Chemical peels are cosmetic treatments that exfoliate the skin with acids. The acid removes damaged skin cells in a uniform manner across the treatment area. When done correctly, this allows the skin to heal with little scarring or colour change.
Chemical peels can affect the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin. The epidermis is the visible outer layer, with the dermis just beneath it. Nerve endings, sweat glands, and hair follicles are found in this deeper layer.
All chemical peels remove a specific 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 may use chemical peels to address the following issues:
- Acne scarring
- Fine lines and wrinkles
What to expect during a chemical peel treatment?
A dermatologist applies an exfoliant acid to the thicker areas of 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 cool 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 may result in swelling and peeling, which may take 1–2 weeks to resolve, depending on the depth and intensity of the peel. It is critical to keep the face dry and refrain from showering or using 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-depth peels
- Deep peels
The best option is determined by a person’s skin type and shade, as well as the issue they wish to address.
If skin problems only affect the top layer of the skin, the epidermis, your dermatologist will recommend superficial peels.
Because superficial peels do not penetrate the deeper layers of the skin, they have a lower risk of side effects and allow the skin to recover faster.
Superficial peels heal in 1–7 days. During this time, it is critical to wear sunscreen.
Because superficial peels are the gentlest, a person may require up to five sessions to achieve the desired results. Every 2–5 weeks, people may be able to have superficial peels.
Dermatologists may recommend medium-depth peels for:
- fine creases
- sunburned skin
- slight hyperpigmentation
- minor acne scarring
Medium-depth peels heal in 7–14 days. They cause swelling that worsens for 48 hours after treatment and can result in blisters.
The dermatologist recommends a treatment to aid in the healing of the skin. It is also critical to avoid excessive sun exposure during the recovery period.
A dermatologist may also prescribe an antiviral medication that must be taken for 10–14 days. After 5–7 days, people can wear makeup again, but they should avoid direct sunlight until their skin heals completely.
Deep chemical peels are rarely used by dermatologists. Laser therapy frequently produces better results for issues affecting the deeper layers.
Types of chemical peeling acids
Chemical peels can contain a variety of acids, including:
Glycolic acid, lactic acid, and citric acid are examples of alpha-hydroxy acids. These acids are frequently found in at-home exfoliating treatments.
Salicylic acid is one example of a beta-hydroxy acid that is particularly beneficial for acne-prone skin and enlarged pores.
Trichloroacetic acid is commonly used by dermatologists in medium or deep chemical peels.
Phenol is a strong chemical agent that is useful in deep peels.
Some peel chemicals cause the skin to develop a white coating, which dermatologists may refer to as “frosting.”
Frosting denotes the end of a peel. Its presence and extent assist the doctor in determining whether 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 patches of skin
- Temporary light patches of skin
The best way to avoid these is to see an experienced dermatologist and carefully follow their aftercare instructions.
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 Mumbai, as a dermatologist, I am extremely cautious in order to avoid any unwanted reactions.
At-home chemical peel treatments
Many commercial products contain the same ingredients as chemical peels. They contain lower concentrations of acid, however, and thus exfoliate the skin gradually over time.
Products containing the following ingredients may exfoliate the skin in the same way that a professional peel does, but with less dramatic results:
Glycolic acid can be used to treat surface pigmentation, mild ageing signs, fine lines, and sun damage.
Lactic acid can also be used to treat minor sun damage, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation. It works similarly to 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 vs. do-it-yourself treatments
It is critical to select a dermatologist who has prior experience with chemical peels. This is especially important for people of colour, whose skin is more susceptible to the side effects of chemical peels.
The dermatologist will explain which type of peel is best for a person’s skin and which products will help the skin heal afterward.
Professional treatments, which contain higher concentrations of acid than commercial products, may produce better results for people with more severe skin conditions.
Although at-home products are less expensive, they contain weaker chemical solutions. These may be more appropriate for people who have milder skin concerns, such as minor sun damage.
While there is no downtime required for products to heal, it is still important to avoid sun exposure.
Even when used by professionals, strong acids can have serious side effects. At home, never use professional-strength chemical peeling agents.
Even less potent ingredients in commercial products can result in burns. Use these with caution and pay close attention to the instructions.
Chemical peels can help to reduce skin damage and give the skin a more youthful or blemish-free appearance. Your dermatologist will recommend the best chemical peel treatment for a person based on their concerns and skin type.
Superficial peels are the least harmful to all skin types. However, any type of chemical peel necessitates some recovery time and may result in side effects such as redness, skin peeling, and sensitivity to sunlight.
Commercial products contain weaker versions of the chemical peeling agents. They are significantly less expensive than professional peels, but they take much longer to produce results.
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