Chemical peel

Purpose:

To improve the appearance of the skin, correct the appearance of facial blemishes, and to reduce the effects of smoking and sun exposure. Peels can also be used for reducing uneven pigmentation, acne and acne scarring.

The treatment:

A chemical peel is designed to accelerate the removal of old, dead skin cells at the surface of the skin to promote new cell growth, and can be used to treat a particular area (such as lines around the eyes or mouth), or all over the face, arms, hands and neck.

Chemical peels can take anything from just a few minutes to over thirty minutes, depending on the type of peel that you are having. There are three types of peel: superficial, medium, or deep. With all types of peel you may need to use specified homecare products before your peel. These products will help to prepare your skin and ensure that it is in optimum condition prior to the peel. You may also need to use specified homecare products after your peel.

Superficial Peels

Superficial peels remove skin cells from the epidermis (the top layer of the skin) and can be performed by some qualified beauty therapists as well as medical staff.

These peels usually use combinations of alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) and betahydroxy acids (BHAs) eg glycolic acid, lactic acid, salycilic acid and maleic acid. Treatment takes only a few minutes, and your skin may feel pink and feel tight for a couple of hours after the treatment.

As superficial peels only affect the top layers of the skin you may need to have regular treatments to maintain the effect.

Medium Peels

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.

These peels usually contain trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and this is sometimes used in combination with glycolic acid. The peel remains on your face for a few minutes before being neutralised.

A burning or stinging sensation may be felt during the application of the peel and the skin may go brown or red in the days after the peel. It can take up to six weeks for the skin to return to normal.

Medium peels may need to be repeated every 6 - 12 months to maintain the effect.

Deep peels

This procedure should be carried out by a surgeon or dermatologist with relevant skills and experience in an establishment registered with the Healthcare Commission.

Deep 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. The peel is applied to the face, and the treatment feels as if the face is "freezing". The peel may be left on the face for up to 30 minutes or more, depending in the desired affect.

Post-peel pain is treated with painkillers. There will be some peeling, redness and discomfort for a few days depending on the type of peel used. You should use the recommended cleanser and cream, wear no make up for the first 24 hours and use sunscreen. Most of the swelling should disappear within 14 days, although there may be some redness of the skin for some time after that - up to three months in some people.

A deep peel is a "one-off" treatment with lasting effects, unlike superficial and medium peels.

The results:

As described above, the result will depend on what chemicals are used, how deep the peel is and any special requirements you may have.

The risks:

There are some risks associated with chemical peels, including infection, skin colour changes and scarring. The treated skin may appear darker or be tight or swollen for a time. You will need to avoid exposure to the sun for some time after your peel, but your practitioner or clinic should give you full information on this and other aftercare, depending on the strength of your peel.

Before you start:

Make sure you know what to expect from a chemical peel. Chemical peels cannot change pore size, tighten loose skin or remove deep scars.

Some doctors prescribe a pre-treatment skin regime (for four to eight weeks), to prepare a patient's skin and speed the healing process. You should avoid electrolysis and sunbeds for a couple of weeks before treatment and wear a sunblock after treatment.

Also see:

Dermabrasion
Microdermabrasion
Laser skin resurfacing
Light rejuvenation therapy

Procedure information is copyright Department of Health (http://www.dh.gov.uk. Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence.