Women have used chemical peels for thousands of years for skin rejuvenation. They significantly improve the appearance of age spots, fine wrinkles, acne, uneven skin pigmentation, and sun damage, on the face, and also on the chest, neck, back and hands. Peels can also be used for ‘chicken skin’ on the back, legs, buttocks and arms. However, they are not recommended for treating sagging skin, lumps or severe wrinkles. They are also not used close to the mouth, the nostrils, the eyelids and any other sensitive areas.
Chemical peels use a single chemical or a combination of chemicals to remove varying amounts of the outer layers of the skin. This is achieved by wounding the skin and breaking down the connections between cells, allowing dead cells on the surface to slough off. When the top layer of dead cells is removed it exposes a fresh surface. New skin cells can then emerge to replace the old and damaged skin, improving skin texture, colour and appearance.
Peels are classified according to their depth. The concentration of the chemical in the peel, and its time in contact with the skin determines the depth of the peel. The choice depends on our skin problem, skin type and tolerance.
Shine Clinic in Brisbane offers a range of medical grade, light to medium depth peels, with varying downtime.
- Glycolic Acid Peel – This superficial peel reduces fine lines, wrinkles, acne, blackheads, and congestion; evens out skin tone and reduces discolouration; and improves scars. It exfoliates and stimulates cellular turnover. This readies the skin for other topical treatments that trigger skin cell renewal and growth, decreasing pores, and improving the appearance of aged skin.
- Blueberry Smoothie – This light peel exfoliates, smooths, purifies, and invigorates with a gentle acid and active blueberry extracts. It is an exceptional acne treatment and can repair sun damage. There is no downtime and no skin prepping needed.
- Benefactor Peel – This peel softens, exfoliates, and stimulates, whilst lightening, brightening and repairing damaged skin. It contains growth factors and is suitable for blemished, aged and prematurely ageing skin; and skin with photodamage or hyperpigmentation. There is no downtime and no skin prepping needed.
- Jessner Peel – This is a mild to moderate form of peeling for skin rejuvenation. Layering the applications can increase its strength. The main ingredient is salicylic acid which removes congested sebum and dead skin cells. It is recommended for skin with blackheads, acne, congestion, sun damage, and pigmentation. A test patch is required prior to treatment.
- Trichloracetic Acid peel – This is one of the original skin rejuvenation peels. It effectively treats mature skin with moderate to severe sun damage, including pigmentation and fine lines. A test patch is required prior to treatment.
- Deep Sea Peel – This peel stimulates collagen and elastin, which is the skin’s main support structure, as well as reducing pigmentation. It is suitable for sun damaged skin, pigmented skin, ageing concerns, and enlarged pores. This peel requires pre and post treatment care.
- Detox Peel – This medium-depth peel is excellent for impure skin conditions. It is suitable for oily and blemished, reactive, irritated, toxic, and acneic skin. This peel requires pre and post treatment care.
- Timeless Peel – This medium-depth overnight peel delivers a high dose of Vitamin A. It generates immense skin activity, promoting healthy skin rejuvenation whilst removing dead layers. It is especially effective for acne, photodamage, fine lines and wrinkles, pigmented skin, and prematurely aged skin. This peel requires pre and post treatment care.
Who can have this treatment?
Although smokers can benefit from a peel, they should weigh their increased risk of complications carefully.
Those with certain medical conditions or taking medication that may make them more sensitive to the effects of the peel, may also need to avoid having it. These include people who are prone to skin allergies.
Some types of skin are more prone to pigmentation with chemical peels. This is gauged by the ability to acquire a tan or burn after sun exposure. Darker skin types can undergo a chemical peel, however there’s a greater risk of developing an uneven skin tone due to the bleaching effects of some peeling agents. This risk may be managed, but not eliminated, by using steroid creams before the procedure.
Additionally, glycolic peels are not effective for deeper wrinkles.
What should I expect during treatment?
Prior to a peel, skin is thoroughly cleansed to remove makeup, moisturisers or facial oil. Hair is covered, and eye protection is used. It is especially important that tears not mix with and dilute the acid in a peel, or wash it onto unprotected areas like the neck. A thick layer of barrier gel to protect the neck may be used.
Medium or deep peels may need local anaesthesia, relaxants, or oral pain medication before and after the procedure. Fans and cool compresses are used to lessen the burning sensation. It is rarely necessary to use these deeper peels today. Technological advances have given us devices the treat skin more thoroughly with less pain and downtime.
With superficial or medium depth peels, the chemical is applied to the target area, and kept on the skin for varying periods dependant on the depth of the peel. When an adequate response is achieved, the solution is neutralised and wiped off. After a peel, a soothing moisteriser is applied and sun avoidance is essential.
Most people can return to normal activities immediately after a superficial peel. Only mild discomfort is experienced with slight redness, skin temporarily appears light brown. Recovery from a medium peel however, requires a few days of rest, redness and swelling may occur, though there’s little pain. Skin flaking begins around day three, continuing for several days to two weeks depending on the peel depth.
Emollients are used to keep the skin greasy until shedding is completed. Moisturiser can relieve the mask-like feel of the skin after a peel. Makeup may be used once peeling has stopped. Patients are reviewed on day three and then again on day seven, to assess progress.
Peels give the best results when performed in a series of three, however, even a single treatment can make a significant difference.
Are there side effects or risks involved?
Superficial peels like glycolic peels have mild side effects, including temporary redness and irritation. Healing is rapid, with minimal downtime. Medium peels can cause loss of or increased skin pigmentation, more likely in women with a naturally dark complexion. The most important factor may be sun exposure too early after the peel. Protecting the treated skin from excessive sunlight with SPF 30 sunscreen is recommended, because the new skin cells that emerge are more prone to sun damage for a few weeks.
Do not pick at peeling skin, it can increase the risk of complications. Nightly application of a retinoid cream is suggested two weeks after a medium peel. A steroid-containing ointment may be useful to reduce inflammation.
A chemical peel may sometimes reactivate cold sores (Herpes simplex) in the skin. This doesn’t rule out a peel (unless a cold sore is present at the time of the procedure). It does mean you may be asked to take anti-virus medication to prevent cold sores coming back after the procedure.
The benefits of superficial peels are short-term, the skin will generally return to its old state within one to two years without the use of topical agents. This is why they are often used in combination with other rejuvenating and resurfacing techniques for best overall results.
Topical treatments that deliver potent antioxidants, high dose retinol, and tissue growth factors for regenerating skin cells are an ideal complement to a light peel, enhancing their benefits. Taking an oral supplement such as Collagen Pro can provide nutrients that assist in the healing process.A resurfacing procedure like microdermabrasion also pairs well with a superficial peel, as it stretches and shears the skin’s surface, triggering the underlying skin to be more active in remodelling and repair.