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What is a chemical peel?

A chemical peel uses acid to remove layers of damaged or aged skin, revealing newer, softer, younger-looking skin. The acids used range from very mild to very strong. Mild alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s) can be used to remove a very minimal layer of skin, thus rejuvenating dull-looking skin. Stronger acids like trichloracetic acid (TCA) or phenol can be used for deep peels to correct acne scarring, serious pigmentation problems or fine wrinkles.

At what age can a chemical peel be performed?

A chemical peel can be performed at any age when there is enough damaged skin to be removed.

What does typical chemical peel consultation entail?

During a consultation, you will meet with the physician and/or the skincare technician who will perform the peel to ask questions and find out what kind of procedure you will need for your skin type and condition. The first step is a full evaluation of your skin and its overall health, including its elasticity. The skin care specialist will also go over the types of chemicals used and explain which approach would be best for your skin.

How is a chemical peel performed?

A very minor peel can be performed by a licensed esthetician doctor’s office or medi-spa; deeper peels, especially if done in conjunction with another facial rejuvenation procedure like a facelift, are often done in a hospital setting with anesthesia. Before the peel, your skin will be cleansed and toned to removed all-natural surface oils. The chosen chemical will be applied gently to your skin in one or more layers. After a specified length of time, the physician or skin care specialist will neutralize the acid and remove it from your skin, which is then wiped clean and treated with a moisturizer or antibacterial ointment.

What should I expect post-operatively?

Your face will be red in areas and peeling for up to two weeks after your treatment. After a light peel, your skin may feel tight like it does after a sunburn. After a deep peel performed by your doctor, expect several days of discomfort and tenderness as your skin becomes crusted and weeps clear fluid. It may be a few weeks until you see pink, new skin, which must be protected from the sun like a baby’s skin. Your doctor will give you explicit instructions which should be followed to the letter.

What are the risks of a chemical peel?

If the peel goes deeper than intended, there’s a risk of bacterial or viral infection to your skin before it heals. Likewise, if you develop a cold sore or fever blister before you heal, it can spread to the whole treated area and cause scarring. Hyperpigmentation (excessive coloration) and hypopigmentation (loss of color) can be a problem after a chemical peel, especially for darker-skinned people or those who do not take proper care of their faces after the peel. Following all your physicians’s instructions will help maximize your outcome and minimize the risks.

Are the results permanent?

You will, of course, continue to age following your chemical peel. However, you will be starting with virtually new skin, so you have set the process back somewhat. Taking great care of your skin going forward will also maximize the benefits of your chemical peels, as will limiting sun exposure, quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol intake.