Chemical peels are when an acid solution is applied to the skin. This is meant to remove any blemishes on the skin, and is meant to help eliminate wrinkles. Depending on the depth needed, chemical peel treatments can take betwen 10 minutes to an hour.
Chemical peels are not new – there is evidence that they go back over 3,500 years. Over the years, chemical peels have changed. There is evidence that substances such as sour milk, fermented grape skins and alabaster were used. These days, different acids are used to remove the outer layer of skin. There are three main types of chemical peel:
This is the most common type of peel. It removes the top layer of skin cells and gently exfoliates the skin, leaving a healthy glow.
This is a quick and easy treatment. First, your face will be cleaned and then the acid will be painted on and left for up to ten minutes. The peel is then washed off and neutralised. Some people do feel mild stinging during the treatment. Directly after the peel, the skin will look quite pink and there may be mild blotchiness which should go within 24 hours. It is generally recommended that these peels are done every 4-6 weeks to keep the glow achieved by the peel.
These peels go deeper into the skin. They can help remove scars (for example from acne) and small wrinkles. They also help to even out skin tone and colour.
First, the skin will be cleaned and the peel applied. The areas treated will turn a white-grey in colour. The face may also swell slightly and most people will feel burning or stinging on their face for up to 2 hours after the treatment. Saline compresses will be applied to the face to neutralise the acid.
Recovery takes about a week, depending on the rate at which your skin heals. During the healing period, the skin may turn a dark brown with white streaks; it will also start to peel off and it may be very itchy. After the skin has started to peel, the skin will turn bright red before starting to fade to pink over the next few weeks.
It is recommended that patients have a peel every month until they get the results they way. After this, a maintenance peel is recommended every 6-12 months.
These peels are not common. The peel penetrates the dermal layer of the skin and helps remove or lessen the appearance of deep wrinkles, lines and scars.
Patients are often sedated during this procedure. Local anaesthetic is applied to the face to numb the skin. The skin is the cleansed thoroughly and the peel applied. The peel will be left on for about half an hour before being neutralised. Many patients will feel ill after the procedure, and many experience moderate to severe pain in the days following the chemical peel. The face will be swollen during the first few days and can be incredibly itchy. It normally takes about a fortnight before most people venture back into the public.
The results from a deep peel can often last up to 10 years, so the effects can be very dramatic.
What are the risks?
If you have a history of skin scarring, chemical peels are probably not for you. Abnormal pigmentation, people with facial warts, Afro-Carribeans and Asians, red hair and freckled skin, or recent use of acne treatments may also prevent you from having a chemical peel done.
The main risk of chemical peels are skin infections or very red/blotchy skin. Both of these should be resolved within a month or so of the procedure. Permanent scarring may also occur, but this is fairly rare. With the deep peels, some people may find that they completely lose the pigmentation in their skin, however this normally heals over time. It is important to wear high protection sun screen after any of the treatments to ensure that the new skin (which is very delicate) is not exposed to too much sun.