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Chemical Peels: What Are They?

By October 9, 2023No Comments

A chemical peel is a more effective method of exfoliation that can be used on the face, hands and neck. It works not only on the surface, but deeper under the skin too to help create younger looking and rejuvenated feeling skin.

What does a chemical peel do?

A chemical peel is a solution of various chemicals that are applied to the skin that lowers the skin’s pH. It works on the bonds between dead or damaged skin cells and healthy skin cells to try and push them to the surface of the skin. They also increase cell turnover, which results in healthier looking and feeling skin.

chemical peels

Types of chemical peels

Chemical peels vary in strength, chemical types and also benefits. They are broken down into 3 different groups which are superficial, medium and deep peels.

Superficial chemical peels

Superficial peels work on the surface of the skin and consist of mild acids such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), salicylic acid and retinols. By only penetrating the outer layer of the skin (also known as the epidermis), it reduces the appearance of:

  • Fine wrinkles
  • Skin texture
  • Minor discolouration

However, with superficial peels, the results are not permanent and need to be repeated up to 1–2 times a week to maintain results. It doesn’t require any anaesthesia and is a painless treatment. You may experience a slight burning sensation, but this should minimise fairly quickly.

Medium peels

Medium peels usually contain acids such as trichloroacetic and glycolic acid. A solution is applied to the skin and these reach the middle (dermis) and outer layers of the skin, working to remove any dead skin cells and stimulate the growth of new ones.

It is normal to feel a slight burning or stinging sensation when it is applied to the skin, but this should not feel painful. You can use a fan to help cool your skin down if needed.

Medium peels can be used to treat the following problems:

  • Age spots
  • Discolouration
  • Scarring
  • Fine lines
  • Wrinkles
  • Melasma
chemical peel face treatment

Deep peels

Deep peels are the strongest and most aggressive kind of chemical peels, as they penetrate much deeper into the middle layer of the skin in comparison to superficial and medium peels. The chemical solution consists of phenol acid or croton oil and many people choose deep peels due to its long-lasting results, even though it has a much longer recovery time and more risks. There is a recommended downtime of at least 2 weeks, and it can take several months for the skin to fully heal after receiving the treatment.

Deep peels should not be done at home and instead performed by an experienced plastic surgeon or dermatologist. It requires either a local anaesthetic or sedative, and numbing cream is also applied to the skin to minimise any pain. The chemical solution is left on for around 30 minutes or more and your heart and blood pressure is closely monitored as they can be impacted by the chemicals used. Even though there are more severe risks and a longer recovery time, many people choose a deep chemical peel due to its long-lasting results.

They can be used to treat issues such as the following:

  • Acne scars
  • Scars
  • Discolouration/hyperpigmentation
  • Fine lines
  • Wrinkles

What are the risks?

A chemical peel treatment can come with various risks, these vary depending on the chemicals used and the type of peel.

The risks include:

  • Darkening or lightening the skin
  • Skin becomes more sensitive to the sun
  • Scarring
  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Itchiness

The practitioner or healthcare professional performing the treatment should inform you on all the risks and advise about how you can reduce any risks of getting infections or complications after your treatment.

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