Should I be using a chemical peel?
Chemical peels are liquid solutions which can be applied to skin to remove dead skin cells and promote regeneration and new cell growth. They are used in the treatment of irregular pigmentation, acne scarring and to reduce facial lines by tightening the skin, and typically use trichloroacetic, salicylic or glycolic acid. The effectiveness of a chemical peel – and the normal recovery time – will vary depending on the depth of the treatment: medium and deep skin peels require more time for the skin to heal but tend to have a greater effect.
There are three different degrees of chemical peel – superficial, medium and deep – and each should be considered individually depending on the problem being treated.
Superficial peels make skin brighter and appear more vibrant by removing cells from the epidermis, the top layer of skin. They are widely available over the counter, but can also be applied by beauty therapists and trained medical staff. After application, the liquid peel is left on the skin for a few minutes before being removed. You may feel some tightness and your skin might appear sunburned. Superficial peels require regular treatments to maintain any improvements since the effects are more temporary.
A medium peel is a deeper treatment that removes skin cells from the upper part of the dermis and grenz zone, a narrow layer beneath the epidermis. As with a superficial peel, they should be applied to the skin and left for a few minutes before being removed. A medium peel with trichloroacetic acid can be used to treat fine lines, uneven pigmentation, melasma and teenage acne and, when performed by a qualified professional, are effective and reliable. Unlike the superficial treatments, a medium peel need only be repeated every 6 to 12 months.
Deep peels act on both the papillary and reticular dermis and should only be carried out by skilled professionals. It is normal for a local anaesthetic and sedative to be used during the procedure. The peel is left on the face for around half an hour before it is thoroughly removed. In the days after the procedure the treated area will be sore and there may be some redness for a number of weeks or, in some cases, several months. Because the effects of a deep peel last for much longer, it is not necessary to repeat the treatment.
Aftercare and Risks of a Chemical Peel
After any chemical peel, irrespective of the depth, it is extremely important to wear a high SPF sun cream for at least a month following the procedure, since the new skin exposed by the treatment is especially prone to sun damage. In a very limited number of cases, a chemical peel can affect the skin’s pigmentation, making it appear lighter or darker than before. It may also cause a recurrence of the cold sore or herpes simplex virus. If you have any doubts about the correct aftercare or whether a chemical peel is right for your skin, you should seek advice from a specialist practitioner or clinic.