Chemical peels range from superficial, medium to deep, all of which offer improvement of the skin. Results vary, however, depending on your skin type and of course, the strength and depth of the peel, which will be further examined below.
Superficial chemical peels generally consist of Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s) or salicylic acids.
They generally thin out or completely remove the stratum corneum, which is the top, most outer layer of the seven layers of skin (see photos), resulting in more radiant, glowing skin.
AHA peels offer good improvement for acne and some improvement for fine lines and age spots. There is no downtime.
Salicylic acid peels offer good improvement for acne and some improvement for age spots. Like AHA peels, there is no downtime.
Medium-light strength chemical peels generally consist of 8%-30% trichloroaceticacid (TCA), and generally self-neutralize.
Medium-Light chemical peels peel away at part of or all of the epidermis, anywhere from the stratum granulosum to the basal cell layer, resulting in softer, smoother skin, as older, damaged skin cells shed off and younger, fresher cells rise to the surface. One can expect moderate improvement in acne scars and age spots and minor improvement in fine lines, although peels of this strength do nothing for deeper wrinkles.
Recovery time ranges from 4-10 days, depending on the strength of the peel and the area that is peeled.
Medium-deep strength chemical peels generally consist of 35% TCA concentration and above.
It peels away at the epidermis and part or all of the papillary dermis, resulting in softer, smoother skin, and offer moderate improvement in fine lines, deep wrinkles and acne scars, as well as good improvement in age spots.
Recovery time ranges from 7-14 days (1-2 weeks) and there is a risk of scarring, especially if more than one coat is applied to the area being treated. Although TCA peels generally self-neutralize, it is recommended that once the skin starts to frost (turns white), the peel be neutralized by mixing water and baking soda into a paste and applying it to the area treated.
Deep chemical peels are also known as phenol peels.
They peel past the epidermis and papillary dermis, and extend into the reticular dermis.
It offers good improvement for fine lines, wrinkles, acne, acne scars and age spots. It is not recommended for those with darker skin tones because it will bleach your skin.
This peel has the longest recovery time. For the first 48 hours post-peel, you may be limited to a liquid diet, only, since your skin may be too aggravated to even chew. You’ll then spend a minimum of 14 days (2 weeks) at home, in recovery and out of work, as your skin crusts and crumbles off. After about 2 weeks, your skin will be healed enough to return to work, but will likely remain red and sore for another 3-4 months.
Phenol peels are not recommended for those with a history of heart problems, as one of the risks is cardiac arrest.