A chemical peel uses chemicals to improve the look and feel of skin by removing the outer layers. Those with blemishes, uneven skin tone or wrinkles may find this treatment useful. The chemicals used in a chemical peel solution typically include phenol, trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and alphahydroxy acids (AHAs). The solution may be slightly altered to meet the specific needs of the patient. A chemical peel may be performed alongside a face lift. It is not, however, a substitute for plastic surgery and will not prevent aging.
A chemical peel is considered a cosmetic procedure and is usually not covered by insurance. The procedure can make the skin look softer and more youthful. It may soften acne scars, reduce the effects of acne or to remove pre-cancerous skin cells.
Alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) are the mildest of the peels and provide a light peel. Candidates for this type of peel may desire to remove the dull top layer of skin to reveal a glowing complexion. It is also ideal for those who do not have the time to recover from a deeper peel. AHA treatments may be used to treat fine lines and wrinkles, blemishes and blotchy skin.
Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is a medium peel. It is effective in treating fine lines and wrinkles, superficial blemishes and pigment problems. A TCA peel is not as effective or as long lasting as a phenol peel. Therefore, more than one TCA treatment may be needed to achieve the desired results.
A phenol peel is the strongest of the solutions and results in a deep peel. A phenol peel is used to treat deep facial wrinkles, extreme uneven pigmentation and pre-cancerous skin cells. This type of peel can actually leave the treated area lighter than the surrounding areas. Depending on your skin pigmentation, you may decide that a phenol peel is not right for you because the risk of uneven skin tone is too great, especially if you have dark skin. A phenol peel is used primarily on the face. If used on the neck or other areas of the body, scarring can result.
A chemical peel comes with minimal risks although the risk of infection and scarring are always present. Choosing a qualified plastic surgeon will decrease any possible risks.
AHA peels cause redness, stinging, irritation and crusting. Once the use of AHA becomes a part of your regular regimen, these side effects will subside.
A TCA peel will not bleach the skin. However, you will be advised to avoid the sun for several months after treatment. Although it is milder than a phenol treatment, TCA may cause some changes in skin coloration.
A phenol peel will cause the skin to lose its ability to make pigment. Therefore, you will not be able to tan the treated areas. The treated area will always be lighter and will always have to be protected from the sun. Phenol can also pose special risks to those with heart problems. Therefore, you should make your doctor aware of any heart conditions that you may have when he or she takes your medical history.
Your doctor will apply the chemical solution to your face. The process usually takes no more than 10 minutes. You will be able to return to normal activity immediately following your treatment. You should expect some redness, swelling and flaking. If you've had a phenol peel, you may need a day or two to recover because it is possible that you will have extreme swelling to the point that your eyes could swell shut. Once this subsides, you will be able to return to normal activity.