Chemical peels are used to treat several skin problems, including acne, discolorations and fine lines and wrinkles. Chemical peels are usually applied to the face, which removes the damaged outer layer of skin and leaves softer, smoother skin underneath. There are a variety of chemical peels offered today from the lightest to the deepest peel available.
Alpha hydroxy acids, also known as AHAs, are one of the most popular ingredients in a mild chemical peel. Glycolic, citric, lactic, malic and tartaric acid is the most common AHA used for this purpose. These peels are typically used to reduce the appearance of fine lines, smooth rough skin and produce a more even skin tone and can help with acne. Because these are mild chemical peel, a series of treatments may be required to achieve desired results.
The most common beta hydroxy acid (lipid based) used in chemical peels is salicylic acid. This substance is also frequently used in acne products, which is why salicylic chemical peels are often used to treat acne-prone skin. Salicylic acid is more potent than glycolic acid, so it provides a slightly deeper chemical peel with longer lasting results. Because beta hydroxy acid chemical peels are also considered mild resurfacing treatments, no anesthesia is needed and the recovery time after the procedure is relatively short. However, it may take more than one treatment session to achieve desired results, and the procedure will need to be repeated periodically to maintain softer, smoother skin.
Jessner’s peel is actually a combination of ingredients mixed into a single formula. It is considered a light to medium depth chemical peel that is slightly stronger than both the alpha and beta hydroxy formulas. Jessner’s peel uses lactic acid, salicylic acid and resorcinol, which is also sometimes used as a disinfectant or acne medication. It is applied to skin that is too damaged to respond well to an AHA peel, but does not require a medium to deep treatment. Jessner’s peels are often applied without the use of anesthetic and complete recovery after the treatment takes about a week.
Trichloroacetic acid is the most common ingredient found in medium chemical peels and come in different strengths. This substance can successfully treat a host of skin imperfections, including sun damage, fine lines and wrinkles, and acne scarring. The procedure offers effective results with minimum risk. TCA chemical peels usually take about a week to recover from, and the results are much more dramatic than lighter peels can offer. Some patients need more than one treatment session to achieve desired results.
Phenol is the substance of choice for deep chemical peels that provide the greatest and most dramatic results. This type of chemical peel may be used to remove precancerous growths or completely diminish deep wrinkles. Because the formula works more deeply than other types of chemical peels, most phenol peels require an hour or two in the doctor’s office or under anesthesia which usually involve pain medication afterward. Phenol peels can take up to a month to recover from completely, but the result is impressively smoother skin that will last much longer than that treated with other types of peels and now has been substituted with resurfacing lasers.