Eithne, our clinic therapist, gives an insightful guide to chemical peels…
When you hear the term, ‘chemical peel’, what image comes to mind? Everybody has their own idea of what a chemical peel results in. Many recall the famous episode from ‘Sex and the City’ where Samantha has a chemical peel and it goes horribly wrong. But is that really what your face would look like after a modern chemical peel? The answer is a resounding NO. Chemical. Peel. Those are two words that can sound pretty intense when paired together. So it’s no wonder you may be concerned a peel may leave you looking more like a victim than a client. Here I will go through some frequently asked questions so that you have a better understanding of what peels do to the skin.
What is a chemical peel?
A chemical peel, simply put, is a solution of chemicals, normally a form of acid that when applied to the skin causes superficial damage resulting in exfoliation with subsequent healing and new, radiant skin. In the case of medium to deep peels, remodelling of the skin can also occur. Peels can be split into three categories, superficial, medium and deep.
Superficial peels are the mildest of peels. They mainly remove superficial layers of the outermost part of the skin, the epidermis. Superficial peels can be repeated fortnightly to monthly depending on the strength of acid used. These peels require no downtime but it is common to have a brief period of redness, flaking and/or skin sensitivity for a day or two after a peel. These types of peels are used for rejuvenation and improving the texture of the skin, improving pigmentation on the skin and can also be used to improve acne and break outs. A course of 4 to 6 peels are normally recommended to see the best results. Ingredients used in superficial peels are generally AHA’s (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) such as lactic acid (sourced from sour milk), glycolic acid (sourced from sugar cane), mandelic acid (sourced from almonds) and malic acid (sourced mainly from apples). Other acids include salicylic acid (a Beta Hydroxy Acid), an oil soluble acid which means that it can cut through the oil in your skin, making it very effective for treating somebody with oily, acne prone skin. At Array, our superficial peel is the Obagi Blue Radiance peel containing 20% salicylic acid.
Medium depth Peels
Medium depth peels impact the epidermis and upper dermis. The trauma to the skin caused by the peel stimulates an inflammatory response and healing following this stimulates new collagen production in the skin. This can result in mild remodelling of the skin. Medium depth peels can therefore improve not just skin texture and pigmentation but also fine lines and wrinkles. Medium depth peels generally require 7-10 days down time to heal sufficiently to return to work and normal activities. Medium depth peels may need to be repeated a few times to obtain the desired results and are spaced out over several months. A very common ingredient in medium depth peels is trichloroacetic acid (TCA). TCA peels penetrate into the deeper layers of the epidermis and dermis. Only an Array doctor will administer a medium or deep chemical peel. The Obagi Blue peel is a medium depth peel containing TCA, used by the medical team at Array Aesthetics.
Deep peels affect both the epidermis and dermis. They are mainly used to improve medium to deep wrinkles, severe skin roughness and other advanced signs of skin ageing. The most common ingredient used in deep peels is phenol, which produces tissue necrosis by denaturing biological polymers. While phenol peel produces greater and longer-lasting results it is used a lot less frequently than the likes of a medium TCA peel due to the 2-4 weeks of down time and rather uncomfortable healing process. There is a high risk of infection, hypopigmentation (loss of pigmentation) and scarring. Due to these risks it is advised not to treat darker skinned patients. When going ahead with deep phenol peels it is common for patients to have topical local anaesthetic applied, be sedated or even general anaesthetised. Array Belfast do not offer any deep peels.
What does a chemical peel feel like on the skin?
How a peel feels on the skin depends on what ingredients are in the peeling solution. Salicylic acid and TCA peels tend to be the most uncomfortable, there is a prickling sensation and your skin can feel quite hot. At Array Belfast we will always use a fan on your skin to keep it cool throughout your procedure. Salicylic peels can also give off mild fumes, so you may find it best to breathe through your mouth when the peel is first applied. Lactic and glycolic peels don’t tend to feel quite as hot as salicylic or TCA peels. They can feel a little bit tingly and prickly, a fan is generally not needed for lactic or glycolic peels. After your peel has been left on the skin for anything from 2 -12 minutes we remove the peel and apply a cool compress and then apply after care.
What do I look like after?
After a superficial peel your skin may remain a little pink or red for a couple of hours after treatment but the majority of the time this is not the case and you leave with your skin immediately looking and feeling brighter and smoother. Depending on the peel and depth of peeling you may experience some flaking and peeling several days after procedure. After a medium depth peel you will be red and in some cases may feel a little swollen. Your skin may remain pink for a few days and will start to peel after 2-3 days the peeling and flaking may last up to 1 week to 10 days after procedure.
Are there any contra-indications to having a chemical peel done?
Depending on the type of peel to be performed we may not recommend having a peel if you:
*Have a history of problems with keloid or other types of scarring of your skin
*Have abnormal skin pigment/colour
*Have facial warts or any current facial infection
*Have used Roaccutane in the past year
*Have a history of cold sores (anti-virals may be prescribed prior to peel)
*Allergies to any of the ingredients used in the peels (If you are allergic to aspirin you can not have a salicylic peel used on your skin. please always advise any practitioner if you have allergies)
*Have exposed skin to direct sunlight frequently in the past 4 weeks or have had sunburn recently
*If you suffer from dermatitis or rosacea
*Pregnant or breast feeding.
Array Aesthetics will always conduct a thorough consultation with you before we go ahead with any procedure to ensure you do not have any contra-indications.
What about aftercare?
After you have had your peel it is advised not to exercise or swim for at least 48 hours, in some cases depending on peel strength and depth it may be longer. It is extremely important not to expose your skin to UV rays after a peel as your skin is extremely photo-sensitive after a peel. Ensure that you apply a physical sunscreen of at least SPF 30 (even in the winter time). At Array we Recommend Obagi NuDerm Physical UV Block SPF 32 or the Obagi Rosaclear SPF 30 both available from Array Aesthetics Avoid the use of AHA’s, BHA’s, retinoids and fragranced products after peel procedures. Keep your skin well hydrated and it is extremely important that you do not pick or peel off any of the peeling or flaking skin as this can lead to infections and sometimes hyperpigmentation or scarring issues. You can return to your usual skin care routine once your practitioner has advised you to do so. Your practitioner will give you individual aftercare advice after each peel procedure.
Why would I get a chemical peel?
Chemical peels improve many different skin conditions. At our clinic we have peels to rejuvenate the skin, treat pigmentation, treat acne, improve redness in the skin and to treat fine lines and wrinkles.
If you are interested in having a skin peel book in for your consultation with Dr. Jude Storm at Array Aesthetics Belfast. We can answer any other questions you may have and can advise on the best possible skin treatments for you.