How a Chemical Peel Is Performed

A chemical peel removes the top layer of your skin to reveal smoother, younger looking skin. Chemical peels involve the application of a chemical solution to the skin. The old layer of skin blisters and peels off, leaving behind a regenerated layer that is smoother and shows fewer wrinkles.

Conditions Treated by Chemical Peels

Chemical peels can be done on the face, neck or hands. They're used to treat some types of acne as well as wrinkles caused by sun damage, age and other factors. They can reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles, minimize the appearance of scars, remove age spots, freckles and blemishes, and make dull, rough skin look smoother and more lustrous.

Preparation for a Chemical Peel

Chemical peels are performed on an outpatient basis, except for deep peels. Your doctor may ask you to stop taking certain drugs, such as Retin-A, which may affect your skin's sensitivity to sunlight. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics or antivirals, as a preventative measure, depending on the type of chemical peel you're to receive. You should ask your doctor whether or not you'll need a friend or relative to drive you home after the procedure.

Getting a Chemical Peel

Your doctor or dermatologist will carefully clean the skin to be treated, so as to remove an excess oils. He'll then apply one or more chemical solutions to the skin. Glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid and carbolic acid are some of the chemical solutions commonly used in chemical peels.

Chemical peel procedures and results vary depending on the type of chemical peel you receive. Chemical peels may be mild, medium depth or deep. The deeper the chemical peel, the longer and more difficult the healing time and the less frequently you're able to repeat the chemical peel procedure.

Mild chemical peels are usually performed with glycolic acid or, for the control of acne, salicylic acid. Immediate effects include sensitivity to sunlight, redness and scaling. You may feel some stinging during the procedure but no serious discomfort. Mild peels take less than 40 minutes to complete.

Mild peels heal within three to seven days and can be repeated every six weeks. Mild chemical peels are the most popular choice for the control of wrinkles, blemishes and acne.

Medium depth and deep chemical peels are used for the treatment of scars and severe blemishes. They are quite invasive and carry a long recovery time. Medium depth and deep chemical peels also carry a number of risk and can be quite uncomfortable, even painful.

Carbolic acid, lactic acid and trichloroacetic acid are usually used for medium and deep peels. Immediate side effects may include swelling and the formation of water blisters. The blisters may break, crust and turn brown before peeling off. Medium peels may require anesthetic and can take 40 minutes or more to complete.

Medium depth peels heal in a period of seven to fourteen days and can be repeated every six to twelve months.

Deep peels are the most painful and may require general anesthesia. Because carbolic acid is used for deep peels, you'll be placed on a heart monitor and receive IV fluids during the procedure. Your skin will be peeled in sections with 15 minute breaks between, to prevent carbolic acid poisoning; the entire procedure can take as long as 90 minutes. Deep peels heel in 10 to 14 days and may require bandages and ointments.

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