A chemical peel is used to enhance the appearance of those who have an unsightly growth on their face or on other exposed parts like their hands and the neck. This is a cosmetic procedure and is superficially invasive as it is used to peel off the skin. Like all other procedures, there are benefits and side effects. Given below are details on how this works as well as how it affects the people who undergo this procedure.
When and why is a chemical peel used?
Peeling off of the skin using chemicals offers certain advantage. Hence it is used to –
* Enhance the appearance of the skin that appears dull and old. Old skin can be made smoother and brighter using a chemical peel.
* Reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging as well as damages caused to skin as a result of exposure to natural elements. Other skin conditions like age spots, dark patches caused by side effects of medicines, freckles, wrinkles, sun burns, hereditary effects on the skin etc. can all be reduced to a great extent through chemical peeling.
* Reduce ugly looking scars and the effects of acne.
* Improve the appearance of those who are very concerned about their looks.
* Reduce the effect of sun damage to the skin like pre-cancerous skin lesions (keratoses included) and the associated dangers.
Since this method does not result in major changes to the body, it is performed as an outpatient procedure. The patient goes home with an advice to protect his skin from dryness, exposure to sunlight and any form of infection. Chemicals used in skin peeling leave a light colored skin hence those with dark skin are advised against using this procedure. People with fairer skin do not have to face the problem of a change in appearance following this procedure.
How to prepare for a chemical peel?
Those who choose to undergo a chemical peel must temporarily stop taking drugs that can interfere with the chemicals that will be applied to the skin. The dermatologist who will be carrying out the chemical peel may prescribe some medicines to prepare the skin and prevent infections. If the person is on medication or has undergone any other form of treatment in the area, then he must inform this to the dermatologist. He must also inform him about any cold sores or herpes that he may have or had in the past.
How does a chemical peel work?
Depending on the type of treatment required and the depth to which the chemical will be absorbed by the skin, it can be divided into three types –
Superficial peel – only the surface layer of the skin is exfoliated;
Moderate peel – the epidermal layer and the one immediately below it is peeled;
Deep peel – the chemical is allowed to seep to a greater depth below the epidermis and a large part of the skin is peeled off.
The area where the chemical is to be applied is washed and cleansed thoroughly with a dissolving solution to remove excess oil from the skin, dirt and sweat. Then the chemical is applied on the skin which burns away the surface layer or to the depth to which the chemical seeps into the skin. Once enough skin has been peeled, the chemical is washed off. The residual chemical that remains inside the skin is neutralized by applying a moisturizing cream.
The chemicals that are used to peel the skin are – glycolic acid, phenol (carbolic acid), salicylic acid, trichloroacetic acid and sometimes lactic acid. Mostly AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) are used and the most common among these is the glycolic acid. AHAs are carboxylic acids that can be seen in plants, fruits and milk. When using natural remedies like facials and creams, carboxylic acids act to improve the condition of the skin. The other types of acid that are used for chemical peel are – citric acid, tartaric acid, and malic acid.
Glycolic acid acts by exfoliating the epidermal layer which then stimulates the growth of collagen. They are irritating; hence care is required during and after the peeling. Citric acid acts very mildly on the skin and the peel is much less. Tartaric acid is used in place of the other chemicals. Lactic acid peels mostly exfoliates dead skin from the spot where it’s applied. Malic acid is used in skin suffering from acne as it can exfoliate the dead upper skin and as it cleanses the pores in the skin. Compared to the other types of acid, this penetrates to a greater depth and hence is more invasive. That is why it’s used to clear acne scars.
Nowadays, BHA or Beta Hydroxyl Acids are used as they penetrate to a greater depth and cleanse the pores much better than AHAs. Salicylic acid is used when BHA method is used for exfoliation.
What are the after effects of chemical peel?
The spot where the chemical is applied will suffer from discoloration temporarily. The skin suffers a wound at the spot where the chemical is applied and this spot becomes raw. It is exposed to the natural elements and can easily get sun-burnt or infected. The skin should not be scratched immediately after the peeling.
The skin appears red due to the wound on the skin and the skin may become scaly. The scales will fall off in a few days following the peel. The peeled spots will naturally look different from the surrounding areas. In some people this change in color can become permanent. Certain bodily conditions, either as a result of being genetically inherited or due to some changes in the body, can cause permanent discoloration of the spots treated with a chemical peel. Moreover, people who are sensitive to the action of chemicals may develop a scar at the spot where the chemical was applied. The treated spots can become prone to scarring. However this new scar can be easily treated.
People who have suffered from herpes may develop cold sores following a chemical peel. This can be treated with drugs which the dermatologist will prescribe either before or after the peeling.
A chemical peel is carried out after extensive tests to determine how the person will react. Several parameters are analyzed before the actual peel. No matter what chemical is used, those undergoing the treatment must take adequate precautions to prevent complications.