Chemical peels, also known as chemical resurfacing, are cosmetic treatments to produce an improved appearance of the face. Chemical peels are used for the treatment of photoaging (from sun damage), wrinkles, scarring, acne, precancerous lesions, and discoloration (or dyschromia).
Chemical peels produce controlled injury to the skin that promotes the growth of new skin with an improved appearance.Many different chemicals are used including glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid (TCA), salicylic acid, “Jessners” solution, and phenol. The different chemical solutions produce different degrees of injury to the skin.
There are two layers of the skin; the outer layer is called the epidermis and the inner layer, the dermis. Superficial peels (e.g. glycolic acid) produce very superficial injury confined to the epidermis. Superficial peels can help improve conditions such as acne and dyschromia. Deeper peels (e.g. phenol peels) produce injury within the dermis and can reverse moderate-to-severe photoaging and wrinkles. In general, the deeper peels offer the most dramatic results but require longer recovery periods and carry a higher risk of complications.
Chemical peels have actually been used for hundreds of years and have a proven safety record in the proper hands. However, chemical peels are not for everyone. For example, people who are in poor general health should not get peels. Also, active infections and certain medications (i.e. isotretinoin (Accutane)) may preclude the use of certain types of chemical peels, especially medium and deep. Sometimes, people with abnormal scarring, certain skin diseases, or recent surgeries should not have a chemical peel. You and your physician should decide if chemical peels are safe for you.