What Is a Chemical Peel?
Chemical peel procedures involve the use of a chemical solution to remove damaged outer layers of skin from the face and body. Chemical peels are usually carried out for cosmetic reasons to enhance the appearance of the skin. They are also used to treat pre-cancerous skin growths, or to remove or soften acne and facial scars. Three chemical peel treatments are used for skin problems of varying intensity. These are Alphahydroxy Acids (AHAs); Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA); and Phenol.
Chemical Peel Formulas
Alphahydroxy Acid (AHA) is used in smoothing and improving skin texture; aiding acne control; and correcting uneven pigmentation. Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) is used for a medium depth chemical peel, or for slightly stronger skin treatment. TCA can smooth fine surface wrinkles, remove superficial blemishes and correct pigment problems. This is the preferred treatment for darker-skinned patients. Phenol is the strongest chemical peel and is used to treat extensive skin damage caused by sunburn and aging. It can also help remove pre-cancerous growths.
Chemical Peel Treatments
Retin A, a medication derived from Vitamin A, is sometimes used to pre-treat the skin, thinning the surface layer and enabling even and deep penetration of the chemical solution. Alternatively, an AHA cream is used. Hydroquinone is a bleaching agent used with these treatments, for pigmentation problems. Chemical peels are carried out in the plastic surgeon’s office with, possibly, an overnight hospital stay. The chemical solutions used act as anesthetics and the patient may be sedated prior to the procedure as an aid to relaxation. The chemical peel solution is then applied to cleansed skin for a time determined by the required treatment, usually anywhere from 10 minutes for an AHA chemical peel to one or two hours for a full-face phenol chemical peel. By following the surgeon’s healthcare instructions, most patients resume normal activities immediately, or within one month.