Chemical Peels

A chemical peel is a body treatment technique used to improve and smooth the texture of the facial skin using a chemical solution that causes the dead skin to slough off and eventually peel off. The regenerated skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin. Thus the term chemical peel is derived. Some types of chemical peels can be purchased and administered without a medical license, however people are advised to seek professional help from a dermatologist, plastic surgeon, maxillofacial surgeon, or otolaryngologist on a specific type of chemical peel before a procedure is performed.


There are several types of chemical peels.

Alpha hydroxy acid peels

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are naturally occurring organic carboxylic acids such as glycolic acid, a natural constituent of sugar cane juice and lactic acid, found in sour milk and tomato juice. This is the mildest of the peel formulas and produces light peels for treatment of fine wrinkles, areas of dryness, uneven pigmentation and acne. Alpha hydroxy acids can also be mixed with a facial wash or cream in lesser concentrations as part of a daily skin-care regimen to improve the skin's texture.

AHA peels are used to:

  • reduce fine wrinkling
  • treat areas of dryness
  • reduce uneven pigmentation
  • aid in the control of acne
  • smooth rough dry skin
  • improve the texture of sun-damaged skin

  • Beta hydroxy acid peels

    It is becoming common for beta hydroxy acid (BHA) peels to be used instead of the stronger alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peels due to BHA's ability to get deeper into the pore than AHA. Studies show that BHA peels control oil, acne as well as remove dead skin cells to a certain extent better than AHAs due to AHAs only working on the surface of the skin.

    Salicylic acid is a biosynthesized, organic, beta hydroxy acid that is often used. Sodium salicylate is converted by treating sodium phenolate (the sodium salt of phenol) with carbon dioxide at high pressure and temperature. Acidification of the product with sulfuric acid gives salicylic acid. Alternatively, it can be prepared by the hydrolysis of Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) or Oil of Wintergreen (methyl salicylate) with a strong acid or base.

    Jessner's peel

    Jessner's peel solution, formerly known as the Coombe's formula, is a combination of salicylic and lactic acids, and resorcinol. It is thought to break intracellular bridges between keratinocytes.

    Retinoic acid peel

    This type of facial peel is also performed in the office of a plastic surgeon or a dermatologist. This is a deeper peel than the Beta Acid peel and is used to remove scars as well as wrinkles and pigmentation problems. This type of facial peel often requires the use of a mild anesthesia, although the doctor is not likely to put you totally under.

    Although a Retinoic Acid peels works very well, it will take a few days to heal from this procedure, so you may want to schedule some time off work before you have this done. However, if you are troubled by deep acne scars or have problems with pigmentation on your face, this is an excellent facial peel.

    Trichloroacetic acid peels

    Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is used as an intermediate to deep peeling agent in concentrations ranging from 20-50%. Depth of penetration is increased as concentration increases, with 50% TCA penetrating into the reticular dermis. Concentrations higher than 35% are not recommended because of the high risk of scarring.

    Trichloroacetic acid peels:

  • are preferred for darker-skinned patients over Phenol
  • smooth out fine surface wrinkles
  • remove superficial blemishes
  • correct skin pigment problems

  • Phenol peels

    Phenol is the strongest of the chemical solutions and produces a deep skin peel. Recent studies suggest that phenol is most likely only the carrier for another active component in the solution, namely croton oil. In fact, phenol alone produces only a light peel which is ineffective for restructuring the deeper dermal structures (such as wrinkles). The term Phenol/Croton oil peel has been proposed as a more accurate descriptor, but the established terminology phenol peel continues to be of dominant usage, as the role of croton oil in the mix is not as widely understood.

    Effects of a phenol chemical peel are long lasting, and in some cases are still readily apparent up to 20 years following the procedure. Improvements in the patient’s skin can be quite dramatic. A single treatment usually achieves the desired result.

    Phenol peels are used to:

  • correct blotches caused by sun exposure or aging
  • smooth out coarse deep wrinkles
  • remove precancerous growths

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