Chemical peels remove damaged outer layers of skin to make skin smoother, reduce scarring, and remove blemishes. Ranging from mild to strong, there are three types of chemical peels: alphahydroxy acid (AHA), trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and phenol. The strength of each peel is tailored to the patient. Peels can be combined with other procedures, such as facelifts, for additional improvement to skin. Chemical peels may be covered by insurance if they are performed for medical rather than cosmetic reasons. Chemical peels are performed in a plastic surgeon’s or dermatologist’s office, or an outpatient surgical center. Anesthesia is not required because TCA and phenol have anesthetic properties, and AHA produces only a slight stinging.
Whether in Teaneck or Timbuktu, basically every one of us could use a chemical peel. By forcing our outer layer or layers to slough off the dead skin cells, dirt, and other junk, chemical peels simply give our skin’s natural exfoliation process a boost. Chemical peels are a natural treatment, where peeling agents encourage the skin to shed old cells.
To have a peel, you cannot have any active skin conditions or infections.
Chemical peels are nothing new — Cleopatra was possibly the first proponent, as she was known to apply sour milk (lactic acid) to her face for her chemical peels. The goal is to push your skin to exfoliate more than your normal amount. You may not know this, but our skin fully regenerates itself every 27 days. It does this through exfoliation. The strength of peel you choose dictates just how deeply your skin will be affected.
Peels can address the following skin conditions:
The peeling agent and how long it is left on the skin determines the type of peel. At Advanced Laser and Skin Cancer Center, we perform the following three types of peels:
For these peels we use naturally derived alphahydroxy acids. These may be glycolic acid (derived from sugar cane, grapes, or sugar beets), lactic acid (derived from sour milk), or salicylic acid (derived from plants). The acid only penetrates the outermost layer of the skin, creating gentle exfoliation.
Medium peels are done with trichloroacetic acid. The TCA reaches the middle layer of the skin for more aggressive exfoliation.
Deep peels use phenol acid as the peeling agent. They fully penetrate into the middle layer of the skin. These peels remove the most skin and can be effective for more serious skin imperfections such as cystic acne scarring.
A phenol or TCA peel can result in tingling or throbbing, reddened skin, a crust or scab, and significant swelling that lasts, depending on the strength of the peel used, about a week. With a phenol peel, eyes may be swollen shut at first, and the patient may be put on a liquid diet and advised to keep talking to a minimum. Any tape used is removed after a day or two. AHA peels can cause temporary stinging, redness and irritation, as well as flaking or crusting. After a chemical peel, it is essential that the skin be protected from the sun.
During a TCA or phenol peel, the skin is cleansed and the solution is applied, which may cause a brief stinging sensation. Petroleum jelly or a waterproof adhesive tape may be put on the skin following a phenol peel. During an AHA peel, the skin is cleansed and the solution applied; there is no need for post-peel ointment or covering.
Chemical peels take different amounts of time depending upon the type of peel. Superficial peels take around 30 minutes. Deep peels take up to 90 minutes. This longer timeframe is necessary to limit the skin exposure to the phenol acid. These are done in 15-minute blocks of time
Frequency varies with the type of peel:
Superficial/Alphahydroxy peels can be done on a regular basis to keep your skin clear of dead skin and looking its best.
Medium/Trichloroacetic acid peels can only be done three to four times in a year.
Deep/Phenol peels are typically once in a lifetime events, due to their aggressive removal of skin and necessary recovery. They can be done no more than once in a 10-year period.
As with frequency, downtime after a chemical peel varies with the type.
Superficial peels don’t require any downtime. After your first few light peels, your skin may have some redness and irritation, but as your skin becomes more exfoliated this will pass and your skin will simply glow after your peel.
Medium peels will require some recovery time, as they leave the skin red and stinging. There will be some crusting, and the redness can linger for up to a few weeks.
Deep chemical peels are aggressive skin treatment and require recovery time. The patient will have peeling, crusting, swelling, and redness for several days after the peel. It’s common for the patient’s eyelids to swell shut. There can be throbbing sensations during the first few days. Redness can remain for up to three months, and the use of sunscreen is paramount, as your skin will be very fragile.
Your skin will start flaking as the dead skin cells are shed. This process starts about a day after your peel with superficial peels. As you would expect, this is much more dramatic with medium and deep peels. After medium peels, your skin first turns brown the first day after your peel. In 3 to 4 days it begins peeling. You can expect about 7-10 days of recovery and then you’ll see real improvements that will continue to build. Deep peels will create extensive peeling, crusting, swelling, and redness. The redness can last for months. For a deep peel, you can expect to really see your results in a month or so, although you’ll probably still have some redness.
For more information click here to read our recent blog article: “Why You Might Want to Schedule a Chemical Peel this Season”
Call the office to schedule your consultation at 201-836-9696 or click here to fill out your online request. Advanced Laser & Skin Cancer Center is proud to serve Teaneck, NJ, and the surrounding areas.