The chemical peel is one of the oldest and most effective cosmetic procedures in the world. People in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome used chemical peels to achieve smoother, more youthful-looking skin. In fact, more than 2,000 years ago Egypt’s last pharaoh, Queen Cleopatra, is said to have regularly bathed in sour goat’s milk to improve her skin. The lactic acid from sour milk is one of the acids used in modern AHA peels. Made from naturally occurring acids found in fruits and other foods, alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peels–or, at least, the main ingredients in them–have been popular for removing dead cells on the surface of the skin (thus smoothing and rejuvenating the skin) for a very long time. Other popular AHA peels used citric acid (from citrus fruit) and glycolic acid (from sugar cane).
In this day of modern medicine and sophisticated technology, many of the same techniques that were used thousands of years ago are still used by esthetic professionals today.
Many people are looking for a simple way to improve their skin without surgery or a facelift. Chemical peels are a highly popular way to improve the overall skin condition, texture and look of the skin.
“Chemical peel” is a general classification for a number of non-surgical chemical treatments used to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin. There are a wide variety of peels available, each with its own unique benefits as well as risks. Chemical peels are divided into three broad categories based on the depth of action of the chemical: superficial, medium depth, and deep.
A chemical solution is applied to the skin, and works by dissolving the upper layers of the skin. As the tissue is dissolved, a wound is created on the skin which stimulates the body’s healing response, causing new tissue to emerge. The depth and strength of the ‘peel’ varies based upon the strength of the chemicals used and the length of time the solution is applied. Any chemical peel must be used very carefully in patients with dark skin types. Deeper peels in dark skin types can produce permanent light patches of the skin and can have disastrous results. It is imperative to have a consultation with a qualified Dermatologist or physician before undergoing any chemical peel procedure. Some skin areas which appear to be age spots may actually be early stage skin cancers and can be masked by the chemical peel. Evaluation by a dermatologist may be necessary before any treatments are undertaken.
AHA Alpha Hydroxy Acid Peels
AHA peels (superficial depth peels) essentially work by exfoliating the skin. They loosen and remove the layer of dead cells (keratinocytes) on the skin’s surface (the stratum corneum), thus revealing the smoother, healthier-looking layer below.
Regular treatments can help with fine lines, brown marks and dry spots (solar keratoses). They also can help minimize acne scarring–and even help with the treatment of acne by stripping away the plugs where acne bumps can form.
AHA peels can be done not only on the face, but on the neck, chest, arms and hands. They’re often combined with microdermabrasion for even greater results.
OBAGI-Blue Deep Peel (Trichloroacetic acid-TCA)
This one-of-a-kind treatment removes the top layer of dead skin cells to reveal the fresh and healthy layer underneath. The process takes less than half an hour to perform. After 48-72 hours, you can expect your skin to peel as cells begin to renew. The results are visible immediately after that. This procedure softens fine lines, minimizes superficial “age” spots and other skin discolorations, improving the tone and texture of your skin. TCA peels are also very popular for diminishing the appearance of acne scars. *You’ll probably want to set aside several days to recover from a TCA treatment. Immediately after the procedure, you can expect some skin irritation, redness and swelling. Within a few days, your skin will tighten and darken–and then begin to crack and peel for the next 4 to 7 days–at which point the tighter, smoother and more youthful-looking layer of skin will emerge. Because your skin’s newly formed layer will be temporarily more susceptible to sunburn, you’ll need to protect it with an effective sunscreen for several weeks. For more information, see Questions about Chemical Peels. If you live in the Washington, D.C. or northern Virginia areas and are considering chemical peels, please contact cosmetic surgeon Dr. Hamrah today to schedule your personal consultation. **With ALL peels, certain people–particularly those using the acne drug isotretinoin (Accutane ) or those with active cold sores–should NOT have this particular skin-rejuvenation treatment.