Different acids are used the remove the outer layers of the skin to improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin or acne scarring and to even-out skin colour and tone. The chemical solution is applied to the skin. It then blisters off over a period of up to 14 days. After this, healed skin is smoother and brighter. Chemical peels are often used to treat fine lines around the eyes and mouth. Sags, bulges and more severe wrinkles do not respond well.
There are different levels of peels ranging from a mild superficial peel through to a deep peel, which penetrates the lower dermal layer of the skin to remove or improve deep wrinkles, lines and scars.
Most commonly found is a superficial peel, which gently removes the outer layer of cells, giving a fresher healthier appearance. Mild peels are performed using alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), glycolic acid or some fruit acids.
Best results are normally achieved after having a course of weekly treatments for between three and six weeks followed by a monthly maintenance peel. After a superficial peel, the skin will immediately look brighter. This treatment is both quick and easy. A trained therapist will cleanse the face and apply the peel for between two and ten minutes. It is common to experience a mild stinging sensation, which is not too uncomfortable. After the allocated time the peel is neutralised and removed.
The skin can look quite pink immediately afterwards with the possibility of white patches or blotches, this normally fades within one to two hours. There are no after effects and patients can resume normal daily activities immediately after.
A Medium depth peel using Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) does as its name suggests, i.e. penetrates further into the skin to help improve slight wrinkles and scars and evens out skin tone. As before, the skin is cleansed and then the peel applied evenly by a trained professional. The treated area changes colour, turning a whitish grey after several minutes.
Cool saline compresses are applied which neutralise the acid in the peel. Sensations include burning or stinging, which can last for about an hour after treatment. Normal recovery can take a week, or more, time being dependent on healing. Generally, older skin takes longer to heal.
The skin can turn brown with white streaks five to six days after the peel, this will itch and peel, leaving bright red skin which will fade to pink during the next three to six weeks. With a TCA peel, your healed skin will be able to produce pigment as always; the peel will not bleach the skin. However, TCA-peel patients are advised to avoid sun exposure for several months after treatment to protect the newly formed layers of skin. Even though TCA is milder than phenol, it may also produce some unintended color changes in the skin. The treatment can be repeated monthly until the desired effect is achieved and then maintained with a peel every 6 months.
A Deep peel such as Phenol is carried out under local anaesthetic. The peel penetrates the lower dermal layer of the skin to remove or improve deep wrinkles and scars. The strong peel is applied to the cleansed skin and is left on for approximately 30 minutes before being neutralised.
Patients experience moderate to severe pain for several days, the face will swell for the first two days and will be extremely itchy whilst healing. Pain relief medication is required and the blistering can last up to 14 days. After extremely strong treatments, bandages may need to be worn. It is not unusual for the patient to be unable to resume normal activities for at least two weeks. Phenol peels can make you lose the ability to tan and then you’ll have to keep your skin out of the sun forever.
Phenol is primarily used on the face; scarring may result if it’s applied to the neck or other body areas. Corrects blotches caused by: sun exposure, birth-control pills, ageing, smooths out coarse wrinkles and removes pre-cancerous growths. These peels are not widely available and should only be carried out by a medical professional.
One treatment can produce dramatic results and the effects last for 10 years. Certain chemical peels should not be considered on Afro-Caribbean or Asian skin, or on people with red hair and freckled skin. Clients with a history of keloid scars, facial warts or have used acne treatments within the past 12 months are also contraindicated. Always take professional medical advice.