Chemical Peels - Cosmetic Treatments Guide

A chemical peel is a procedure using a chemical solution to make the facial skin smoother and improve it's texture. It's designed to combat facial blemishes, problems with skin pigmentation and wrinkles. The term is a catch-all name for a number of chemical treatments which rejuvenate and exfoliate the skin.

The Procedure

During a chemical peel the skin is first thoroughly cleansed then a solution is applied and dissolves the upper layers of skin. This triggers the body's healing response, which causes new tissue to grow. The strength of the peel varies upon which chemical is used and the length of time it is applied for.

There's many different types of chemical peels and each has it's own benefits;

Alphahydroxy acids - Including glycolic, lactic and fruit acids. These are amongst the mildest of all chemical peel solutions and are useful to those who can't afford the recovery time required from a more invasive peel. You can also use this type of solution in conjunction with a cream or face wash as daily use can improve skin texture. Following this procedure the skin may be slightly reddened but there's usually no after effects. Any blotches or discolouration of the skin will usually fade very quickly.

Trichloroacetic acid - This is commonly used in medium depth peeling although it's also effective at other concentrations. The results from one treatment may not be sufficient and you might need additional treatments to achieve the desired result. This treatment is especially effective on surface wrinkles and pigment problems. The recovery for this period usually takes about a week and in this period skin usually itches and starts to peel. Following the peeling your skin becomes red although this fades gradually over the next few weeks.

Phenol - This is the strongest solution and is usually used in deep peels. It's usually used to treat severe wrinkles, damaged or blotchy skin and growths. Phenol may lighten the treated area and as such your skin pigmentation will be taken into account before proceeding with this treatment. Following a deep peel treatment it's usual for your face to itch and feel quite painful. There can also be swelling, however, all these symptoms should fade within a couple of weeks.

The Risks

As with all cosmetic procedures chemical peels are not without risk. Permanent scarring, although rare, can occur due to complications with the treatment but this usually only occurs with the stronger acids. The red, burnt looking skin may last longer than usual and cold sores may also be activated by the procedure. Hyper-pigmentation may occur, where the skin develops too much pigment. This can create brown blotches in reaction to sunlight, but is easily preventable using high-factor sun cream. Using moisturisers will be helpful during the recovery period and after you've recovered the treatment may be repeated at any point in the future without any risk of damaging the skin. You can help the healing process by following after care advice. Also smoking can affect your blood vessels and may result in a reduced blood supply to certain body tissues. Therefore it's usually recommended that you don't smoke for at least a few weeks before the procedure.