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Dangers of Chemical Peels

Updated on June 8, 2010

Chemical peeling removes damaged outer layers of facial skin using a chemical solution made up of phenol, trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and alphahydroxy acids (AHAs). More and more people are seeking chemical facial peels to smooth facial skin and remove facial blemishes and wrinkles. A chemical facial peel can also tone uneven skin pigmentation. Besides its cosmetic benefits, chemical facial peels can remove pre-cancerous skin growths, lessen the appearance of facial scars and help to control acne.

Each of the three acids used in chemical peels produces a different depth of peel. The specific formula depends upon the specific needs of each patient. While a chemical facial peel cannot produce the results of a facelift or other surgeries which reduce the signs of age, it can be very helpful in giving patients smoother-looking skin.

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. Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) causes a deeper peel than AHA and is used to smooth wrinkles, blemishes, and pigment issues. Phenol produces the strongest of all chemical facial peels. These peels correct deep facial wrinkles, areas of skin damaged by sun exposure, or pre-cancerous growths.

Although chemical peels can do great things for the appearance of your skin, you should be aware of the dangers of chemical peels. Your skin will be different before and after a chemical peel, but sometimes for the worse. Dangers of chemical peels vary depending upon which of the three types of chemical facial peel is done. AHA chemical peels are fast treatments that offer a fast recovery period. This peel is not very deep, so only the outer skin is burned off during the process. However, chemical peel results of an AHA peel can include redness and flaking.  These can be treated with medication and the skin should not be exposed to the sun for 3 days following treatment.

TCA chemical peels can produce the same redness and flaking as AHA chemical peels, but in addition they can cause swelling and discoloration of the skin due to sunburn. Areas that appear red or swollen should be treated by a doctor, as these can turn into scars if left untreated.

Phenol chemical peels are the most powerful of all chemical peels and therefore have the greatest risk of serious side effects. With phenol peels, scarring may occur or skin can be permanently discolored. Swelling may be so severe as to interfere with eyesight. Finally, phenol peels may affect the heartbeat of patients with heart problems, so be sure to check with your doctor.

Image Credit: chego101, Flickr


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  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    Lela, I sure don't like the possible bad effects of the peel. I think I would not do this at home. Thanks for the information.