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Chemical Peels for Ageing Skin

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 22 May 2012 | comments*Discuss
Chemical Peels For Ageing Skin

Chemical peels are a popular choice for fighting some of the most common signs of ageing, such as uneven pigmentation and blemishes, dull, rough skin and fine lines from sun damage, hereditary factors and poor lifestyle habits.

It can be performed on the face, neck and hands, and overall, chemical peels improve the appearance of your skin, giving it a smoother, fresher, more youthful look. This is done by applying a chemical solution to your skin which causes it to “blister” and peel off and is generally a safe procedure.

However, chemical peels come with several risks which do need to be kept in mind. In addition, it does not treat other signs of ageing, such as deep wrinkles, sagging skin and bulging and it can also leave you temporarily more sensitive to sun exposure straight after the treatment.

Types of Chemical Peel

There are three main types of chemical peels used. The mildest is a formula using alphahydroxy acids (AHAs), such as lactic, glycolic or fruit acids and while this only produces a light peel, it is a good choice for those who cannot or do not wish to spare the time needed to recover from the other stronger peels.

AHA peels generally work well on dry patches, fine wrinkles, uneven pigmentation and acne and different concentrations may be applied over the course of several treatments, in order to achieve the best results. In fact, small concentrations of AHA’s are often mixed into over-the-counter exfoliants, face washes and even creams, to help improve skin texture as part of a daily skin-care regime.

For medium-depth peeling, a formula containing trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is used, again in varying concentrations. This will treat fine superficial wrinkles and blemishes and other pigmentation problems. Again, it is likely to be needed to be used several times to achieve the desired results. Each treatment is usually only 10-15 minutes and recovery relatively quick, although strong sunblock must be used for several months afterwards.

For those undergoing a deep chemical peel, a formula containing phenol is used. This is a very strong solution and it usually only used to treat those suffering from deep wrinkles, coarse skin, blotchy skin, large areas of damaged skin from sun exposure and even pre-cancerous growths. Phenol peels doe deliver dramatic results.

Note, however, that phenol is a harsh treatment and it can also lighten the treated area, with permanent skin lightening and lines of demarcation appearing, so your individual skin pigmentation patterns and skin tone may be a determining factor in its use. It is generally not recommended for dark-skinned patients. It can also only be used on the face as it may cause scarring in other areas.

Treatment normally takes one hour or more and recovery from phenol can be very slow – it may even take several months for your skin to completely heal; in the meantime, strong sunblock is essential.

Risks Associated With Chemical Peels

As long as it is performed by a qualified, experienced, reputable plastic surgeon, a chemical peel is normally a safe procedure. However, it does carry certain risks. While rare, there is a risk of scarring in certain parts of the face and this is especially common in individuals with a unusual scarring tendencies.

In other patients with a history of herpes outbreaks, chemical peels can trigger the reactivation of core sores – therefore it is important that you discuss your full medical history with your plastic surgeon beforehand, so he can recommend the best treatment to prevent a herpes outbreak.

With stronger peels, your new skin may lose the ability to produce pigmentation and this may result in permanent discolouration or abnormal pigmentation in areas of the face. Generally, fair-skinned, light-haired individuals are better candidates for chemical peels – those with darker skin can also have good results but this depends very much on the problem being treated.

Finally, your skin may be red and feel irritated, even crusty immediately after a peel but these symptoms should subside as your skin gradually recovers.

The Chemical Peel Procedure

Chemical peels are normally performed as an outpatient procedure, in a doctor’s clinic or surgery centre. First, the skin is completely cleaned to remove any excess oils and protection is applied to the hair and eyes. Next, the chemical solution is applied to small areas of the skin and allowed to work.

With light and medium chemical peels, most individuals only experience a warm, stinging sensation and cool compresses will help to alleviate this feeling. With a deep chemical peel, pain medication may be offered during or after the procedure.

Before the procedure, you may be asked to stop certain medication and to also prepare your skin using certain creams which contain retinol or glycolic acid. After the procedure, you may be prescribed an oral antibiotic or oral anti-viral medication, which you should take as directed. In addition, it is vital that you apply strong sunblock every day, regardless of the weather, and that you avoid sun exposure for several weeks after the treatment as the new skin is very vulnerable and fragile.

Finally, remember that like all cosmetic procedures – while they may treat your current signs of ageing – they will not protect or prevent future and continuing signs of ageing, so it is important that you adopt lifestyle habits (such as applying sunscreen) to help retain the benefits of any anti-ageing treatments.

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I have chicken pox scars from when I was small and am thinking about getting a treatment to make them less visible. I would hope that 'peel' like this would be deep enough to help. I am not sure yetbut found this article really helped in telling me what exactly happens. I will do some more investigation and let anyone know who's interested:)
scarred - 22-May-12 @ 4:49 PM
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