What is a chemical peel? When should you have one?

A chemical peel is one option for improving the “quality” of one’s facial skin, meaning the skin’s texture, smoothness and suppleness. A chemical peel does nothing to remove loose, extra skin (quantity of skin), nor does it reduce or eliminate excess fat under the skin as do submental liposuction, Kybella or CoolSculpting procedures.

Given that a chemical peel addresses the quality of your skin, how does it work and how does it compare to other options, such as laser skin resurfacing, for improving the quality of facial skin?

“To improve the quality of facial skin, the goal whatever the treatment is to penetrate the skin’s surface in a controlled manner in order to remove the outer dead skin cell layer and stimulate the collagen underneath for new cell (skin) growth,” explains Dr. Robert J. Smyth, face and neck surgeon/specialist in Cincinnati OH. “The key phrase here is ‘controlled manner’, and it is why you should trust only an experienced face rejuvenation specialist to administer any in-office treatment. Going too deep into the skin layers can cause severe redness, delayed healing and even scarring in extreme instances. Not going deep enough can be a waste of the patient’s time and money.”

How do chemical peels work?

Chemical peels use a mix of liquid chemicals to penetrate the skin surface. The peels come in a range of strengths and formulas and should be selected based on the patient’s age and condition of their skin. Mild glycolic acid peels can be administered in-office with the patient going back to work or activities immediately afterward. A series of these milder peels is usually required to see noticeable results, and for optimal results the recommendation is that the series be repeated on a regular basis (yearly, for instance).

Higher strength chemical peels which purposely create redness and peeling in order to achieve desired results will require the patient to take it easy for anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks post-treatment, and also to apply antibiotic ointment to the treated area during the healing period. Patient discomfort is usually alleviated with over-the-counter pain relievers.

NOTE: Peels that patients can buy over the counter and administer at home are intentionally of the lowest strength so as to prevent any serious side effects, problems or delayed healing. These peels can provide a healthy glow to the skin but typically do not make any permanent change to the skin’s quality.

Who is a candidate for a chemical peel?

Patients from their 30s to their 80s can have good results with a chemical peel provided the treatment is indicated for their skin improvement goals and the proper type, strength and formula is selected for each individual. Anyone with rosacea, active acne or other chronic/serious facial skin conditions should avoid having chemical peels that can further irritate their skin.

What are other options for improving your skin?

Laser skin resurfacing is another option and the choice of many facial cosmetic surgeons for improving the skin of patients with deeper lines and wrinkles, rough texture, uneven pigmentation, age spots, and damage from the sun.

“Personally, I prefer laser skin resurfacing to chemical peels for improving the texture, smoothness and overall quality of the skin,” says Dr. Smyth. “Today’s lasers allow me far greater control of the intensity and depth of skin penetration –– just deep enough to treat the damaged cells –– which translates to a faster recovery and optimal results for my patients.”

Dr. Smyth uses the Fractional CO2 laser to remove the dull, thickened layer of dead, damaged cells on the skin’s surface and at the same time to stimulate the collagen underneath for new cell and skin growth as well as improved skin suppleness and resiliency.

Whether the patient needs laser treatment to their entire face or just an area of the face (such as around the mouth), Dr. Smyth uses local anesthesia to numb the skin for the patient’s comfort. The healing process (typically 7 to 10 days) involves redness and the patient’s application of ointment to keep the skin lubricated and protected during healing.

WATCHOUT: Whatever treatment selected –- chemical peel or laser skin resurfacing –– it is essential the patient strictly follow and comply with all aftercare instructions provided by their physician.

Questions? We’d love to hear from you. Please call us at 513.351.0020.