If you think you know everything there is to know about chemical peels, then think again. While they might seem simple on the surface (no pun intended), there’s more to them than meets the eye.
Chemical peels are more than just cosmetic techniques that involve putting acid on your skin and killing off the top layer of skin cells. While that’s how they rejuvenate your complexion, they are more nuanced, delicate, and interesting than that.
They have their personalities, quirks, and, of course, secrets.
Think chemical peels are something new? Think again. Chemical peels have been around for thousands of years.
Historians believe ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra bathed her face in milk and wine. The lactic and tartaric acids in these drinks acted as mild peels, refreshing and rejuvenating her skin.
The Romans and Greeks also used peels as a cosmetic enhancement. It was a favorite pastime of the well-to-do.
The first use of modern peel dates back to 1871. Physicians and inventors, such as William Tilbury Fox and Ferdinand von Hebra, experimented with various compounds to find something that rejuvenated the skin. And with the discovery of phenol, they succeeded.
The bigger the peel, the more influential the treatment, right? Wrong.
The effectiveness of chemical peels has little to do with the strength of the acid. What counts is the epigenetic changes induced in dermal cells. High-strength acids might help some people, but they aren’t always necessary.
As a patient, you can get great results from mild solutions containing alpha-hydroxy or salicylic acid, particularly when combined with exfoliation and other treatments.
Putting acid on dry skin seems like a bad idea. After all, isn’t acid an irritant? Won’t it dry out the skin even more?
The answer, strangely, is no. Eliminating dead or dysfunctional skin cells on the surface can help skin regain lost moisture by opening up pores and reestablishing a connection between lower and upper dermal layers.
Most patients assume that chemical peels are all about looking younger. But, again, that’s not true. While skin rejuvenation is one of their primary effects, you can use it for other purposes.
For instance, some people use chemical peels to improve skin clarity. Peels have a smoothing effect, making skin tone appear more even. It’s also suitable for hyperpigmentation – high concentrations of melanin that accumulate beneath the skin.
Some cosmeticians even recommend it as an acne treatment. Removing the top layers of skin cells may help the dermis “breathe” better, reducing opportunities for bacteria to multiply inside pores and cause inflammation.
Even if you don’t have any skin problems, you might still want to consider going for a chemical peel.
Why? Because even people without any skin problems (such as acne, pigmentation, scarring, fine lines, and wrinkles) can still benefit.
It all comes down to how chemical peels work. Remember, when acid solutions come into contact with your skin cells, they stress them out. Cells suddenly go into repair mode, trying to undo the perceived damage done.
Like exercise, this process forces skin cells to come back stronger and better than before. Hence, a few weeks after treatment, you’ll look in the mirror and wonder why your skin is so good. It’s all because of the changes at the epigenetic and cellular levels. Your skin doesn’t just look younger, and it is younger.
Some chemical peels hardly have any effect, while others transform your skin. That’s because they use different substances.
The lightest peels use substances like alpha-hydroxy acid, which only penetrate the top layers of the skin. Medium peels make heavier use of glycolic and trichloroacetic acid and reach the middle layers of the dermis, while deep peels fully penetrate the skin.
Don’t assume that the deepest peels are always the best, though. It depends on your skin’s condition and aesthetic goals.
Patients sometimes confuse chemical peels with microdermabrasion and laser skin resurfacing. All three are different ways of removing the top layer of skin. And, when you know what these treatments are, you can understand why.
However, as you might guess, there are critical differences. Resurfacing does this with lasers, while microdermabrasion does it mechanically with an abrasive head, both of which have nothing to do with chemical peels.
Unfortunately, chemical peels can’t fix skin sagging. No amount of surface skin cell renewal can fix the problem. That’s because loose skin mainly results from aging structures under the dermis, not the dermis itself.
Fortunately, multiple treatments can improve skin sagging, many of which are available at our clinic.
Like other skin enhancement treatments, chemical peels produce mild, temporary side effects. Swelling, redness, and irritation are all possible. However, most patients don’t know which they’ll get in advance.
Fortunately, you can get medications to reduce these side effects so that you can return to your usual self faster. These douse inflammation and assist the healing process, giving you the confidence you want in no time.