Chemical Peels – What Are They and How do They Work?

Chemical PeelThere are three components related to the aging of the face – loss of volume, descent of the tissues and changes in the skin. As we age the skin loses elasticity resulting in the loss of fullness and that youthful glow. In addition, over time the activities of facial muscles such as smiling, frowning, and puckering of the lips lead to those lines we refer to as smile/frown lines and crow’s feet. Eventually these lines become deeper and are etched in the skin. The process is only accelerated by sun exposure and smoking.

However, there are nonsurgical options to help slow down and reverse the aging process. Retinols, such as Retin A and Renova (derivatives of vitamin A) have a proven role in slowing the process, but there are also skin resurfacing treatments available, such as chemical peels and lasers that are also effective in reversing sun damage and, to a certain extent, the changes associated with aging skin.

Lasers and peels basically function in similar fashion. Both remove the top layer of skin and stimulate collagen deposition or tightening in the deeper layers. The laser relies on heat energy, while chemical peels rely on acid to achieve similar effects. The skin which regenerates appears more youthful with diminished lines and a glow. With lasers the amount of heat can be regulated, while with chemical peels, the concentration of the topical agent is adjusted to regulate the depth of penetration and effectiveness.

There are currently three categories of chemical peels – glycolic acids (fruit acid peels), trichloracetic acid (TCA) and croton oil peels. The glycolic acids are the mildest and the croton oil is the strongest. The concentrations of all are adjusted to suit the individual patient’s skin condition. The milder glycolic acid and more dilute TCA peels are often referred to as “lunch time “peels. There is little down time and the redness resulting from the peel is short lived. These lighter peels are best for individuals with slight skin changes, require no anesthesia and are commonly performed in our Emory Aesthetic Center Spa. These lighter peels may be applied to all skin types and colors.

For stronger peels, the concentration of the TCA and croton oil are adjusted according to the changes in the skin and the location. Higher concentrations are applied to areas with deeper lines and lower concentrations for the thinner skin around the eyes. These deeper peels require anesthesia as there is discomfort associated with them. Typically sedation and local or topical anesthesia is required. Peels may be performed as an isolated procedure or in combination with surgical procedures such as facelifts and eyelid lifts.

For best results we advise that our patients prepare their skin by applying retinoids and “skin bleach” creams to the face for up to three weeks before the peel. The deeper peels which can take up to an hour are usually performed as outpatient in a procedure room or, in some cases, the operating room. There is immediate swelling and some red coloration of the peel areas. Recovery varies based on the type of peel used, the concentration applied and skin type. It may take as little as five days to two weeks or more.

Peels are not a substitute for surgical procedures but are often applied in conjunction with surgery to enhance the result and improve skin texture. The Emory Aesthetic Center, and our cosmetic surgeons, have extensive experience with peels and can customize a plan that best fits your individual need.

Related Resources:

Tags: , , , , , , ,