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Chemical Peel


Chemical peels are a type of plastic surgery that some might consider to be a form of celebrity plastic surgery when in fact it is available to most people who are wishing to improve the look of their skin through this form of cosmetic plastic surgery.  What basically occurs in a chemical peel is that a chemical solution is used in order to take off the damaged outer layers of skin, improving its texture. 


This procedure does not affect the aging process of the skin and does not perform the same function as a facelift.  According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, chemical peels can help to remove pre-cancerous skin growths, keep acne under control and reduce the scarring on the face that may have resulted from skin damage due to acne.  Although there are some who worry about bad plastic surgery and the “Dangers of Plastic Surgery” in general, this is for the most part a safe procedure and should you have any concerns it is recommended that you contact your physician or licensed plastic surgeon. 


The only difficulties that some patients may face are irregularities in pigmentation as a result of stronger forms of treatment.  This procedure is for the most part completely safe and relatively painless, requiring no anaesthesia.  However, the preparations and results vary depending on the type of chemical peel that is performed and the formulation used should be done so in consultation with one’s licensed health care professional such as a family doctor or plastic surgeon.


Which Chemicals Are Used?


There are three main chemicals that are used in chemical peels: alphahydroxy acids, trichloroacetic acid and phenol.  Each of these chemicals has their own uses and considerations which should be given some thought before going ahead with this cosmetic procedure.


Of the three chemicals that may be used, phenol is the most powerful.  It is used to correct blotches which may have been a result of exposure to the sun, the effects of birth control pills, or wrinkles due to aging or as a means of removing pre-cancerous growths.  It should be noted that this chemical is only for use on the face and has a number of side-effects which should be taken into consideration.  Those with darker skin pigmentation should not use this chemical as a permanent lightening of the skin may occur, removing even freckles.  The results are very long lasting and result in a long, slow recovery lasting several months that mean that one must always wear sunscreen from that point on.  In addition the use of this chemical in a chemical peel can cause risks for individuals with some forms of heart difficulties and as such a physician should be considered before undergoing a phenol chemical peel.


The second strongest chemical that is used in chemical peels is known as trichloroacetic acid or TCA, which although the concentrations may vary, is generally used for a medium level peel.  It is not uncommon that a chemical peel done with trichloroacetic acid will need to be repeated as its less dramatic results mean a shorter treatment time, more rapid healing and less long-lasting effects.  Trichloroacetic acid chemical peels are most often used to smooth fine wrinkles on the surface of the skin, including the removal of blemishes and the correction of problems of pigmentation in localized areas of the skin.  Unlike the phenol peel, the trichloroacetic acid peel can be used on other areas of the body and is preferred for patients with darker skin pigmentation as it does not have the same skin lightening effects of phenol.  Subsequent to the treatment which in of itself takes only ten to fifteen minutes, the patient will need to use sunscreen for several months after the treatment, despite the often quick post procedure healing time.  Finally, it should be noted that before the treatment the patient may need to use Retin-A or AHA creams and that after the treatment there may need to be follow-ups in order to ensure that the desired results are both achieved and maintained.


The final form of chemical used in chemical peels here is the mildest form known as alphahydroxy acids or AHAs, which include fruit acids, lactic acid and glycolic acid.  This is a very mild form of chemical peel that is generally used to smooth roughened or dry skin, improving its texture, particularly if damaged by the sun and can help to correct pigment difficulties and can aid in the control of acne in some cases.  This treatment is sometimes used before moving towards a more aggressive chemical peel such as a trichloroacetic acid or phenol peel.  Not unlike other chemical peels, the use of sunscreen is required and like a TCA peel, there may be further peels required to obtain the desired results.  Alphahydroxy acids can in some cases be used as part of a daily skin-care regimen, however the use of this product should always be done in consultation with a licensed health care professional or family physician.


Other Considerations


As with any medical procedure the results are not entirely predictable and although this procedure is for the most part quite safe, there are some risks that may result from chemical peels, including infection and potentially scarring.  Generally, these risks increase in chemical peels that use stronger chemicals such as the phenol or trichloroacetic acid peels as opposed to the alphahydroxy acid peels. 


The results of these peels also vary in terms of recovery time; with AHA peels sometimes produce a not long-lasting redness to the skin including a flaking and dryness that can be handled on a day to day basis.  TCA peels will take approximately one to two weeks to fully heel, after which it is safe to resume regular activities, although one should remain careful of sun exposure.  Phenol peels, being the strongest will take longer to heel with the skin first appearing very red before healing.  After two weeks the skin should return to normal but it is important that to prevent further skin damage that sunscreen continue to be used after this procedure is complete.