What exactly is a chemical peel?
Chemical peels have been used for hundreds of years to cleanse and brighten the complexion. Modern skin peels are used to induce a controlled shedding of the outer layers of the skin and to stimulate new skin cell production.
Collagen and elastin which are proteins responsible for skin elasticity, tone and texture are also stimulated. A chemical solution containing a mild to moderate acid or combination of acids is applied to the area to be treated.
The result is skin tone which looks clearer, smoother and brighter with a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles.
What conditions can improve with skin peels?
Age and 'liver spots' (lentigines) can be faded with skin peels. These spots usually appear as flat, brown areas with round edges and are often found on the face, hands, back and feet.
They are related to age and sun damage and have nothing to do with the liver! Dark areas on the cheeks, neck and around the mouth which many women have as a result of hormonal skin changes or melasma can also be treated.
Photodamage and acne will improve with skin peels. In some cases skin peels are used to treat scarring and deep age lines and wrinkles.
What kinds of peels are available?
There are three types of peel: superficial, medium, or deep.
Superficial peels remove skin cells from the epidermis (the top layer of the skin) and use a combination of acids (AHAs or BHAs) such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, salycilic acid and maleic acid. There is no 'down time' with these peels and social activities do not have to be postponed. They are used to brighten skin tone and to treat acne.
Medium peels can remove skin cells from both the epidermis and upper part of the dermis (the middle layer of the skin). These peels are performed by doctors and nurses and usually contain trichloroacetic acid (TCA).
There is usually some mild peeling after TCA is applied. These peels are especially effective for melasma and removal of age spots and sun damage.
Deep peels should be carried out by a surgeon or dermatologist with relevant skills and experience in an establishment registered with the Healthcare Commission. These peels go deeper into the lower part of the dermis.
They are performed using phenol (a strong form of TCA) and may require a local anaesthetic and sedative. Swelling and redness may last up to 14 days. Deep peels are used to treat deep wrinkles and acne scarring.
For best results, both superficial and medium peels require a course of approximately four treatments.
What are the possible side effects of a peel?
All products have a potential for allergic reactions. Transient reactions may include redness of the skin, itching and dryness. It is important to use an appropriate post peel moisturiser and sun protection.
How do I maintain the effect of my skin peel? People who have had a series of superficial peels often have a 'maintenance' peel every 6-8 weeks to continue the brightening and anti-acne effects of their treatment. Moderate level TCA peels may be 'topped up' every 6 – 12 months.
How much does a chemical peel cost? Chemical peels are only slightly more expensive than a facial and so much more effective for true skin maintenance and rejuvenation!