What are Chemical Peels chemical peel

Chemical peels involve the application of solutions to the surface of the skin to remove layers of skin cells and to stimulate the growth of new skin. Removal of the external layer of the skin also allows enhanced penetration of agents applied to the skin topically following the peel. For this reason a chemical peel may enhance the results of other cosmetic procedures.

Types of Chemical Peels

There are essentially three types of chemical peels: superficial, medium and deep.

Superficial chemical peels penetrate to the depth of the upper epidermis, or superficial layer of the skin. They are generally safe and when performed over a period of time can produce exceptional results. Superficial peels are often referred to as “lunchtime” peels, as they are generally tolerated exceptionally well and essentially require no downtime following the procedure.

The deeper the peel, the more dramatic the immediate results, however, the risk of significant side effects and length of recovery time increases proportionally. These side effects include including scarring, infection and temporary or permanent changes in skin colour. Medium and deep chemical peels are performed in a monitored environment by a physician. Multiple factors affect the depth of the peel. These factors include the chemical agent itself, the concentration of the agent, pre-treatment of the skin prior to the peel, the region of the face (some regions more responsive than others), sebaceous gland number and activity and procedural techniques such as defatting the skin before the peel and mode of application of the peel.

Table 1: Classification of Peels

Very Superficial Exfoliates the stratum corneum (outer layer of skin) LOW RISK AND RAPID RECOVERY Skin rejuvenation
Superficial Exfoliates most of the epidermis RELATIVELY LOW RISK and RAPID RECOVERY Razor bumps, acne consisting of multiple comedones. skin rejuvenation, collagen regeneration and improvement in skin texture with multiple treatments
Medium (PHYSICIAN ONLY) Exfoliates to level of the upper dermis HIGH RISK and SLOWER RECOVERY Pre cancerous skin damage, facial wrinkles, irregular pigmentation. Done by physicians only
Deep (PHYSICIAN ONLY) Exfoliates to level of the deep dermis HIGH RISK and SLOW RECOVERY AS ABOVE

Please note that all patients considering a chemical peel need to have a consultation with our Aesthetic Nurse before their peel so that they can discuss and consider the suitability of this treatment for their skin type and condition.


Benefits of Regular Peels

1. Improve the freshness, smoothness and colour of the complexion

2. Improve acne and blackheads (comedones)

3. Reduce fine lines and wrinkles (rhytides)

4. Increase skin hydration.

5. Flatten mild scarring.

6. Improve irregular hyperpigmentation (age spots)

7. Improve skin texture of the skin by increasing epidermal thickness and collagen thickness

What peels don't do

What peels can’t achieve

1. IMPROVEMENT OF DEEP WRINKLES: Soft tissue fillers are required to improve these. Laser resurfacing may also improve or diminish some forms of wrinkles.

2. PORE SIZE REDUCTION: there is currently NO technology available that can reliably reduce pore size permanently.

3. REMOVAL OF ACNE SCARS: A type of surgery called, punch grafting or subscision is usually required for this.

4. REMOVAL OF BLOOD VESSELS: lasers are the only way to remove broken blood vessels effectively.

Possible side effects

Side Effects of Superficial Peels

A recent study of 286 patients who underwent eight weekly superficial peels demonstrated that almost all patients tolerated superficial peels well. Minor side effects included mild discomfort, burning, irritation and mild short lived redness. There was an extremely low incidence of major side effects in this study. Despite having a good safety profile, superficial peels do have potential side effects. Peeling following a superficial peel is generally mild and usually is not visible. This peeling can be controlled with the use of light moisturising agents. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (increased pigmentation) or hypopigmentation (decreased pigmentation) is an unlikely side effect following a superficial peel. It is more common in those with darker complexions. Scarring is an extremely unlikely event if a superficial peel is carried out by a trained practitioner.Chemical peels increase the sensitivity of the skin to UV damage. Full sun protection and sun avoidance is necessary following the peel. Some studies have shown that AHA’s can increase UV damage potential by up to 30% in the first 48 hours following a peel.

Potential side effects of superficial peels

IMMEDIATE Burning and stinging Redness (lasts <24hrs)
SHORT TERM Mild peeling of the skin Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation.
LONG TERM Scarring may result from infection or picking the scabs, and can be permanent. This should not happen if carried out by a trained professional.