Everything You Need to Know about Chemical Peels

A woman taking a chemical peel off her face

Before you decide to try a chemical peel, you need to know what these procedures are exactly and whether they are safe for you. There is a lot of controversial information regarding these treatments online and in popular beauty magazines, so it’s hard to understand what this they are all about. We will try to help you by explaining all the most important facts.

Chemical Peels: Uses and Types

A chemical peel is a procedure where a chemical solution (usually a mild acid) is applied to your skin to make it peel off, revealing a new healthier layer. These peels can be used to treat the following beauty problems:

  • Wrinkles
  • Crow’s feet
  • Post-acne scarring
  • Scars
  • Pigment spots caused by sun damage
  • Melasma
  • Freckles
  • Acne (only certain types)

Even if you don’t suffer from any of the aforementioned conditions, you may still benefit from undergoing this treatment as it will improve the state and feel of your skin. However, it’s essential to choose the right type of peel for you.

There are three most common types of chemical peels:

  1. Superficial.
    This peel is performed by applying some alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) or a similar compound onto your skin to exfoliate it gently. It penetrates only the outer layers of skin, so it’s inefficient against wrinkles or deep scars. This treatment is good for removing mild discolorations on the face, chest, and hands.
  2. Medium.
    These peels use “stronger” chemicals, such as trichloroacetic or glycolic acids, and are more effective in treating damaged skin cells. They can be used to remove small wrinkles or skin growths, like actinic keratosis.
  3. Deep.
    These are the most effective anti-aging and anti-scarring peels, but they also are the most dangerous. The treatment is performed by using a higher concentration of trichloroacetic acid or phenol and it can penetrate into the deep layers of skin. This procedure is used for the face and can be performed only once. You will see a dramatic improvement right away, but it’s essential to follow your doctor’s advice to the letter in order to prevent the appearance of negative side effects.

Before the Peel

A correct preparation for a chemical peel is essential to ensure that the procedure goes smoothly and doesn’t create any future problems. You should always start with consulting a qualified dermatologist to determine whether it’s safe for you to perform this treatment.

The doctor will provide you with some guidelines you will need to follow in order to prepare your body for this procedure. You may need to quit taking some drugs or start taking them to reduce the risk of side effects.

Note that some people should avoid these treatments by default. They are:

  • People currently suffering from an active skin disease or inflammation.
  • People with sunburn, sores, or otherwise damaged skin.
  • Patients suffering from chronic rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis.
  • Pregnant women and nursing mothers.

You should also know that the efficiency of this treatment for girls with darker skin is lower and it’s imperative not to use any Retin-A products within 48 hours before the peel.

Pain, Complications, and Side Effects

A properly performed chemical peel must not be painful. You will definitely feel some stinging, and it’s impossible to define its strength as every person’s sensitivity level is unique. However, a strong acute pain is a definite sign that something is very wrong.

It’s normal to develop some redness and sensitivity after the procedure, so you will need to avoid direct sunlight and use specialized soothing products prescribed by your doctor. The stronger the peel, the worse is the stinging and aftereffects of the treatment.

In some cases, chemical peels can cause serious negative side effects and complications, such as:

  • Scarring (often caused by smoking and exposure to sunlight after the procedure)
  • Change in skin color (temporary or permanent)
  • Reactivation of sores

Depending on the type of peel you choose, you will need up to 7, 14, or 21 days to heal completely. However, this is an outpatient procedure, so you will be able to go home right away.

Regardless of the kind of the peel you wish to try, it’s essential to have it performed by a certified and experienced professional. 

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