Chemical peels are one of the most common treatments used for skin rejuvenation and acne treatment. They can quickly reduce the number of blackheads or pimples; improve acne, and the appearance of the skin. For patients with aging skin or uneven skin color, chemical peels also enhance the texture and tone of the skin.
How do they work?
Chemical mixtures are applied to remove the damaged outer layers of the skin. They restore blemished, blotchy, or sun-damaged facial skin by using a chemical liquid to peel away the top layer of damaged skin. the use of chemical peels for acne has become more widespread. These treatments are proving to be any easy effective, yet less harsh treatment for acne.
What are the treatment options?
Patients may choose from three chemicals: alphahydroxy acid (AHA), betahydroxy acid (BHA), and trichloroacetic acid (TCA). These chemicals can be changed to fit your skin type and special needs. AHA and BHA are milder than other types used in chemical peels for acne and other skin problems. Lighter chemical peels for acne do not, as a rule, call for a lot of downtime for you. It is normal for patients to have mild redness, irritation, and dryness which will go away as the body adjusts to the treatment. Most of the time, these lighter treatments need to be done every four weeks or so. Stronger chemical peels for acne, such as TCA and phenol treatments, act on deeper layers of skin tissue. With these deep treatments, the healing time is often longer. Deeper chemical peels for acne also have a greater risk of side effects such as pain, crusting, bacterial and viral infections, as well as increased sensitivity to the sun.
How is the treatment done?
The chemicals are applied with a sponge, cotton pad, swab, or brush to the entire face or certain areas to achieve the best results. It is left on the face for a few minutes before it is neutralized, or washed off. Then, it is washed off. The same treatment can be done on the chest and back as well. Peels may last between 5 to 15 minutes, based on the area to be treated and the treatment plan you and your doctor choose.
Does a chemical peel work best for certain people?
We will assess your skin color, extent of sun damage, oiliness of your skin, and your type of acne (superficial vs. nodular cystic) in order to decide whether a chemical peel is for you. Chemical peels work best for those patients who have superficial acne or acne scars, mild skin flaws, or fine wrinkles. Patients who have nodular cystic acne may not be good candidates for chemical peels. Those who are pregnant or breast feeding should not have peels. The peels are also helpful for persons with facial blemishes that occurred as a result of frequent acne flares. Peels will not remove deep “ice-pick” or box shaped scars.
What should I expect after a chemical peel?
Right after the chemical has been applied, the skin may sting or tingle, but this should go away within the first couple of minutes. Side effects may vary in keeping with the strength of the solution, but most of the time patients have some degree of dryness, stinging, redness, or irritation that goes away within a few days. Other side effects include risk of infection, scarring, or pigment changes which are very rare with AHA and BHA peels.
Sometimes, mild flares may occur after the first treatment, but often resolve quickly with added treatments using other topical or systemic agents.
How should I care for my skin after chemical peels?
Your skin may be sensitive to other lotions used to treat acne, i.e. benzyl peroxide, topical retinoids, over the counter or prescribed acne washes within the first 48 hours after your peel. You should use gentle facial washes and apply moisturizers often. Your skin may also be sensitive to the sun for the first few days. Use a sunscreen with broad spectrum coverage and an SPF 30 during the first week after the peel.
How soon will I see results and how many treatments will I need?
Most people notice their skin has improved somewhat after the first treatment. As a rule, you will need about 3 treatments (one treatment per month) to achieve good results. It is vital for you to keep on using the prescribed treatments at home to maintain the response. Touch up treatments may be needed in the future. Occasionally other treatments such as micro-dermabrasion or comedone extractions are added to enhance the effects of the chemical peels.
What are the limitations of chemical peels for acne treatment?
Chemical peels for acne do have certain limits. They may not be useful in treating certain types of acne or when used as a solo therapy. Peels for acne can be combined with microdermabrasion, blue light therapy, pulsed dye laser treatment, photodynamic therapy, laser resurfacing, and/or dermal fillers to achieve the best results.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 07/06/2011
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