Chemical Peels for Wrinkle Treatment
In a chemical peel, a chemical solution is applied to small areas of skin on the face, neck or hands. The chemicals damage the outer layers of skin in a controlled way. After the procedure, the damaged skin becomes red and peels off. Chemical peels can remove age spots, acne scars, and some wrinkles.
As the smoother skin underneath heals and grows, your skin looks younger.
Chemical peels come in a variety of strengths and types. Glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid, salicyclic acid, lactic acid, or carbonic acids are used, sometimes in combinations. The application can take as little as 15 minutes. There may be mild redness and irritation afterwards, but most people return to normal activities immediately. It's important to wear sunscreen to protect your vulnerable skin after a chemical peel.
What Can a Peel Do?
They can make skin smoother, help fade brown spots and an uneven skin tone from sun damage, and generally make skin's surface look fresher and younger. Having peels done on a regular basis (say, every 6-8 weeks) will lead to collagen stimulation that improves the appearance of wrinkles.
There are definite drawbacks to consider with peels, but this is largely dependent on the type and depth of peel. Superficial peels have few associated risks but also offer less noticeable results. Some redness, swelling, and increased skin sensitivity can occur with superficial peels. You may also experience a period of intense flaking as the old, damaged skin is replaced by fresh, smooth new skin.
When significant results are desired, complications increase proportionately. Medium and deep peel complications can include scarring, infection, temporary or permanent changes in skin color (this is especially true for deeper peels), and cold sore breakouts for those with a history of cold sores. (Sources: Dermatologic Clinics, July 2001, pages 427-438.) For these reasons, many cosmetic dermatologists are forgoing deeper peels in favor of what can be accomplished more safely with light-emitting and laser devices.
Chemical peels are performed by the application of the specific solution that actually dissolves the skin's top layers, either over the entire face or on specific areas. Often, several shallow to medium-depth peels can achieve similar results to one deep-peel treatment, with less post-procedure risk and a shorter recovery time. Talk to your dermatologist about this option and see if it may be the best approach to take.
Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peels use glycolic acid as the peeling ingredient and these are considered superficial to medium peels depending on the concentration utilized. Typically the concentrations range from 30% to 70%. AHA peels are effective in improving skin texture, causing some collagen and elastin rebuilding, minimally reducing the appearance of acne scarring, and reducing the appearance of skin discolorations. Repeated treatments are necessary for all concentrations to maintain results.
After any peel, the practitioner should apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen (preferably one whose only active ingredients are titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) to your skin. Skin will be sun-sensitive for a few weeks after the peel, and it makes sense to use sun protection to protect the investment you just made. Don't bother with peels if you insist on getting a tan, either from the sun or from a tanning bed. A reputable, ethical dermatologist would never offer a peel to someone who is visibly tan or cannot commit to daily sun protection.
BHA PeelsBeta hydroxy acid (BHA) or salicylic acid peels
These are not as popular as AHA peels, yet they can be equally effective and have specific advantages for some skin types. A salicylic acid solution can work in a way that is similar to a glycolic acid peel, but irritation may be reduced. Salicylic acid is a compound closely related to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), and it retains its aspirin-like anti-inflammatory properties. A deep BHA peel can be superior for many skin types because the irritation and inflammation are kept to a minimum due to the analgesic action of the BHA compound. Salicylic acid is also lipid soluble; therefore, it is a good peeling agent for blemish-prone skin with blackheads. The most common concentrations used today are 20% to 30% (Sources: Dermatologic Surgery, December 2003, page 1196 and March 1998, pages 325–328; and Cosmetic Dermatology, October 2000, pages 51-57).
BHA peels are also the preferred option for those with sensitive skin, including skin affected by rosacea. Note that some people with rosacea cannot tolerate salicylic acid. If you have rosacea, consider experimenting with a skin-care product that contains salicylic acid, such as one of Paula's Choice BHA exfoliants, before considering a BHA peel.
TCA PeelsTrichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels (sometimes called Blue Peel)
It is used in concentrations up to 50% are superficial to medium peels and have been around for years with a history of being effective and safe (Source: Dermatologic Clinics, July 2001, pages 413–425). This type of peel can be used for peeling the face, neck, hands, and other areas of the body. It has less bleaching effect than phenol (see below) and is excellent for "spot" peeling of specific areas. TCA peels are best for fine lines but are minimally effective on deeper wrinkling
Jessner's peel is a medium-depth peel containing 14% salicylic acid, 14% lactic acid, and 14% resorcinol. Though considered effective and easy to use, there is little research on this method. We do know this peel becomes stronger as more layers are applied. The amount of resorcinol in this peel makes it more irritating than AHA or BHA peels, and it is generally not recommended for those with dark skin tones due to the risk of resorcinol causing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation