will fade within a few days. Post-operative puffiness will also subside in a few days but your skin will remain sensitive and you should avoid exposure to sunlight.
The benefits of a deep chemical peel include:
- Improves nearly all dark discoloration
- Provides overwhelming improvement in wrinkles
- Improves superficial acne scars
- Diminishes imperfections from sun damage
- Improves uneven pigmentation
- Long lasting effects, sometimes up to 20 years