It seems like everyone has the episode of Sex and the City where Samantha gets a chemical peel engraved in their memory forever. Yep, it is a pretty funny scene, but it does evoke fear in the minds of patients who come in looking for a solution to their skin problems. The good news is that all peels are different and the peel Samantha had was probably a deep phenol or high percent TCA peel. In almost all cases, superficial or medium depth peels are the norm for any medical clinic.
So, what are chemical peels and what can you expect to achieve from having one done? Well, they are all different in what they help to control or fix, but they have some things in common too. A chemical peel is a chemical reaction between the product going on the skin (the peel) and the skin itself. Depending on what acids are in the peel, what buffers are or are not added, the percentage of the actives and the pH balance, the effect of a chemical peel is that the skin will peel. It may peel microscopically, which means you don’t actually notice the peeling process, or it might peel visibly, either mild or more pronounced.
Chemical peels may be able to help with acne, papulopustular rosacea (rosacea with pimples), fine lines, wrinkles, pigment (sun damage, melasma) dull skin or dehydration. Some of the stronger peels (but not necessarily a high percentage) will help with textural problems such as acne scars or other forms of scarring and even help stretch marks to some degree. What I like about chemical peels is that they are practically the only treatment that works on acne and acne scarring at the same time, which is great for my patients who have lost their patience!
Chemical peels containing either salicylic acid or TCA will tend to frost on the skin when applied. The skin turns white, which helps the practitioner determine the endpoint for the peel. As well, any area that has blanched or frosted will definitely peel, probably more so than areas that haven’t changed colour. Using a cotton square to work the peel into the skin in certain areas allows us to control where we want the skin to peel from and where we want the skin to be less affected.
Areas that have blanched are likely to turn brown just before the peeling begins, often the second or third day after the treatment has been performed. It is necessary to apply moisturizer, wear sunscreen and not pick at the loose skin as it begins to shed. Peeling can last from two days to a week, so don’t plan any big events around the time of your peel.
Although peels can technically be done every two weeks, I prefer to book them at least 1 month apart. It allows for better healing and gives the patient a break from peeling all the time. A few days of peeling once a month is well worth the results. For those whose skin is in good shape, but just need a pick-me-up for their skin, I like to do the peels quarterly, or once a season.
Chemical peels are one of the most versatile services for the skin. They take about half an hour to perform, have minor heat associated for a few minutes, and depending on the depth of the peel, have minor to moderate downtime. Once any peeling is done, the results are immediate.
Although you will not look like Samantha post peel, it is best to speak with your medical esthetician to determine which peel suits not only your skin concerns, but your lifestyle as well. Note that “salon/spa” peels are not nearly as effective as medical-grade chemical peels at a dermatology clinic. Although we can’t predict whether you will peel or not, we do know which peels are more likely to do so and to what degree.
If you haven’t tried a professional medical-grade chemical peel from Toronto Dermatology Centre, book a consultation now and get on the road to better skin.
~ Sheri Roselle, Medical Esthetician at Toronto Dermatology Centre