Chemical peels are some of the most minimally invasive procedures that can be performed, for those patients who want to reduce the look of hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and other visible signs of aging. Chemical peels are also known chemexfoliation or dermapeel.
The Chemexfoliation Procedure
A chemical peel normally involves a medically-licensed cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist applying a medical-grade acid onto the surface of a patient’s skin to remove the damaged, outer layers.
Generally, chemexfoliation can help treat: acne, acne scars, freckles, fine lines, wrinkles, scars, sun damage, age spots, liver spots, pigmentation, and rough scaly patches.
Criteria for Ideal Candidates
Those who have a history of abnormal skin scarring, have Asian or Afro-Caribbean skin, red hair and freckles, or facial warts may not be the most ideal candidates for particular types of chemical peels.
However, those patients who fall into one of the aforementioned categories should discuss their health and skin history with a physician before ruling out the possibility of a chemical peel.
Varying Types and Degrees of Peels
Salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, and maleic acid may all used in varying combinations during light dermapeel procedures. These chemicals are the mildest options available.
A light peel is ideal for those who have uneven pigmentation, acne, fine wrinkling, and dryness.
Skin cells from the outermost layer of skin are lightly exfoliated to help produce a more healthy, glowing, youthful complexion and appearance.
Results of a first-time light peel tend not to be as drastic as other peels, meaning that many patients require multiple appointments to achieve their desired result. This is not uncommon, and most physicians will explain the need for multiple sessions beforehand in order to better manage patient expectations.
Patients who undergo a light peel are expected to experience some level of redness, flaking of skin, stinging, and irritation.
For patients who only require minimal results, a lower concentration of these peels may be applied by a licensed aesthetician.
Trichloracetic Acid (TCA) is one of the most common chemicals used during medium-depth peels, to treat deeper issues like acne scars, uneven skin color, and deeper wrinkles.
The peel will remove skin cells from the epidermis, as well as some cells from the middle “dermis” layer of skin.
Glycolic acid may also be used in combination with trichloracetic acid in a medium derma peel.
After the medium peel procedure is performed, some stinging, redness, and skin crusting is normal.
Patients who undergo a medium peel are advised to avoid exposure to the sun for several months to prevent hyperpigmentation and scarring. Many physicians will recommend undergoing a medium peel during winter months to better avoid harmful sun exposure.
Deeper wrinkles, sun damage, blotchiness, scars, and even precancerous growths can all be treated with a deep chemical peel.
A chemical known as phenol is most commonly used in this procedure. Because of the strength of phenol, a local anesthetic and/or a sedative may be used to prevent the patient from experiencing high levels of pain. For this reason, some medical professionals consider the phenol peel to be a surgical procedure.
In order to allow the phenol to better penetrate the skin, retinoic acid cream or gel, a derivative of Vitamin A, can be used as a first step, in order to thin the first layer of skin.
When a patient undergoes a deep dermapeel, adequate recovery time is necessary. Two weeks after the procedures is performed, patients are typically cleared to return to regular activities such as work. At this point, the skin should healed enough for the patient to resume their normal makeup routine.
Peeling, skin crusting, redness, and discomfort may occur several days after treatment. Swelling may last upwards of two weeks, with some redness remaining for up to three months. In some situation, the physician may prescribe pain management drugs.
Risks of scarring when using phenol is higher than other chemical peels due its toxicity level, although this is still relatively rare.
The results of a deep dermapeel does, however, provide dramatic results, and for many, can replace more invasive surgical procedures.
Potential Risks Involved
Like any other elective or cosmetic procedure, dermapeels can come with risks and side effects, though they are infrequent.
Scarring and infections are the most common of side effects associated with chemexfolation.
Patients with particular skin types run the risk of developing a temporary to permanent change of color within the skin. This can be either a lightening or darkening effect. Abnormal pigmentation may occur in those who are taking particular hormone medications or that have familial history of brown discolorations in the face. Be sure to provide your doctor a thorough medical history prior to the procedure so he or she can make the most informed assessment about your risk level.
Chemexfoliation may trigger an outbreak in patients that have suffered from certain types of cold sores, or herpes, in the past. Consult your physician about prescribing a medication to help prevent an outbreak.
There are facial peel products available on the market that can be used in the privacy of your own home to provide a fresher or more luminous complexion. These results are not as drastic as an in-office peel, but may provide satisfactory results for those with less severe visible aging.
These products tend to be an easy first step for people who are apprehensive about the outpatient procedure. They may also help patients maintain the results of a previously-administered medical-grade peel.
The most popular of these products is the enzyme peel. Generally high in Vitamin A and made from natural ingredients like pumpkin or papaya, enzyme peels are highly exfoliating and can reduce the appearance of dullness, some hyperpigmentation, and mild fine lines. Since they are significantly less abrasive than medical-grade peels, these products are appropriate for most people to apply at home.
For those who prefer a more natural alternative, there are facial peels that can be made in your own kitchen.
Some raw cane sugar and lemon juice can be a quick and easy alternative that involves very little cost and no downtime.
The acids in the sugar and the lemon will help to exfoliate any damage or dried cells from the surface of your epidermis. Sugar cane acts as a mild chemical exfoliant due to its natural glycolic acid content, while lemon juice’s ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) aids in collagen synthesis and acts as a natural skin-brightener that can help improve skin luminosity and fade the look of dullness or discoloration.
Apply the mixture to your skin and let dry. Once this primary layer is dry, add another, and another once the second is near drying. Let final layer dry for several minutes.
Some patients choose to gently rub this final layer into skin in circular motions to aid in exfoliation.
Rinse with cool water and gently pat dry. Be sure to use an SPF moisturizer after this treatment, as high levels of ascorbic acid can contribute to sun sensitivity.
This recipe may not be appropriate for those with extremely sensitive skin. We recommend performing a patch test 24 prior to your planned at-home peel to ensure that no rash or irritation appears.
Whatever your chosen method of treating skin issues such as dark spots, fine lines, dullness, and wrinkling, be sure to learn the basic facts about a given procedure before committing to it, and never feel pressured to try a procedure that makes you feel uncomfortable. Beauty, as always, begins in knowledge.