Chemical Peel

What is a chemical peel?

Chemical peeling is a technique used to improve the appearance of the skin and is typically performed on the face, neck, or hands. In this treatment, a chemical solution is applied to the skin that causes it to "blister" and eventually peel off. The new, regenerated skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin.

The new skin is also temporarily more sensitive to the sun. A thorough evaluation by your skin specialist is imperative before embarking upon a chemical peel.

What Can a Chemical Peel Do?

Chemical peeling is often used to treat fine lines under the eyes and around the mouth. Wrinkles caused by sun damage, aging, and hereditary factors can often be reduced or even eliminated with this procedure.

Mild scarring and certain types of acne can also be treated with chemical peels. In addition, pigmentation of the skin in the form of sunspots, age spots, liver spots, freckles, splotching due to taking birth control pills, and skin that is dull in texture and color may be improved with chemical peeling.

Chemical peeling may be combined with other treatment modalities such as lasers to achieve cost-effective skin rejuvenation customized to the individual needs of patients. Areas of sun-damaged, precancerous keratoses or scaling patches may improve after chemical peeling. After the treatment, new lesions or patches are less likely to appear. In general, fair-skinned and light-haired patients are ideal candidates for chemical peels though patients with darker skin types may also experience good results. This will depend on the type of skin problem encountered.

How Are Chemical Peels Performed?

Prior to surgery, instructions may include the elimination of certain drugs and the preparation of the skin with topical preconditioning medications. The patient may be advised to clean the area with antiseptic soap the day before surgery.

A chemical peel can be performed in a doctor's office or in a surgery center as an out-patient procedure. At the time of treatment, the skin is thoroughly cleansed with an agent that removes excess oils, and the eyes and hair select the proper peeling agent based on the type of skin damage present. During a chemical peel, the physician applies the solution to small areas on the skin. These applications produce a controlled wound, enabling new, refreshed skin to appear. Most patients experience a warm to somewhat hot sensation which lasts about five to ten minutes, followed by a stinging sensation.

What Should Be Expected After Treatment?

Depending on the type of peel, a reaction similar to a sunburn occurs following a chemical peel. Superficial peeling usually involves redness and is followed by scaling that ends within three to seven days. Medium-depth and deep peeling may result in swelling and the presence of water blisters that may break, crust, turn brown and peel off over a period of seven to 14 days.

Some peels may require bandages to be placed on part or all of the skin that is treated. Bandages are usually removed in several days and may improve the effectiveness of the treatment. It is important to avoid overexposure to the sun after a chemical peel since the new skin is fragile and more susceptible to complications. Your dermatologist will prescribe the proper follow-up care to reduce the chance of developing abnormal skin color after peeling.