In 2012, more than 13 million minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures (a total of 14.6 million if surgical procedures were added) were performed in the US, as shown in the statistical data released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). While Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) has always been the top procedure for the past years (6.1 million performed in 2012), Chemical peel had 1.1 million procedures, making it the third most sought cosmetic treatment by Americans.
Chemical peel, otherwise called derma peeling or chemexfoliation, is one of the many form of cosmetic treatments; it is specifically intended to improve the appearance and texture of the outer layers of the skin that has been damaged through exposure to the sun, or which has become wrinkled, scarred, spotted, or unevenly toned due to aging. Specifically, the procedure aims to treat the skin from scars, scaly patches, irregular skin pigmentation, liver spots, freckles, wrinkles, acne and/or acne scars; it cannot be the solution, though, to deep scars and sagging skin, or the means to change the size of pores, or remove broken capillaries.
Chemical peel treatments involve the use of chemical solutions, like alphahydroxy acids, trichloroacetic acid and phenol. Each solution, according to an article on the website of Bergman Folkers Plastic Surgery, is adjusted by the licensed cosmetic doctor to meet the patient’s specific needs.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons lists three types of chemical peel procedures, which include:
- Light chemical peel – recommended for those with fine wrinkling, acne, dry skin or uneven skin pigment. This treatment usually takes 1 to 7 days healing time. Around 3 – 5 treatments (each spaced between 2 – 5 weeks) may be required until desired result is achieved. This type of peel targets the epidermis, that is, the skin’s outer layer. The mildest chemicals combined and used in this procedure are alphahydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids (maleic acid, salicylic acid and glycolic acid)
- Medium chemical peel – is for those who have uneven skin color, deeper wrinkles and acne scars, but wants visibly fresher and smoother skin. After the procedure, skin will turn red and become swollen; swelling of eyelids may also occur plus the formation blisters. During the healing period, which can be between 7 -14 days, taking an antiviral medication and total avoidance of the sun are required. Medium peels treat both the epidermis and the dermis (the upper part of the skin’s middle layer). Trichloroacetic acid, which may be used with glycolic acid, is used in this procedure.
- Deep chemical peel – recommended for those with deeper facial wrinkles, blotchy skin areas, pre-cancerous growths on skin, scars and skin damaged by the sun. Treated area/s will need to be bandaged and healing time takes up to 21 days. An antiviral medication will need to be taken by the patient for 10 to 14 days and exposure to sun should be totally avoided for about 3 to 6 months.
This procedure may require an 8-week pretreatment, during which retinoic acid cream or gel may be used to thin out the surface layer of the skin. Actual treatment involves the use of phenol, a very strong chemical solution, to be able to penetrate the skin’s lower dermal layer; anesthesia and a sedative (to put patient to sleep) are also used in the treatment, which should be in a surgical setting. Deep peel may take as long as three weeks to heal, but its results are truly remarkable.
Before getting a chemical peel treatment, it is very necessary that the patient makes sure that: the person who will perform the procedure is a licensed doctor or plastic surgeon, who has been certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery; that the surgical facility has been previously accredited by an accrediting agency that is recognized in the state or nationally, or Medicare-certified; and, that he/she knows what needs to be expected before, during and after the procedure.