Chemical peels are a great way to rejuvenate your skin during the dry, winter months. If you’re unfamiliar with facial peels, the concept might be quite daunting, but the effects of chemical peels can be great, ranging from treatment of mild skin discoloration to reduction of wrinkles. Peels can range from superficial to deep penetration, and recovery time will lengthen accordingly. Discussed below are three different types of peels and the effects they provide.
Superficial: Alpha-Hydroxy and Beta-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs and BHAs)
Glycolic acid is one of the most common types of AHA, and can be applied to the face without anesthesia or sedation. Glycolic acid peels are an effective treatment for mild skin discolorations or rough skin, and can leave the skin looking fresh and rejuvenated in as little as one use. Glycolic acid works by removing the stratum corneum (uppermost layer of skin) to promote the production of collagen and elastin to combat fine lines and wrinkles, and can also break up melanin pigments to lighten skin. Generally, glycolic acid peels are suitable for all skin tones and skin types, and range in concentrations from 30%-70%.
A beta hydroxy acid (BHA) peel, on the other hand, contains salicylic acid, which is commonly found in over-the-counter acne products up to concentrations of 2%. It is lipid soluble, so salicylic acid is ideal for those with oily or acne-prone skin because of its ability to deeply penetrate clogged pores to remove dead skin cells and other debris, the patient is left with clear, healthy skin. The healing time for AHA and BHA facial peels can last anywhere from 1 to 7 days as your skin will be red and scaling may develop. Patients can resume activity immediately after treatment, and results can be seen after one use, although some opt for multiple sessions to maintain their glow.
Medium: Trichloroacetic Acid
A trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peel is a medium-depth peel that is used to treat age spots, fine lines and wrinkles, freckles and moderate skin discolorations and can provide modest tightening for sun-damaged skin. Whereas superficial peels only penetrate the stratum corneum, TCA facial peels penetrate all five layers of the epidermis to the papillary layer (upper layer of the dermis) to improve the appearance of skin. TCA peels are suitable for darker-skinned patients, unlike deep peels that can cause permanent bleaching effects on the skin. TCA peels range in concentration from 15%-35%, with the higher concentrations potentially mimicking the results of deep peels. Healing time can last anywhere from one to two weeks, with skin appearing red and swollen. Patients may also experience blistering, with skin crusting and peeling off by the end of the second week. Your physician will likely prescribe a daily soak followed by an ointment during your healing period as well as antiviral medication. Follow-ups with your physician are generally required.
Phenol peels are the deepest-penetrating peels and can provide the most dramatic results because phenol penetrates all the way to the reticular layer of the dermis, and potentially even to the subcutaneous tissue if necessary. Because of this, phenol facial peels are able to reverse deep-set signs of aging, such as moderate lines and wrinkles, age spots, freckles, and shallow scars to leave the patient with brighter, tighter, and smoother skin. A full-faced procedure will take about one or two hours to perform, during which patients will experience a slight burning sensation. After the peel is neutralized, petroleum jelly is applied over the application area, which begins crusting almost immediately. Phenol, however, might leave your skin permanently bleached, which is why it is not recommended for those with darker complexions.