A chemical peel is the application of a chemical to the skin that often results in peeling of the skin. Peeling is not the goal of a chemical peel; it is the expected side effect. Many chemicals and products are considered peeling agents. They include trichloroacetic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, Jessner’s solution, phenol, dry ice and retinoids.
Chemical peels alter damaged skin and stimulate a return to more normal skin. They can be used to treat fine lines and wrinkles, solar damage, acne and acne scarring, pigmentary alterations and actinic keratosis (pre-cancers).
Usually a chemical peel will burn with application. This is usually controlled with fans, cool water or ice. Depending on the type of peel the recovery is usually about a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. Many people do not like to schedule social events during the healing time of a peel. When Dr. Gross has a chemical peel there is usually a sign at the front desk letting patients know how many days it has been since his peel, so patients can judge the healing process of a typical patient.
A chemical peel can cause scarring, activate fever blisters and result in hyperpigmentation. Care is needed to reduce these risks by using antivirals, when appropriate, using sunscreen prior to and following a peel, and by the use of topical retinoids and hydroquinone. The most important factor in patient safety for a chemical peel is the proper selection of a peeling agent, appropriate patient reasons for a peel and the skill of the operator. At Piedmont Dermatology Center, Dr Gross has performed hundreds of chemical peels in the last 7 years. Most of these peels have been 30%, 40% and 50% tricloroacetic acid to treat pre-cancer lesions on the face, scalp arms, hands, chest and legs.
A chemical peel is not for everyone. Sometimes laser therapies can produce similar results. The benefit of laser treatment is that it often results in less downtime. The disadvantage is that lasers frequently are more expensive and require many more treatments than the chemical peel to achieve similar results.
This information does not replace the advice of a physician nor does it imply a physican – patient relationship between the reader and Dr. Gross.