The Complete Guide to Chemical Peels

Photo: Courtesy of Trunk Archive

A culture of sun-worshipping, fast-paced careers, and frequent nights on the town are taking a visible toll on our complexions earlier than most would hope. As a result, more and more people are looking for rapid, more extreme solutions to rid them of the fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and scars marring their faces. The last decade has seen a distinct rise in the popularity of chemical peels as a speedy alternative to invasive surgery and products that are not only costly but also time consuming. When it comes to wiping out lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and other skin ailments, what takes traditional treatments months to achieve, chemical peels can do in a matter of minutes.

We tapped Eternel Clinic GP and Aesthetic Specialist Dr. Inaam Faiq to find out everything you need to know about peels, from the different types of acids used to the things you should avoid post-treatment to get the most out of your chemical peel.

What is a chemical peel and how does it work?

Chemical peels are one of the least invasive ways of improving the appearance of your complexion. A chemical solution is applied to the skin in order to remove the damaged outer layers. There are a number of different types of acids used, from alpha hydroxy acids and salicylic acid to carbolic acid, in a variation of strengths that can be adjusted by you doctor based on your needs and specific skin type. By removing the external layers of the epidermis, you are getting rid of the dead and damaged cells, which speeds up cell turnover and encourages collagen production.

What can it treat?

Chemical peels can be used to treat a number of skin problems on the face, including fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, sun damage, acne, and scarring, as well as improve the overall texture of the skin. It can also be used on the body to re-texturize the skin, heal acne and scarring, and minimize pigmentation in the underarms and sensitive areas.

From what age should you consider getting peels?

Skin condition really depends on your lifestyle and health. A young person who spends a significant amount of time in the sun or smokes will most probably have completely different skin to an older person who isn’t exposed to skin-aging factors. It’s a case-by-case scenario. However, someone with no visible skin concerns could get a light peel once a year to boost radiance and rejuvenate the cells.

Are there any contraindications?

Those who spend a lot of time outdoors or have recently tanned should avoid peels, as sun exposure can cause severe skin damage, scarring, and hyperpigmentation.

Does it hurt?

The lighter chemical peels are actually very superficial and you may feel as though you haven’t undergone any treatment at all. However, the deeper peels may result in sunburn-like symptoms such as redness, irritation, itchy skin, and all-round discomfort. These should subside after around two weeks.

What are the risks?

In general, the mild peels have minimal to no risks. In some cases, you may not even feel you’ve had the procedure. The deeper peels hold greater risks of side effects. These can range from redness and dryness to blistering, scarring, and increased sensitivity to sunlight.

Any tips for before the treatment?

Plan for your treatment at least two months before a special occasion. This leaves plenty of time for healing and treatment in the unlikely case of something going wrong. Also try to undergo a chemical peel during the winter, when sun exposure will be less likely.

Make sure to avoid the sun and anything that may inflame the skin, such as waxing or depilation, for at least a month before your peel. And if you want to go for a deeper peel, it’s advisable to start with lower concentrations of acids and build upwards. You doctor will advise you accordingly.

Finally, how should one take care of the skin post-treatment?

Avoid the sun completely. If you have to go outside, be sure to apply a sunblock with high protection, a minimum of SPF 50. Do not scratch, even if your skin is itchy. Do not accelerate the peeling process by picking at loose skin. This could lead to inflammation and infection.

Finally, avoid applying any products or cosmetics that have not been prescribed by your doctor as they may increase irritation.

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