April 2017
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Peeling Away
[Fashion & Beauty-September 2008]

Is your skin exfoliant not doing its job? Do you sometimes wish you could peel a layer off your skin to discover what’s new underneath? Well, of course you can! You may or may not have considered getting a chemical peel but it’s a good idea to ask your doctor if it’s right for you. There are many advantages to getting peels and there are many different kinds depending on what you’re looking to achieve. Acne, wrinkles, scarring, and blemishes all have the same solution. A chemical peel is a body treatment technique used to improve and smooth the texture of the facial skin using a chemical solution that causes the skin to blister and eventually peel off. The regenerated skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin. Thus the term chemical peel is derived. Some types of chemical peels can be purchased and administered without a medical license, however people are advised to seek professional help from a plastic surgeon or dermatologist on a specific type of chemical peel before a procedure is performed.

There are several different types of peels, some of the most common ones include:

AHA Peels

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are naturally occurring organic carboxylic acids such as glycolic acid, a natural constituent of sugar cane juice and lactic acid, found in sour milk and tomato juice. This is the mildest of the peel formulas and produces light peels for treatment of fine wrinkles, areas of dryness, uneven pigmentation and acne. Alpha hydroxy acids can also be mixed with a facial wash or cream in lesser concentrations as part of a daily skin-care regimen to improve the skin’s texture.

AHA peels are used to:

  • reduce fine wrinkling
  • treat areas of dryness
  • reduce uneven pigmentation
  • aid in the control of acne
  • smooth rough dry skin
  • improve the texture of sun-damaged skin

AHA peels may:

  • cause stinging
  • cause skin redness
  • cause mild skin irritation
  • cause dryness
  • take multiple treatments for desired results

Beta Hydroxy Acid Peels

The use of beta hydroxy acid (BHA) peels is becoming common instead of the stronger Alpha Hyroxy (AHA) peels due to BHA’s ability to get deeper into the pores than AHA. Studies show that BHA peels control oil and acne as well as remove dead skin cells to a certain extent better than AHA’s because AHA’s only work on the surface of the skin.

Jessner’s Peel

Jessner’s peel is a combination of salicylic and lactic acids, and resorcinol. It is thought to break intracellular bridges between keratinocytes.

Trichloroacetic Acid Peels

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is used as an intermediate to deep peeling agent in concentrations ranging from 20-50%. Depth of penetration is increased as concentration increases, with 50% TCA penetrating into the reticular dermis.  Concentrations higher than 35% are not recommended because of the high risk of scarring.

Trichloroacetic acid peels:

  • are preferred for darker-skinned patients over Phenol
  • smooth out fine surface wrinkles
  • remove superficial blemishes
  • correct skin pigment problems

Trichloroacetic acid peels may:

  • require pre-treatment with Retin-A or AHA creams
  • require repeat treatment to maintain results
  • require the use of sunblock for several months (this is a must)
  • take several days to heal depending on the peel depth

Phenol Peels

Phenol is the strongest of the chemical solutions and produces a deep skin peel. Recent studies suggest that phenol is most likely the only carrier for another active component in the solution, namely croton oil. In fact, phenol alone produces only a light peel which is ineffective for restructuring the deeper dermal structures (such as wrinkles). The term Phenol/Croton oil peel has been proposed as a more accurate descriptor, but the established terminology phenol peel continues to be of dominant usage, as the role of croton oil in the mix is not as widely understood.

Effects of a phenol chemical peel are long lasting, and in some cases are still readily apparent up to 20 years following the procedure. Improvements in the patient’s skin can be quite dramatic. A single treatment usually achieves the desired result.

Phenol peels are used to:

  • correct blotches caused by sun exposure or aging
  • smooth out coarse deep wrinkles
  • remove precancerous growths

Phenol peels may:

  • pose a risk for patients with heart problems
  • permanently remove facial freckles
  • cause permanent skin lightening by reducing the ability to produce pigment
  • take several months to heal
  • require increased protection from the sun for life

Risks and Precautions

Although chemical peels have many advantages such as removing wrinkles, scars, and eliminating acne they are not for everyone. It is best to consult a dermatologist whether one is right for you. Some peels require the administering of anesthesia and can only be performed by a physician. Others are widely available in spas and can be done by an esthetician. However, some of the things to consider are whether you are willing to undergo the pain and discomfort associated with these treatments and also the risk of scarring or redness.

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