Chemical peels

Chemical peels are a popular non-surgical cosmetic treatment which helps to improve the appearance of the skin. They involve the use of chemicals to remove dead skin cells, resulting in smooth, healthy skin. This procedure is performed at a private cosmetic clinic.

They are mainly used to treat:

  • Acne scarring
  • Sun damaged skin
  • Mild scarring
  • Age spots
  • Lines and wrinkles

They are usually applied to areas of skin on the face, hands and neck. These are areas of skin which are most exposed to the sun.

How does a chemical peel work?

The chemical solution used, causes the old, damaged skin to form blisters and then fall away. This leaves a smoother and younger looking skin – which is why it is often performed for facial enhancement reasons.

Who is suitable for a chemical peel?

They work best for people who are blonde haired and fair skinned. Darker skinned people may get a result although this cannot be guaranteed. The reason for this is that there is less risk of an uneven skin tone for a light skinned person as compared to someone with a dark skin.

But this very much depends upon your skin condition.

Chemical peels are not advisable for anyone with a very white skin, freckles and red hair or a history of scarring. This also applies to people with abnormal skin pigmentation.

Types of chemical peels

There are 3 types of peels which are:

  • Light (or superficial)
  • Medium
  • Deep

A light peel only removes the top layer of skin cells (from the epidermis).

A medium peel removes dead skin cells from the top layer of the both the epidermis and dermis.

A deep peel is the most complicated of the three and requires a high degree of skill and experience. It involves the removal of dead skin cells from the top layer of skin (epidermis) plus all the way down to the bottom of the dermis.

Different acids are used for different chemical peels. A light peel uses Glycolic acid; a medium peel uses Trichloroacetic acids; a deep peel uses Carbolic acid.

The chemical peel procedure

You may be asked to apply a pre-conditioning topical cream to your skin before treatment. Use a suncream with a high sun protection factor (SPF) after the procedure when going out of doors.

You may have been prescribed oral antibiotics as well, if so then continue with these as instructed.

On the day of the procedure: your face or hands are cleaned with a substance which removes dirt and excess oils. A chemical solution such as Glycolic acid is then applied to your skin. But the type of acid used depends upon the type of chemical peel, e.g. light, medium or deep.

A local anaesthetic and/or sedation are used with deep chemical peels.

In all 3 cases, the chemical peel is applied to your skin, left for a designated period of time and then rinsed away. You may feel a tingling or burning sensation on your skin during this time.

After a chemical peel

The recovery will differ according to what type of peel you have had.

A light peel results in a pink coloured skin which eases, leaving smooth healthy skin.

A medium peel results in dark brown coloured skin which is itchy but then peels, leaving a bright red skin. This fades after 4 to 6 weeks, leaving healthy new skin. This treatment needs to be repeated on a monthly basis until you get the results you want.

A deep peel has a more dramatic effect. This causes severe pain and discomfort for the first few days, accompanied by itching, peeling and inflammation. It takes up to 2 weeks for these effects to subside.

But a deep peel gives long lasting results. It is a single treatment which is not repeated unlike the light and medium peels.

Side effects of chemical peels

There are a few side effects which include:

  • Inflammation
  • Tight skin
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Scarring
  • Abnormal pigmentation of the skin

And, there is a small risk of cold sores developing in people who have suffered from these previously. But these can be treated with medication.