A chemical peel is a technique used to resurface the skin by applying a chemical solution which removes the damaged top layers of skin. As the top layers peel off, new skin tissue regenerates underneath resulting in a smoother, improved appearance. Chemical peels are classified as light, medium or deep according to the solution that is used and the layer of skin the solution penetrates.
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A chemical peel is a solution that is applied topically to the skin. The solution “injures” the topmost layers of the skin causing them to peel away and regenerates new skin underneath that has improved texture and tone.
A chemical peel can be used to treat various problems such as discolouration, fine lines, and light wrinkles and scars. It is typically applied to the face but can also be used on the hands, neck, and other parts of the body.
Various chemicals are used that can reach different depths of the skin and the depth you want to reach will depend on what issue you want to address with the peel. The different types are:
It is important to have a consultation first to determine if you’re a good candidate for a chemical peel. A chemical peel or certain types of chemical peels may not be appropriate for you.
It is a good idea to review your medical history, especially if you have ever had any heart, kidney, or liver conditions as these conditions are contraindicated for a deep chemical peel. Your specialist will also want to know about any medications or vitamins you take or have taken that can make your skin sensitive to the sun, if you have used any retinoid creams, and if you have had any other cosmetic procedures.
Some other contraindications for certain types of chemical peels include:
You will also want to discuss what outcome you hope for by doing a chemical peel. Then your specialist can advise if it is possible, what type of peel will work best, and how many treatments you might need.
Chemical peels are generally done as an outpatient procedure so you can leave shortly after the procedure is finished. Before your procedure starts, your specialist will prepare your face. Your face will be cleaned and your lips and eyes will be protected by applying either ointment, tape, or gauze or goggles for your eyes. They may also protect your hair if it can fall on your face.
Usually, you will not need pain relief for a light chemical peel but you may be given the option of taking a sedative or painkiller for a medium peel.
For a deep chemical peel, the specialist will give you either local anaesthesia along with a sedative, a regional anaesthesia, which numbs a particular region of the body, or even general anaesthesia. Along with the sedative and/or anaesthesia, intravenous (IV) fluids may also be administered and your heart rate monitored.
Also for a deep chemical peel, you may be given a pretreatment to apply for up to 8 weeks before treatment. This can include using a prescription retinoid cream or gel. The pretreatment thins out your skin’s surface layer, which will allow the chemical solution to penetrate more deeply and even when it is applied and also then help speed up the healing process.
Light chemical peel:
1. The chemical solution is applied to your face with either a brush, cotton ball, sponge, or gauze.
2. It will be left on your face for a few minutes to allow it to work. You might feel some mild stinging and the skin will begin to whiten.
3. The solution is then washed off your skin or a neutralizing solution is applied.
Medium chemical peel:
1. The chemical solution is applied to your face with a cotton-tipped applicator or gauze.
2. It will be left on your face for a few minutes and the treated areas of your face may turn a whitish-grey colour, called 'frosting'.
3. After those few minutes, cool saline compresses will be applied to your skin and you may be given a hand-held fan to help cool your skin as well. No neutralizing skin is applied and the peel stays on your skin.
4. You might experience some stinging and burning for up to 20 minutes.
Deep chemical peel:
1. The chemical solution is applied to your skin with a cotton-tipped applicator or sponge. Your skin will begin to “frost” (turn white or grey). The solution is then neutralized with water.
2. Your specialist will apply the peel in 10 to 20-minute intervals and/or to one section of your face at a time to limit your exposure to the phenol.
3. You will have either adhesive bandages or gauze or ointment applied to your face to protect it as it heals.
4. You may continue to experience some frosting for about an hour after treatment.
You may have some stinging, flaking, redness, or skin irritation just after the peel but these side effects may occur less after repeat treatments. You’ll be instructed about washing your face afterwards and what moisturizers or ointments to apply.
Your skin will typically heal 1 to 7 days after the peel, although the new skin may be temporarily lighter or darker than usual. You will be advised to wear high-factor sunscreen after any peel. It’s possible for hyperpigmentation, or brown blotches, to occur after a light peel without the use of sunscreen.
Your skin may turn a red or brown colour in the days after the peel. The peeling process usually starts about 48 hours after your peel and lasts about a week, although the skin can take up to 14 days to heal and redness can last for a few months. It’s important to keep your skin moisturized during this process and you’ll be instructed how to best wash and moisturize your face.
You may also experience red, tight, or swollen skin and some stinging. Often ice packs, the breeze from a fan, and over-the-counter pain medication can help ease the discomfort. You will need to use sunscreen afterwards but keep in mind that it is still possible for hyperpigmentation to occur while using sunscreen after a medium chemical peel.
You’ll likely experience some pain, swelling, redness, oozing, crusting of the skin, and burning after a deep chemical peel. Your eyes may swell shut. Most of these symptoms will subside over 7 to 10 days but the redness will fade more slowly over months. You may want to take up to 2 weeks off from work to recover but can return to your normal activities after those 2 weeks.
Your skin will stiffen and peel within days after the procedure and new skin will appear in 1 to 2 weeks. The treated area will always appear paler compared to the rest of your skin and will be much more sensitive to sun exposure than your untreated skin. The skin often loses its ability to tan after a deep chemical peel so it is vital to always use sunscreen to protect the skin.
Your skin will usually heal 1 to 7 days after the peel. New skin may be temporarily lighter or darker than usual.
Your skin usually starts to peel about 48 hours after your procedure. It typically lasts about 1 week, although the skin can take up to 14 days to heal and redness can last for a few months.
Your symptoms will likely subside over 10 to 14 days but the redness can take months to go away. Your skin will peel within days after the procedure and new skin should cover the treated areas in about 2 weeks.
A light chemical peel can be repeated as often as every 2 to 5 weeks depending on the results you wish.
You can repeat a medium chemical peel after 3 to 9 months to maintain your results.
You can only do a deep chemical peel once but results from the peel can last up to 10 years.
Chemical peels can produce dramatic results, especially a deep peel, but keep in mind that you may acquire new lines and wrinkles as you age and any new sun damage can cause pigmentation changes and reverse your results.
Chemical Peel is offered in 4 countries