We’ve all heard about how a chemical peel can work wonders for a range of skin problems. The right peel can improve the appearance of acne, skin discolorations, fine lines, wrinkles and other blemishes. During a chemical peel, a special formula is applied to the face, removing the damaged outer layer of skin and leaving a soft, smooth foundation of skin underneath.
Most chemical peels can be performed in less than an hour in an “outpatient” setting. In addition to being short on time, they are short on discomfort, too. Some patients may choose to have a light topical anesthetic applied to their skin prior to treatment if necessary. With such a range of chemical peels offered today, it can be a challenge to find just the right formula for your specific needs. That’s why we’ve put together a list of common chemical peels, from lightest to deepest.
Alpha Hydroxy Acid Peels
Alpha hydroxy acids, also known as AHAs, are one of the most popular ingredients in any mild chemical peel. Glycolic acid is the most common AHA used for this purpose. AHA peels very rarely require anesthesia to be administered to the patient, and the discomfort is relatively minor both during and after the procedure. This peel is typically used to smooth/reduce the appearance of fine lines, reduce rough skin and produce an overall improved skin tone. With this being a mild chemical peel, it may be necessary for a series of treatments to be conducted in order to achieve the desired effects.
Beta Hydroxy Acid Peels
You’ve probably heard of alpha hydroxy acid, but beta hydroxy acid can work wonders too. The most common beta hydroxy acid used in chemical peels is salicylic acid, a substance also frequently used in both over the counter and prescription acne products. The also happens to be why salicylic chemical peels are often used to treat skin that is prone toward acne outbreaks. Salicylic acid is more potent than glycolic acid, meaning it provides a slightly deeper chemical peel with longer lasting results. Because beta hydroxy acid chemical peels are also considered mild resurfacing treatments, there is no anesthesia needed and the recovery time after the procedure is relatively short. As with the Alpha Hydroxy chemical peel, it is typically necessary for more than one treatment session to achieve desired results. Please note that the procedure will need to be repeated periodically to maintain soft smooth skin.
A combination of ingredients mixed into a single formula, the Jessners peel is considered a light chemical peel that packs a bit more punch than both the alpha and beta hydroxy formulas. Jessners peels use lactic acid, salicylic acid and resorcinol, which is also sometimes used as a disinfectant or acne medication. This peel is a good choice for skin that is too damaged to respond well to an AHA peel, but does not require a medium to deep treatment. Jessners peels are often applied without the use of anesthetic and complete recovery after the treatment takes about a week.
Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is the most common ingredient found in medium chemical peels. This substance can successfully treat a host of skin imperfections, including sun damage, fine lines and wrinkles, and acne scarring. The procedure offers effective results with minimum risk. Most patients do not require anesthesia during the procedure, although over the counter pain medications may be needed for a day or two afterward to reduce the stinging sensation that can sometimes occur. TCA chemical peels usually take about a week to recover from, and the results are much more dramatic than lighter peels can offer. Some patients need more than one treatment session to achieve desired results.
Phenol is the substance of choice for deep chemical peels that provide the greatest and most dramatic results. In addition to treating skin imperfections, this type of chemical peel may be used to remove precancerous growths or completely diminish deep wrinkles. Because the formula works more deeply than other types of chemical peels, most phenol peels require an hour or two in the doctor’s office and usually involve a local anesthesia during the procedure and pain medication afterward. Phenol peels can take up to a month to recover from completely, but the result is impressively smoother skin that will last much longer than that treated with other types of peels.