Chemical peels

Chemical peels are an old treatment option, but are still very effective. Most people are very familiar with the idea of chemical peels – skincare products usually have active ingredients that act as peeling or lightening agents. These ingredients include salicylic acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid, and trichloroacetic acid (TCA). A professional chemical peel involves some of the same ingredients, but used at higher concentrations and in a much more controlled manner.

A chemical peel very simply removes the uppermost dead layers of skin, revealing new skin underneath that is more evenly pigmented. This has an additional effect of stimulating the deeper skin cells to produce more collagen,
which adds elasticity and plumpness to the skin. The different peel options vary in how deep their effect penetrates. Peels will often use multiple medications in sequence to achieve a synergistic effect and optimize the result. Similarly, pre-treatment for several weeks before a peel with skin moisturizers and other skincare is important for the best results.

Dr. Purushottam Nagarkar, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Plano and Frisco
Dr. Nagarkar on chemical peels:

There are many different kinds of peels, but the TCA peel is one of my favorites. It’s an oldie but a goodie. I can achieve different intensities of peeling by changing the concentration of the TCA. Usually, before you undergo a peel, I will start you on an at-home skincare regimen for several weeks. This helps prepare the skin and makes the peel much more effective, predictable, and evenly distributed.

Who is a good candidate for chemical peels:

Most patients with fine to medium static wrinkles and irregular pigmentation can benefit from a chemical peel. Static wrinkles are wrinkles that are present even when your face is at rest. On the other hand, dynamic wrinkles – caused by the action of underlying muscles – are better treated with neuromodulators like Botox®. Deeper lines may reflect a need for a more extensive treatment such as a face lift.

What to expect after a chemical peel:

Your recovery after a facial peel depends greatly on the depth of the peel. But regardless of the type or depth of peel you had, you should avoid sun exposure for several weeks.

  • A light or superficial peel has the quickest recovery. Your face might be a bit pink afterwards, but the peeling may only last for a few days. Generally you can start using makeup after 2 or 3 days.
  • A medium peel is a bit deeper and has a longer recovery. The skin will peel for 5 to 7 days, and it will be a bit crusty for the first week as well. You will need to clean the skin daily with special soap and apply a light moisturizer. Usually you can start using makeup around a week after the treatment to cover up the redness. Again, use of sunscreen and avoiding sun exposure is critical to a good result.
  • A deep peel causes more significant skin injury, but also has the greatest effect on deeper wrinkles. There is peeling, oozing, and crusting of the skin for up to 2 weeks, so you should plan on being off work during this time. You can start using makeup after this point, but the skin will stay red for 1 to 2 months. You might need pain-relieving medications for the first few days to a week.