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Using Chemical Peels to Treat Acne

Updated on June 8, 2010

Chemical peeling removes damaged outer layers of facial skin using a chemical solution applied to the skin. People seek chemical facial peels for a variety of reasons. Chemical peeling smoothes facial skin by removing facial blemishes and wrinkles. It also tones uneven skin pigmentation. Besides its cosmetic benefits, chemical facial peels can also remove pre-cancerous skin growths, lessen the appearance of facial scars and help to control acne. Some insurance companies will cover the costs of a chemical facial peel.

The chemical solution used in chemical facial peels is made up of phenol, trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and alphahydroxy acids (AHAs). 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.

Each of the three chemicals produces a different depth of chemical facial peel. Alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) are the mildest of the peel formulas and are used for light peels—primarily to remove fine wrinkling, areas of dry skin, uneven coloration and acne. Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) produces a medium-depth chemical facial peel that is used to smooth wrinkles, blemishes, and pigment issues. Phenol chemical facial peels are the deepest and strongest chemical facial peels. These peels are recommended for patients with deep facial wrinkles, areas of skin damaged by exposure to the sun, or pre-cancerous growths.

Before making the decision to undergo treatment, it is important to examine the cost vs. benefit for chemical facial peels. Chemical peels may cause stinging, irritation, and crusting of the skin. The TCA chemical peel side effects can include changes in the color of the skin, and patients are advised not to expose the skin to the sun for several months following treatment.

Phenol chemical peels are the deepest peels. They can sometimes lighten the treated area, so a patient’s skin pigmentation should be taken into consideration when prescribing a phenol peel. Phenol chemical facial peels should be used only on the face and can scar other areas of the body. Phenol peels often cause the facial skin to lose its ability to make pigment, so patients always have to protect their skin from the sun.

All chemical facial peels require recovery after treatment. TCA peels are not as deep as phenol peels and requires a shorter recovery period. Phenol chemical peels can require several months of recovery during which treated facial skin should not be exposed to the sun. While a chemical peel offers many benefits, patients should consult their doctors carefully before getting a chemical peel to decide if it is the right treatment for them.

Image Credit: compugeek722, Flickr

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