Chemical Peel

Chemical peels are a procedure done to improve the skin’s appearance and reduce the effects of aging, acne scars and uneven skin tone. This treatment uses a safe chemical solution that when applied to the skin causes it to blister then peel off, revealing beautiful, smoother skin underneath. Chemical peels are also used to treat numerous skin conditions like melasma and hyperpigmentation.

Who is a good candidate for a chemical peel?

Men and women with fair skin or light hair are better candidates for chemical peels. However, if you have darker skin and hair you can still get a chemical peel but the results may not be as long-lasting. Regardless of your skin type you must be a non-smoker in overall good health to be able to undergo this skin treatment. If you do smoke your surgeon will ask that you quit at least two weeks prior to your procedure. You will also need to remain smoke free as you recover from your chemical peel to give your body a chance to properly heal. Smoking interferes with the circulatory system by hindering oxygen intake and blood flow and it’s important that your skin breathe after your chemical peel for best results.

There are certain individuals who are not eligible candidates for a chemical peel treatment. Those who are nursing, pregnant, have severe skin issues (psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, rosacea), have used prescription acne medication in the last year, and have used skin-care products that contain ascorbic acid, bleaching or skin-lightening agents in the last 48 hours cannot undergo a chemical peel.

What does the recovery process look like?

After a chemical peel your surgeon may wrap the treated area in bandages. These bandages are usually removed after several days. The type of peel you received will determine how much time should be allocated for recovery.

Superficial peel: The healing time required is minimal. The treated skin may be red and scaly but this will subside quickly. Your surgeon will tell you which lotions or creams you will need apply as you heal and you can wear makeup within 48 hours of your peel.

Medium peel: This type of chemical peel has a longer recovery period of about 7-14 days. The treated skin will be swollen and red but this will lessen after the first 48 hours. If the area around the eyelids has been treated they may swell shut for a day or two but this will subside. The skin will also blister and break before peeling off to reveal the new skin underneath. Your surgeon will prescribe antiviral medication and let you know which creams and lotions must be applied as you heal. Makeup can be worn after seven days.

Deep peel: Deep peels take about three weeks to heal. For the first 14 days you will need to soak your skin daily, apply a prescribed ointment and take antiviral medication. Then, a thick moisturizer must be applied. As you heal your skin will blister, crack and swell. It will also be red but these side-effects will disappear in time. You can resume wearing makeup after about two weeks.

No matter the type of peel you receive you will need to avoid direct sun exposure for at least three months following the procedure. Additionally, sunscreen must be worn any time you leave the house to ensure your skin is protected.

What to look for in a surgeon?

In Canada, there is only one recognized body of professional plastic surgeons. The surgeon you choose must be a member of the Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (CSAPS) and certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Dermatologists who are members of the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) and certified aesthetic technicians (those who have graduated from a reputable aesthetic college or training centre) are also authorized to give chemical peels.

Here are three questions you can ask potential surgeons, dermatologists or certified aesthetic technicians to see if they are a good fit to perform your chemical peel procedure:

1. Where did you complete your training?

2. How many chemical peels have you given?

3. How long have you been a practicing surgeon/dermatologist/technician?

This section details the chemical peel procedure, the different types of chemical peels available and other frequently asked questions.

What happens during a chemical peel procedure?

Before your peel, your surgeon will prepare the area by gently cleansing the skin. Then, the chemical solution will be applied and left on for a few minutes. The peeling agent may cause a slight tingling sensation and you may feel hot. The whole session lasts anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on the type of peel you receive. Once the peel is finished, your surgeon will apply a soothing moisturizer to the treated area.

There are three types of chemical peels. Each has uses different chemical solutions and the type you receive will depend on your needs and skin type.

1. Superficial peel: This is often referred to as a “lunchtime peel” because it is quick and requires little downtime. During a superficial peel, alpha-hydroxy or other mild acids are applied to the outer layer of skin to provide gentle exfoliation. This type of peel is used to improve mild skin discolouration, rough skin patches and refresh the skin. Superficial peels can be done on the face, neck chest and hands.

2. Medium peel: During a medium peel, glycolic or trichloroacetic acid is applied in order to penetrate the outer and middle skin layers. This acid removes damaged skin cells, improves skin tone, removes age spots, wrinkles, freckles and moderate skin discolouration. Medium peels also improve the appearance of fine lines, smooth out rough skin patches and help with actinic keratosis (scaly skin that forms from prolonged sun exposure).

3. Deep peel: This type of peel is the most intense because it penetrates deeply beneath the skin’s surface to remove damaged skin cells, moderate age spots, fine lines, scars and freckles. Deep peels use trichloroacetic acid or phenol to deeply exfoliate the skin on the face. This procedure is so effective that it can only be performed once. Deep peels create a dramatic improvement to the skin that makes the people who undergo this procedure look years younger.

Chemical peels are not a cure for acne. However, they can remove the scarring caused by acne.