San Diego Chemical Peels

Chemical peeling agents have been known to be useful for skin rejuvenation since the ancient days of Egypt. The first agent used for chemical exfoliation was lactic acid, a component of sour milk. The application of chemical peeling solution produces a controlled, partial thickness injury to the skin. Recovery of the skin following application of the peeling solution results in improvements in texture, tone, wrinkles and coloration. Many forms of chemical peeling solutions are available, each with a specific depth of penetration into the skin to address a variety of concerns. Typically, a series of chemical peels at 3-4 week intervals is required to achieve the desired result.

What skin conditions can be treated with chemical peels?

Indications for chemical peeling include actinic keratoses (pre-cancers), acne, pigmentary irregularities and disorders including melasma, superficial scarring, wrinkles and sun-damaged skin.

What kinds of agents are used for chemical peeling?

Chemical peeling agents are grouped into three categories, depending on their depth of penetration. In general, the deeper the chemical peel, the greater the benefit, the longer the recovery time and the greater the risk of undesirable side effects.

Superficial chemical peeling agents that can help lighten brown blemishes, improve skin texture, address fine wrinkling and improve the appearance of mild sun-damaged skin include:

Lactic acid
Glycolic acid
Salicylic acid
Jessner`s chemical peel solution
Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) 10-25%

Medium-depth chemical peeling agents that can improve mild to moderate depth wrinkling, skin texture and help improve the appearance of moderate sun-damaged skin include:

TCA 35%
TCA 35% plus Jessner`s
TCA 35% plus glycolic acid

Deep chemical peeling agents typically include some formulation of phenol. Deep peels can achieve dramatic improvements in deep wrinkles and achieve significant skin tightening.

What can I expect during the recovery phase from a chemical peel?

Mild chemical peeling agents typically cause redness and mild swelling over the first 24-48 hours. Fine peeling of the skin occurs between days 3 and 5, and a full recovery typically occurs by day 7-10.

Medium depth peeling agents cause redness and moderate swelling over the first 24-48 hours. Peeling of the skin occurs between days 3 and 5, and skin recovery is usually complete by day 10 to 14. Pinkness of the skin can persist for several weeks.

Application of deep chemical peel solutions cause an intense burning sensation that lasts 4-6 hours, requiring appropriate pain medications. The entire epidermis (superficial layer of skin) sloughs off by day 3-5, and regeneration of the epidermis is usually complete by day 10 to 14. Redness of the skin can persist for up to 3 months or longer following a deep phenol peel.

What are the complications associated with chemical peels?

As with all surgical procedures, chemical peels can be associated with undesirable effects. These include pigmentary changes (darkening, lightening and uneven tone), scarring, infection, prolonged redness, acne and milia (small cysts). In the event that any of these complications occurs, consult with your dermatologist so these problems can be appropriately managed. With the appropriate use of these chemical peeling agents and proper peeling agent selection, the occurrence of chemical peeling complications can be minimized.

The use of chemical peeling agents can achieve significant and gratifying improvements in skin discoloration, texture, tone, wrinkling and sun-damaged skin. Ask your dermatologist which agent(s) would be the most appropriate for you and your particular concerns.