Facial Peels versus Lasers: Which is Better?

Peels vs. LasersFacial peels and lasers fall under the category of skin resurfacing, which includes treatments that improve skin quality. The improvements range from enhancing the complexion to the elimination of deep wrinkles, and everything in between.

Skin resurfacing is recommended to improve the quality of the skin, skin discoloration, wrinkles and even to some extent to tighten the skin. These treatments are not a substitute for facial surgical procedures or even injectables and dermal fillers, but instead, are regularly recommended as an adjunct to them.

Although the final effect on the skin may be the same for facial peels and lasers, they are very different processes and there is no simple answer as to which one is best.

Both lead to the shedding of the top layer of skin and stimulation of collagen in the deeper skin layers. Facial peels do this through the application of “acid “to the skin, while lasers do it through “heat “energy released by the laser. The acid and the heat result in a “controlled burn” of the upper skin layer. The upper skin layer is then replaced by new or regenerated skin which is smoother in appearance and more even in color. The depth of this “controlled burn “is adjusted according to the condition of the skin and the depth of the wrinkles. The more marked the skin changes, the deeper the treatment and the longer the recovery.

Facial peels are compounded chemicals that are general less costly, and have changed very little if at all over time. There is a variety of peels available ranging from Glycolic acid (fruit acids) to Trichloracetic Acid (TCA) to Phenol and Croton oil peels. The type of peel, the concentration and how it is applied to the skin regulate the degree and depth of the “acid burn”.

Lasers are sophisticated and expensive machines which improve with each new model. There are a variety of lasers such as CO2, Erbium, etc., and the application can be fractioned. The energy level, degree and depth of the laser treatment can be adjusted by turning dials on the laser machine.

Both peels and lasers rely on the experience and knowledge of the practitioner applying the peel or the operator of the laser machine. Lighter peels such as Glycolic acids and lighter TCA peels, as well as some laser treatments may be undertaken in medi-spas and skin spas. However, the deeper and more invasive lasers, and higher concentrations of TCA and Croton oil peels should only be performed by a trained physician in a medical facility.

So which is better? The end results are similar and you should follow the recommendation of your doctor who will choose the modality that will, in their experience, provide you with the best results and the lowest risk. The physicians and aestheticians at the Emory Aesthetic Center are experienced in both modalities and can provide an evaluation and recommendation based on your individual skin needs.

About Dr. Nahai

Foad Nahai, MDFoad Nahai, MD, FACS is internationally recognized as an innovator in the field of plastic surgery where he has developed and refined many procedures. He has co-authored ten books and published over 190 scientific articles on all aspects of plastic surgery. The latest book he authored and edited, published in 2011, is the second edition of his three volume text entitled The Art of Aesthetic Surgery.

He has been invited to lecture and demonstrate plastic surgical procedures all over the world. In addition to numerous professional honors and awards, he is listed in the “Best Doctors in America”, the “Best Doctors in the U.S.”, Town & Country Magazine, Good Housekeeping, More Magazine and Atlanta Magazine as one of the country’s top plastic surgeons. He has been listed in W Magazine as one of the top plastic surgeons in the world. Dr. Nahai is in demand internationally to speak at plastic surgery meetings and to demonstrate surgical procedures.

Dr. Nahai served as the 2008-2010 president of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), he is a past president of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), a former director of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and is currently Editor-in-Chief of Aesthetic Surgery Journal.

His primary area of expertise is in Face, Neck and Eyelid surgery where he has made significant contributions to the advancement of the art and science of Facial Rejuvenation.

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