Chemical peels, also called derma-peeling, can help improve the skin’s appearance and smooth out wrinkles, fine lines and sun damage. In this process, a chemical solution is applied to skin that causes it to blister off, leaving behind regenerated skin that is smoother. Chemical peels are also useful for mild scarring and to treat acne, but are not recommended to correct skin that sags or bulges. Patients with fairer complexions and lighter hair are often the most successful candidates for chemical peels, but depending on the problem they are treating, people with darker complexions may also benefit. Though the risk of developing an abnormal color change or a mild scar from a chemical peel is low, patients should make sure their doctors know about past skin conditions.
Chemical peels can be performed at a physician’s office or as an outpatient procedure at a surgical center. After the skin has been thoroughly cleansed and the eyes and hair are shielded, chemical solutions that may include glycolic acid, salicylic acid, trichloroacetic acid, lactic acid and carbolic acid or a combination of these agents are applied to selected areas of the skin.
Prior to the procedure, the physician may recommend stopping certain medications, or prescribe topical lotions like Retin-A to help prepare the skin for the peel. Depending on the depth and severity of the peel, some patients may be given a course of oral antibiotics or antiviral medications. During the procedure itself, patients may experience a warming sensation for five to 10 minutes that is then followed by a stinging sensation. Patients with deeper peels may require pain medication, and cold compresses can help alleviate the stinging.
After the procedure many patients may notice a pattern of redness followed by peeling that is similar to a sunburn. While mild peels may be repeated at one to four week intervals, while deeper peels that cause blisters and swelling are usually repeated in six to 12 months. The new skin is especially sensitive to the sun after a chemical peel so patients should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.
Last updated: 05-Dec-08