Sometimes it helps to give natural processes a little boost. Human skin is continually exfoliating, shedding dead cells and replacing them. But it doesn’t always do so as fast as we’d like. That’s when treatments such as chemical peels can accelerate the process.
Periodic peeling of the skin helps stimulate cellular activity and can be used for addressing a variety of skin issues: from age spots to acne, enlarged pores to pre-cancerous growths. At Laser & Mohs Dermatology of New York we offer chemical peels that exfoliate either lightly, moderately, or aggressively depending on the chemical used.
What is a chemical peel?
Most people don’t think of their skin as an organ, but it is, the largest organ of the human body. Our skin is comprised of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the fat layer. Chemical peels primarily deal with the epidermis, blistering the upper layer, but can also penetrate the dermis layer. The surface skin loosens and eventually peels off, allowing new, unblemished skin to take the place of the older, dead and damaged cells. Chemical peels are an easy, non-invasive option for skin rejuvenation.
Cleopatra was one of the earliest proponents of chemical peels. She used sour milk, which contains lactic acid, as the peeling agent. Romans also used the tartaric acid found in grapes.
Skin Problems That Chemical Peels Can Help
Chemical peels do not address deep facial lines and they cannot tighten loose, sagging skin. But they are excellent for these skin conditions:
- Sun damage
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Texture issues
- Pigmentation problems
- Age spots
- Acne and acne scars
- Scaly patches
Light chemical peels
A light chemical peel makes use of glycolic acid or salicylic acid and is the mildest form of the treatment. Superficial chemical peels are excellent for exfoliating the outermost layer of the epidermis, removing dead and damaged skin cells and refreshing the skin’s glow. We use light peels for the following:
- Dry skin
- Fine wrinkles
- Improve acne
We usually use naturally derived alphahydroxy acids for these peels: glycolic acid (derived from sugar cane, grapes, or sugar beets), lactic acid (derived from sour milk), or salicylic acid (derived from plants).
After your first few light peels, your skin may have some redness and irritation, but as your skin becomes more exfoliated this will pass and your skin will simply glow after your peel. Because of its mildness, a light chemical peel can be administered to the patient once a week for up to six weeks, depending on the results that they want to achieve.
Medium chemical peels
A medium chemical peels not only removes skin from the outermost layer but also from portions of the upper part of the middle layer of the skin or the dermis. For this purpose, trichloroacetic acid may be used in combination with glycolic acid. Medium-depth peels penetrate more deeply, into the dermis layer. We use them to treat the following:
- Acne scars
- Deeper wrinkles
- Uneven pigmentation
The peeling agent is trichloroacetic acid. Medium peels will require some recovery time, as they leave the skin red and stinging. There will be some crusting, and the redness can linger for up to a few weeks. Medium peels can be repeated, but not more than three or four times per year.
Deep chemical peels
These are the most aggressive chemical peels using phenol acid as the peeling agent. Deep peels penetrate into the lower dermal layer and can address the following:
- Deeper wrinkles
- Sun damage
- Pre-cancerous growths
- Blotchy skin
Prior to receiving a deep peel, patients first do some pre-treatment at home to prepare their skin for the procedure. Immediately before the peel, the patient will receive local anesthetic and a sedative, if requested, to help manage any discomfort.
Deep chemical peels are an aggressive skin treatment and require recovery time. The patient will have peeling, crusting, swelling, and redness for several days after the peel. Redness can remain for up to three months, and the use of sunscreen is paramount, as your skin will be very fragile. Due to their aggressiveness, deep chemical peels can be done no more than once per decade.
What happens during a chemical peel?
During the procedure, the doctor usually uses a cotton-tipped applicator to apply the chemical solution onto the patient’s skin. As the chemical reagents come in contact with the skin, it will begin to change color as the solution facilitates the peeling process. Anesthesia may be required for a deep chemical peel. Light chemical peels may take up to 10 minutes; medium chemical peels 20 minutes, and deep chemical peels anywhere between 60 to 90 minutes to complete.
Can I Combine a Chemical Peel With Another Procedure?
At Laser & Mohs Dermatology of New York, we can also enhance the results of your chemical peel with laser/IPL rejuvenation to tighten the skin, or with dermal fillers or Botox. A thorough skin evaluation by Dr. Quintana will help determine what best meets your needs.