If you have fine wrinkles, sun damage, unusual or abnormal coloring, acne scarring, or pre-cancers on your face, you may benefit from a chemical peel. A chemical peel is a controlled chemical burn of your skin. The depth of the burn depends on the peeling agent and its concentration (strength). Common peeling agents include hydroxy acids, lactic acid, and trichloroacetic acid (TCA). Often, different peeling agents are combined for optimal penetration and safety. Peels may be repeated at certain intervals depending on the condition treated. This procedure is usually well tolerated by patients and performed on an outpatient basis. Depending on the depth of peeling, the healing benefits include smoother skin, less noticeable scars and wrinkles, and lightening of skin tone. These improvements, however, may not be seen for several weeks to months.
Before the chemical peel, your dermasurgeon may prescribe you topical and oral medications to prepare your skin. On the treatment day, your skin will be cleansed of sebum (natural skin oils). One or more peeling agents may be applied at different intervals. Each peeling agent will cause a transient burning that is usually well tolerated. Medications to help you relax are rarely needed for superficial peels but may be recommended for deeper peels. After the treatment, your skin will begin to peel (exfoliate) in 24 to 48 hours. New skin will replace the chemically peeled skin within seven to 10 days. However, chemically peeled skin may not look its best until weeks or months later. Sometimes, redness may develop after peeling that fades with time. Sunscreens, sun-protection, and compliance with wound care and follow-up instructions are critical to a successful outcome.