The words "chemical peel" could make those unfamiliar with the procedure's benefits anxious; however, chemical peels are really just a form of exfoliation, a minimally-invasive and essential component of facial rejuvenation. Chemical peels optimize skin health and are beneficial for all skin types, skin colors and ages.
Peels help remove damaged outer layers allowing a fresh, new layer of skin cells to naturally emerge. This results in both a renewing and therapeutic experience for the patient. If this renewal process could be achieved for every organ in the body, imagine how amazing we would feel!
A chemical peel has dual cosmetic and medical benefits. Cosmetically, skin renewal improves pore size, hyperpigmentation and fine lines. Medically, a chemical peel can improve acne, benign keratoses and actinic keratoses. I recommend chemical peels to those who want a more rapid improvement than a topical product could provide, and who don't have time for laser treatments.
Chemical peels offer various benefits depending on skin type and desired result. Light peeling agents such as alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs)—glycolic, lactic or fruit acid, and Beta hydroxyl acids (BHAs)—salicylic acid are milder acids, induce a faster sloughing of the cells in the epidermis. Deeper peels are achieved with tricholoroacetic acid (TCA) and carbolic acid (phenol) and stimulate renewal in the dermis, the collagen-rich layer of the skin. Dermal regeneration can take weeks to months. The epidermis, however, heals in a few days giving the skin an improved appearance, more even skin color, smoother texture and a healthier glow. Specifically, chemical peels offer the following benefits:
- Decreased fine lines, especially under the eyes and mouth
- Improvement of mild scarring and certain types of acne
- Reduction of skin discoloration, such as sun spots, age spots, freckles and blotchiness
In addition to chemical peels, skin peeling can be achieved by the following two methods, each recommended based on skin type and the desired result:
- Laser peeling performed with an ablative laser. CO2 has long been the golden standard for laser-generated peeling. The newest fractionated lasers produce a medium to deep peel with skin shedding that lasts 3-5 days, and promotes new collagen production and long-term skin rejuvenation.
- Pharmacological peeling using retinoids—a class of compounds derived from vitamin A.
Ideally, chemical peels are incorporated into a good skin care regimen. I recommend chemical peel patients use a combination of SkinMedica® skin care products starting with the Sensitive Skin Cleanser, ideal for post-procedure or inflamed skin.
For moisturizing, I suggest SkinMedica's TNS Ceramide Treatment Cream™ containing the TNS® growth factor blend and peptides to help restore skin's moisture balance while hydrating the driest post-procedure skin. For a patient needing a lighter moisturizer, I suggest SkinMedica's Ultra Sheer Moisturizer, an oil-free formula to hydrate skin with vitamins C and E to protect against free radical damage.
I always recommend patients use daily sun protection to protect their delicate skin from damaging UV rays. Following a medium or deep peel, routine SPF use is not sufficient. It is essential to avoid direct sun exposure for at least four weeks to minimize the stimulation of melanin-producing cells in the nascent layer of skin. Direct sun exposure during this period increases the risk of hyperpigmentation and uneven pigmentation in the new skin.
Consult your dermatologist for a thorough skin care evaluation to determine the best peel for your skin.