Chemical Peels and Your Skin
Chemical peels, also known as chemexfoliation, are a technique used to improve the appearance of the skin. In this treatment, a chemical solution is applied to the skin, which causes it to flake and eventually peel off. The new, regenerated skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin. The new skin also is temporarily more sensitive to the sun.
What Conditions Do a Chemical Peel Treat?
Chemical peels are performed on the face, neck, or hands. They can be used to:
Reduce fine lines under the eyes and around the mouth
Treat wrinkles caused by sun damage, aging, and family history
Improve the appearance of mild scarring
Treat certain types of acne
Reduce age spots, freckles, and dark patches due to pregnancy or taking birth control pills (melasma)
Improve the look and feel of skin that is dull in texture and color
Areas of sun damage, which may contain pre-cancerous keratoses that appear as scaly spots, may improve after chemical peeling. Following treatment, new pre-cancerous lesions are less likely to appear.
However, sags, bulges, and more severe wrinkles do not respond well to chemical peels. They may require other kinds of cosmetic surgical procedures, such as carbon dioxide laser resurfacing, a facelift, brow lift, eyelid lift, or soft tissue filler (collagen or fat). A dermatologic surgeon can help determine the most appropriate type of treatment for each individual case.
Who Is a Good Candidate For a Chemical Peel?
Generally, fair-skinned and light-haired patients are ideal candidates for chemical peels. Darker skin types may also have good results, depending upon the type of problem being treated. However, the risk of an uneven skin tone after the procedure is increased.
How Are Chemical Peels Performed?
A chemical peel can be performed in a doctor's office or in a medically supervised skin center as an outpatient procedure.
The skin is thoroughly cleansed with an agent that removes excess oils and the eyes and hair are protected. One or more chemical solutions, such as glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, or carbolic acid (phenol), are applied to small areas on the skin. These applications produce a controlled wound, enabling new, regenerated skin to appear.
Preparing for a Chemical Peel
Prior to the chemical peel, your provider may ask you to stop taking certain drugs and prepare your skin with topical preconditioning medications such as Retin-A, Renova, or glycolic acid. After the chemical peel, it's important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.
If you have been prescribed oral antibiotics or an oral antiviral medicine, you should begin taking those as directed. Typically, the oral antibiotics are prescribed depending on the depth of the chemical peel.