History of the Chemical Peel

The chemical peel is a procedure in which an acid mixture is allowed to soak into the skin until the skin is burned. The acid is then removed and the injured skin peels off, revealing newer, smoother skin. Here's a look at the history of this procedure.

Chemical Peels in Ancient Rome and Medieval Europe

Chemical peels have existed since the time of Cleopatra. This famous queen used lactic acid (found in sour milk) and tartaric acid (found in wine) to give herself mild chemical peels. This practice continued through the Middle Ages. Modern scientists now know that sour milk and wine also contain alpha hydroxy acids, which are used today in some mild chemical peels.

The Development of Modern Chemical Peels

In the early years of the twentieth century, Americans and Europeans could receive mild chemical peels from salons who used secret recipes for their peeling solutions.

Modern dermatologists, such as P.G. Unna, supported the practice of chemical peels using salicylic acid, resorcinol, phenol and trichloroacetic acid. The phenol peel was developed in the 1950s for use on those with deep wrinkles, severe scarring and skin growths. By the 1960s, dermatologists were looking for other agents they could use to perform chemical peels.

Peeling Agents Used Today

Today, the most common peeling agents are salicylic acid and glycolic acid for mild peels, pyruvic acid for medium peels and phenol for deep peels.

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