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Chemical Peel Process and Recovery Time

Updated on June 27, 2010

Chemical peels can be a great way to remove blemishes and wrinkles in your skin and tone uneven skin pigmentation. In addition to its cosmetic benefits, chemical peeling can also remove pre-cancerous skin growths. Chemical facial peels are available at your doctor’s office or in more diluted forms in spas or even at home. As with any medical treatment, you should understand the process and recovery time associated with chemical facial peels before undergoing treatment.

Chemical peels remove the top layer of facial skin and bring healthier skin cells to the surface. This removes blemishes in the skin and makes skin softer and more even. The process begins by applying a chemical solution to the facial skin which removes the uppermost skin cells on the skin’s surface. Patients are then advised to avoid sun exposure to allow for the protection and healing of newly exposed skin cells. Depending upon the strength of the chemical peel used, patients may need to repeat the chemical peel for long-lasting effect.

The primary chemicals used in facial peels are phenol, trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and alphahydroxy acids (AHAs). Each patient is given a different amount of each depending upon his or her individual needs. These chemicals produce different depths of peels and require different recovery periods.

Alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) are the mildest form of chemical peel and can remove fine wrinkling, areas of dry skin, uneven coloration and mild to moderate acne. AHA can be applied weekly or at longer periods as recommended by a doctor and can also be mixed with facial cream or face wash for daily use. Since AHA peels do not penetrate very deeply, recovery times are generally very short. Patients are advised to avoid sun exposure for a few days following treatment.

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) causes a deeper peel than AHA and is used to smooth wrinkles, blemishes, and pigment issues. As with AHA peels, several TCA peels may be needed to treat some issues and results may not be permanent. TCA peels require a moderate amount of recovery time and avoidance of sun exposure.

The strongest of all chemical facial peels has high concentrations of phenol. These peels correct deep facial wrinkles, areas of skin damaged by sun exposure, or pre-cancerous growths. Unlike other chemical peels, phenol chemical facial peels should be used only on the face and can scar other areas of the body. Phenol chemical peels usually require a long recovery period (often several months) in which the treated skin must be protected. This type of chemical peel can also eliminate your skin’s ability to tan, and therefore patients receiving these peels must protect their skin from the sun permanently.

Image Credit: titlap, Flickr

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  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Lela, Thanks for the good information.

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