Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are the procedures designed to remove the upper layer of the skin gently and safely. There are many types of peels depending upon the source type of the peels, for example, glycolic peel, and, mandelic peel are fruit acid peels. Various enzymes and vitamins are also used as peels. The word peel refers to the mild exfoliation (scaling) of the skin which is seen commonly, a couple of days after the application of chemical peels.

What are the different types of chemical peels?

Dermatologists classify chemical peels as superficial, medium, and deep peels. All this is based on whether the peels are working on the upper, middle or the deeper part of the epidermis. The most commonly used chemical peels are superficial chemical peels. They work only on the upper layer and are meant to improve acne and give superficial texture and glow. These are considered very safe.  
Medium peels like TCA peels and Phenol peels have to be used with caution and are applied only under the supervision of an experienced dermatologist. If applied correctly, they help in the management of melasma and pigmentary conditions as well as acne scars. However, if used incorrectly, they could harm the skin.
Deep peels are not used in brown skin as they can cause side effects like severe resistant pigmentation.

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Frequently Asked Questions

We like to assist our clients with a knowledgeable and in-depth collective approach to answer for all your queries and fears with our FAQ mega-base.

How are chemical peels useful to us? How do chemical peels work?

To understand how chemical peels work, let us have a brief about the basics of skin biology. Skin is made up of two layers, epidermis and dermis. The epidermis is the upper layer of cells which keeps renewing itself, every month or in every 6 weeks. As the cells of the skin move from the deeper layer to more superficial layers, the cells get more and more compressed until they form a protein called Keratin. The epidermal layer contributes towards the glow of the skin, and also for any type of pigmentary changes.
The deeper layer is called the dermis and is the supporting layer for the skin. Problems in this layer contribute to scars and wrinkles formation.
The epidermis routinely renews itself every month by shedding off the upper layers of keratin which are replaced by the layers below them. This process becomes sluggish and slows down as one crosses the age of 30s, and the skin starts to look dry or dull, and spots of pigmentation start to appear. These are the earliest signs of aging.
The removal or exfoliation of the upper keratin layers stimulates the natural process of skin renewal that brings back the glow and luminous skin. This also makes the skin look younger and stronger.
In the epidermis, the formation of blackheads or micro-comedones occurs. All these are formed as a result of the oil glands or acne glands that are getting blocked. Chemical peels such as salicylic peels dissolve the oily layers in the comedones and help to unplug the acne glands leading to improvement in acne and open pores.

Are chemical peels safe?

Chemical peels are extremely safe if performed by the expert hands, that of your dermatologist. Did you know, that the first person to understand chemical peels was Cleopatra? She used to take bath in sour milk (which contains lactic acid) to smooth and refine her skin texture. Most of the ingredients of chemical peels are derived active ingredients from a plant source like Glycolic acid from Sugarcaneor Mandelic acid from Applesor Salicylic acid from Willow bark. However, to provide a good clinical effect, all these are extracted and synthesized in the lab.
There are two aspects to a peel, one is efficacy How effective it is?and the other one is safety Is it safe?. Dermatologists use varied concentration and pH of peels, which helps them to choose the right concentration and pH based on the patient skin, condition which they are treating, and the time period in which the result is desired.
For example, the face wash that you use may contain salicylic acid at 1%, but dermatologists use between 20 to 50%.
If you have sensitive skin and are worried about a possible reaction, discuss the same with your dermatologist, and they will often suggest a test patch. This means that the peel will first be applied to a small area on the face like the jawline or just behind the ear. They will examine the area after 48 hours to check for any redness or undue reaction, and if there is none, you can proceed with a full face peel.

What special instruction or precautions should be followed before a chemical peel?

Before the chemical peel, the first most important thing is to consult a dermatologist. During the consultation, you can explain the skin goals that you have set, as well as the time frame in which you would like to see the results. The dermatologist examines your skin, determines the problem, and assesses your skin type. These two factors will help decide the type of peel, the number of sessions needed, and a road map of the treatment plan can be issued.

The second part is the skin preparation for the peel. As the chemical peel is going to exfoliate the upper layers of the skin, it is important that the skin is ready to be exfoliated. Apply a gentle face wash, moisturizer, and robustly use sunscreen for at least 2 weeks prior to the peel. Also, some dermatologists prescribe their patients to apply skin lightening or glycolic acid creams at bedtime, especially in darker skin individuals. This helps the skin to get even penetration of the peel. But do check with your dermatologist, as most of them will have to stop the use of night creams at least 2 days before treatment.
Do not bleach, wax, thread or use scrubs at least 1 week before the peel. If you have accidentally done any of these above, it will be better to postpone the peel as they could make your skin sensitive to the peel.

What should be expected after a chemical peel?

Immediately after a chemical peel, one may expect mild redness and itching over the treated area. Usually, the dermatologist will offer ice packs or cooling agents and may advise the application of moisturizer and sunblock before you leave the clinic.
Depending on the depth of the peel, there will be exfoliation of the skin. This can range from dryness of the skin, especially near the eyes and mouth to natural shedding of the layers of skin in sheets. The peeling will last from 1 to 7 days. After which, the skin will return to normal. If you experience darkening or lightening of the skin in any area, do bring it into the attention of your dermatologist.

Are there any special precautions to be followed after a chemical peel?

Do not use face wash, cleansers or toners on the day of the treatment. Just use water or thermal spa water sprays to keep your skin cool. Apply plenty of hyaluronic acid-based moisturizer to help heal the skin.
For the next few days, use a pH balanced soap-free cleanser to cleanse the face. Regularly apply moisturizers, and avoid picking at the dry skin which may develop in a few areas. Stay out of the sun and apply sunscreens if you need to step out.
Restart your skin preparation program after the peeling resolves.

How often should chemical peels be repeated?

Superficial chemical peels are repeated once a fortnight, and medium peels can be repeated once in a month. Deep peels are usually repeated only once a year.

How long does it take to see results after chemical peels?

Depending on the skin condition, it is possible to see some improvement after the first session of peels itself. However, for good results, it may take 3 to 4 sessions.

What is the best chemical peel for pigmentation?

Glycolic acid peels, TCA peels, and Retinol peels, as well as the Cosmelan and Dermamelan peel systems, are very good for pigmentation. However, peels can work on pigmentation only if the pigment is limited to the upper layer of skin (epidermis). If the pigment is present deeper than the epidermis, then Q switched NdYAG laser systems are also good to treat pigmentation.

What is the best chemical peel for acne?

Salicylic acid and Retinol peels are excellent for the treatment of acne. A new peel based on Black Acetic Acid, called Black peel gives good improvement in acne.

Which is the best chemical peel for acne scars?

Acne scars are best treated with a combination of glycolic and retinol peels. TCA CROSS peel is also very helpful to reduce ice pick scars or open pores.

Disclaimer- Dr. Dixit Cosmetic Dermatology reserves all the rights of this website. The information published on this website is correct to the best of our knowledge. However, this is generic in nature and does not apply to an individual case.