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A Q&A about chemical peels

chemical peels

Our dermatologist answers all of your questions about chemical peels!

Question: What’s a chemical peel?

Answer: There are three main types of chemical peels: Superficial, medium and deep. The most popular are peels with glycolic acid (50-70%), Jessner's superficial peels and trichloroacetic acid (TCA) medium peels (usually 35%).

Q: How’s a chemical peel performed?

A: Superficial and medium peels are accompanied by slight pain, but doesn’t require anesthesia. The procedure is performed in the dermatologist’s office and takes about 30 minutes. It includes a thorough cleaning of the skin, then the peeling solution is applied. The solution remains on the skin for a number of minutes and causes a burning, itching sensation and slight pain (Which lasts from a matter of minutes to a matter of hours).

Q: When are chemical peels performed?

A: After a peel, excessive exposure to the sun should be strictly avoided — most of these procedures are performed during the fall and winter.

Q: How does a chemical peel affect the skin?

A: They cause a burn much like sunburn, but without the long-term dangers linked to excessive sun exposure. Depending on the type and concentration of the chemical used, the epidermis and the dermis are destroyed. 24 hours later, new cells begin to replace them and a new epidermis is produced. Two to three days after the procedure, cells in the dermis (Called fibroblasts) become active. These cells produce new collagen fibers which support the newly-created skin.

Q: What are the depths of the different types of chemical peels?

A: Superficial peel first causes injury to and then results in the peel of the epidermis to a depth of 0.3-0.5 millimeters. Medium chemical peels reach the middle of the dermis: A depth of 0.6-0.8 millimeters. Deep chemical peels destroy the epidermis and most of the dermis.

Q: What are the advantages of peels?

A: Superficial and medium chemical peels don’t require anesthesia. Dangerous side effects, like abnormal heart rate, have never been observed after superficial or medium peels. The risk of scarring pigmentation changes are much smaller for medium peels and zero for superficial peels. Another advantage of superficial and medium peels is that the skin looks almost normal after the treatment. Almost anyone over the age of 30 can benefit from superficial chemical peels! This type of peel renews the upper layers of the skin and makes it look smoother and fresher. For young people with acne, superficial chemical peels can reduce both active pimples and post-acne brown spots. Medium chemical peels are frequently used to improve wrinkles and sun-induced brown spots — this peel can be repeated once every few years.

Q: What are the side effects?

After a Jessner's of Glycolic peel, sun exposure must be avoided for at least a week. Makeup can be applied a few hours after the procedure and the patient can be back to school or work the following day. After medium peeling with a 35% solution of trichloroacetic acid, the burn, redness and peeling are more severe and normal activities can be resumed after a week.

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