A chemical peel is a process in which a chemical agent is applied to the skin. It causes purposeful injury to the top layers of the skin. Specifically, it causes skin exfoliation. These top layers of dead cells then slough off to reveal a new skin layer and a more youthful appearance. Peels differ in how deep they penetrate the skin layers. The deeper the penetration, the more extensive the rejuvenation and recovery time. Peels can be superficial, medium, or deep in terms of depth of penetration.There are several different types of chemical peels.
Alpha Hydroxy Acid Peel:
An alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peel is a superficial-depth peel. It is the mildest type of peel formulation. The advantage of the mild nature of the AHA peel is that while the effect is mild, there is no extended downtime. People can return to work after the peel, although the application of make-up is discouraged for at least three hours after the peel. AHA peels help to treat fine, superficial skin wrinkles and sun damage. It can be used on people of all skin colors and it can be used on areas other than the face, such as the neck, chest, arms and hands. The most common type of AHA peel is the glycolic acid peel.
Beta Hydroxy Acid Peel:
A beta hydroxy acid (BHA) peel is a superficial-depth peel. It can penetrate deeper than the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peel. However, it is still considered a less aggressive peel and therefore does not require as much downtime as the more aggressive peels. Like the AHA peel, a person an return to work immediately. Make-up application, however, should not occur until at least three hours after the peel. A BHA peel is used for pigmentation issues, acne scarring, sun-damaged skin, and reduces the appearance of age-related fine lines and wrinkles. The peel is safe for people of color as well. The most common type of BHA peel is the salicylic acid peel.
Jessner’s peel is a superficial-depth peel. It is appropriate for people requiring a deeper peel. Because it is a combination of salicylic acid, lactic acid (an AHA), and resorcinol, it reaches deeper into the skin than an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peel or beta hydroxy acid (BHA) peel alone. A Jessner’s peel can be used to lighten areas of hyperpigmentation (unsightly darkening), treat acne and acne scars, and improve the appearance of photo-damaged and sun-damaged skin. You may need some days off work if you will feel uncomfortable with peeling skin on your face. If applied by an experienced professional, a Jessner’s peel can be appropriate for people of color. Care must be taken in people of color when using a Jessner’s peel, specifically people of African, Hispanic, or Mediterranean descent, as hypopigmentation (lightening) of the skin may result.
Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) Peel:
The trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peel is the most popular peel to achieve a medium-depth peel. It can come in a low concentration or a high concentration. The higher the concentration, the stronger the peel. It is often used in combination with a Jessner’s peel to penetrate even more deeply. It penetrates deeper than an AHA, BHA, or Jessner’s peel and as a result, produces stronger results. TCA peels can be used on people of all skin colors. However, people with darker-toned skin may have to have treatment with a more mild peel to prepare the skin for the deeper peel or have application of a gentler form of the TCA peel. Why? A TCA peel can cause unacceptable lightening of the skin. A line of demarcation may form at the furthest extent of the peel treatment.
Phenol is the standard agent for the deepest type of chemical peel, and thus the strongest type of peel offered. Unlike the AHA, BHA, Jessner’s, and TCA peels, a phenol peel is reserved for the face only. It is used to treat very deep wrinkles, age spots, and pigmentation problems. The phenol peel is quite painful, and requires some type of sedation for application. Additionally, there is substantial downtime associated with a phenol peel. Recovery may be a week or longer. Since there is a risk of skin hyperpigmentation and/or hypopigmentation, it is not recommended for people who have darker skin tones. Specifically, in these skin tones, because the phenol peel is only used on the face, there is a possibility of a mismatch between the skin tone of the face and the skin tone of the body.