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Chemical Peeling Treatments

About Peeling

Chemical peels, also known as chemexfoliation or derma-peeling, use a chemical on the face which makes the skin peel off allowing new skin to replace it. The new, regenerated skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin. The new skin is also temporarily more sensitive to the sun.

No cosmetic procedure is without risks, and these should be discussed before going ahead with any treatment.

What conditions does a chemical peel treat?

Chemical peels are performed on the face, neck or hands. They can be used to:

  • Reduce fine lines under the eyes and around the mouth.
  • Treat wrinkles caused by sun damage, ageing and hereditary factors.
  • Improve the appearance of mild scarring.
  • Treat certain types of acne.
  • Reduce age spots, freckles and dark patches due to pregnancy or taking contraceptive pills ( melasma).
  • Improve the look and feel of skin that is dull in texture and color.

Areas of sun damage, which may contain pre- cancerous keratoses that appear as scaly spots, may improve after chemical peeling. Following treatment, new pre- cancerous lesions are less likely to appear.

However, sags, bulges and more severe wrinkles do not respond well to chemical peels. They may require other kinds of cosmetic surgical procedures, such as carbon dioxide laser resurfacing, a facelift, brow lift, eyelid lift or soft tissue filler ( collagen or fat). A consultant cosmetic surgeon can help determine the most appropriate type of treatment for each individual case.

Who is a good candidate for a chemical peel?

Generally, fair-skinned and light-haired patients are ideal candidates for chemical peels. Darker skin types may also have good results, depending upon the type of problem being treated.

How are chemical peels performed?

A chemical peel can be performed in a consultant dermatologist's or cosmetic surgeon's consulting room or in a cosmetic surgery centre as an outpatient procedure.

The skin is thoroughly cleansed with an agent that removes excess oils and the eyes and hair are protected. One or more chemical solutions, such as glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid or carbolic acid (phenol), are applied to small areas on the skin. These applications produce a controlled wound, enabling new, regenerated skin to appear.

Preparing for a chemical peel

Prior to the chemical peel, your doctor may ask you to stop taking certain medicines and prepare your skin with topical preconditioning medications such as tretinoin or glycolic acid. After the chemical peel, it's important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.

If you have been prescribed oral antibiotics or an oral antiviral medicine by the dermatologist, you should begin taking those as directed. Typically, the oral antibiotics are prescribed depending on the depth of the chemical peel.

Remember to ask your doctor if you need to get someone drive you home.

What to expect during the procedure?

During the procedure, most patients experience a warm to somewhat hot sensation that lasts about five to ten minutes, followed by a stinging sensation. Cool compresses may be applied to help alleviate this stinging. A deeper peel may require pain medication during or after the procedure.

What to expect after the chemical peel?

Depending upon the type of chemical peel, a reaction similar to sunburn occurs following the procedure. Peeling usually involves redness, followed by scaling that ends within three to seven days. Mild peels may be repeated at one- to four-week intervals until the desired clinical effect is achieved.

Medium-depth and deep peeling may result in swelling, as well as the presence of water blisters that may break, crust, turn brown and peel off over a period of 7 to 14 days. Medium-depth peels may be repeated in six to twelve months, if necessary.

You will discuss the options with your dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon to determine the depth of your peel. This joint decision can vary, depending upon the condition of your skin and the objectives of treatment.

After treatment, some peels may require bandages to be placed on part or all of the skin that is treated. Bandages are usually removed in several days and may improve the effectiveness of the treatment.

It is important to avoid over-exposure to the sun after a chemical peel since the new skin is fragile and more susceptible to complications. The consultant dermatologist will recommend the proper follow-up care to reduce the tendency to develop abnormal skin color after peeling.

What are the possible complications of chemical peels?

In certain skin types, there is a risk of developing a temporary or permanent color change in the skin. Taking contraceptive pills, subsequent pregnancy or family history of brownish discoloration on the face may increase the possibility of developing abnormal pigmentation.

Although low, there is a risk of scarring in certain areas of the face, and certain individuals may be more prone to scarring. If scarring does occur, it can usually be treated with good results.

There is a small risk of reactivation of cold sores in patients with a history of herpes outbreaks. This problem is treated with medication as prescribed by the dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon. Your doctor may also choose to give you anti-viral medication before or immediately after the peel in order to prevent a herpes outbreak.

Prior to treatment, it is important for a patient to inform the physician of any past history of keloids (scar tissue overgrowth created at the site of a skin injury) or unusual scarring tendencies, as well as any history of x-ray treatments to the face or recurring cold sores.

Non-surgical cosmetic procedures

Correcting other cosmetic problems with skin care products and non-surgical procedures

Cosmetic surgery is not the only option to deal with visual signs of ageing. Non-surgical procedures or techniques may be more appropriate, may be cheaper and may carry less risk.

Wrinkles, unwanted facial hair and more

There are a number of skin care products and non-surgical cosmetic procedures that can help with fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage and unwanted facial or body hair.

  • Correcting the damage of ageing
  • Wrinkles, such frown lines, forehead lines and crows' feet can smoothed by botulinum toxin injections available as brand names Botox, Dysport and Vistabel.
  • Skin care products
  • An aesthetic practitioner may be able to recommend some skin care products that are effective for correcting ageing skin, sun-damaged skin, uneven pigmentation and acne. Skin care products with ingredients such as vitamin C may be recommended.
  • Rejuvenate tired skin
  • Chemical peels and microdermabrasion offer state-of-the-art renewal of skin that is tired, dull-looking or damaged. Patients emerge with smoother, softer and healthier-looking skin. Laser rejuvenation is another technique that can be used to refresh skin and correct some of the signs of ageing.
  • Smooth fine lines
  • Fine facial lines can be smoothed with collagen injections, a relatively safe procedure. Collagen replacement therapy supplements your skin's own collagen and the results are immediate and can last a long time.
  • Remove unwanted hair
  • If you're tired of shaving, plucking or waxing, laser hair reduction is a permanent alternative to reducing unwanted hair. Laser treatments remove hair more quickly, less painfully and more reliably than even electrolysis.

Skin care for mature skin

You may have been noticing the signs for a while: increased roughness, wrinkling or inelasticity. These are all normal changes in our skin as we age.

You may have enlarged sebaceous (oil) glands. Sometimes, precancerous and cancerous lesions can occur with aged and photoaged skin. Sun creams and sun protection are important to prevent further progression of photoageing, the damage caused by prolonged exposure, over a lifetime, to sunlight.

Your skin requires different skin care as you age. As we grow older, our skin doesn’t produce new cells at the same pace. Environmental and biological factors take their toll. Often we develop enlarged pores, and the effects of the sun become evident in sunspots, freckles and wrinkles.

Here are two tips to enhance natural skin care as you grow older:

  • If you smoke, stop. Smoking has been shown to accelerate ageing of skin, so stopping now is important for good skin health.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet - with or without a multivitamin. A healthy diet helps the skin get the nutrition it needs to help repair ongoing damage from the sun and other environmental elements.

There are many topical non-prescription and prescription products available that help maintain and protect your skin’s health. Ask your GP or dermatologist which are best for you.