Understand chemical peeling- from a dermatologist (Dermatocare's skin rejuvenation guide)

Written By Dr Aditi, MD Skin

Last updated: 03/10/18

“Doctor, what is chemical peeling? How is it done? What precautions I need to take after the peel? What are side effects of peels?  Yes, these are the questions that we dermatologist address when a patient comes for a chemical peel. With the advent of hundreds of cosmetic procedures to rejuvenate your skin, peeling still holds significance because it is the safe, inexpensive, non-time consuming method to get a radiant, even-toned and smoother skin.

Why go for a facial in the saloon when a peel at dermatologist clinic can deliver a lot more with a marginal increase in cost? Read this article authored by Dr Aditi to know all about chemical peeling. Dr Aditi, MD Skin has a keen interest in aesthetic dermatology and anti-aging skin care. She can be reached at  https://www.facebook.com/clinicmidas

See the list of skincare products that can help in reducing Aging/wrinkles

What are chemical peels? 

Chemical peeling is a procedure where chemical agents of a defined strength are applied to the skin which causes controlled shedding of skin cells followed by formation of a new layer of skin; leading to improvement of texture and surface abnormalities. In simple words, peeling is exfoliation of the dead skin followed by formation of new rejuvenated skin.

What are uses of chemical peels?

Chemical peels can benefit all the skin types:

  • Oily skin changes like black/whiteheads, pimples, dilated pores can be handled with salicylic acid peels.
  • Dry skin changes like dull and patchy skin can be handled with lactic or mandelic acid peels.
  • Combination skin will benefit from AHA peel unless they have pimples, comedones or dilated pores that might need a salicylic acid peel.
  • Pigmented skin due to age spots, freckles, melasma, is benefited with AHA peels.
  • Aging skin changes like rough, uneven skin, photo-aged skin, fine wrinkles are catered to by all the peels due to the inherent property of shedding dead cells. However, series of TCA peels specifically help skin texture changes associated with aging skin.
  • Sensitive skin needs milder agents like mandelic acid or lactic acid to rejuvenate their skin that too inexperienced hands. 

Related topic: Glycolic, Salicylic, Lactic, Mandelic Or TCA Peel- Which One Is Best, Know From A Dermatologist?

How is chemical peel done?

The chemical peels are performed in following steps:

  • Counselling: After determining your skin type and your major skin issues, an appropriate peeling agent either alone or in combination is chosen by your dermatologist. 

  • Priming the skin: Your dermatologist will prescribe you certain medications for a week or two, to prepare your skin for the procedure.
  • Positioning: The procedure is done on a cosmetic chair or bed with head slightly inclined up. 
  • Cleaning: You face is thoroughly cleaned to remove make-up, dirt and pollutants, etc. and to ensure even absorption of peeling agent. 
  • Application: The peeling agent is then applied with the applicator on your face in specific order. 
  • Monitoring: The dermatologist monitors you for any untoward side effects in the form of redness, intolerable burning or irritations, and rarely blister. 
  • Neutralisation: The peel is then neutralised with water or neutralising agent at a specific time depending on the agent used and tolerability of your skin.
  • Revisit: The peels are usually performed at the interval of 2-4 weeks until the adequate response is achieved; which might vary from 5 to even 15 peels. The concentration of peeling agent or the time of application of peel is increased gradually in the subsequent peeling sessions.

MUST READ: Are your skincare products safe for your heath and yet effective?, Check out Dermatocare Reviews on top skin care products with regards to effectiveness, safety and skin type recommendations.


What precautions should be taken after a peel?

Sine the peeling sheds tough dead skin and exposes the new delicate skin, the later has to be protected from harsh chemicals and environment until the new skin layer forms. You may experience redness, swelling, tightness and flakiness of the skin especially with TCA peel in the post peel period. The precautions are:

  • Cleanser: Use the non-soap cleanser to wash you face twice a day.
  • Sun protection: Apply broad-spectrum sunscreens every three hours for at least a week, besides using other methods of sun protection
  • Use skin care products recommended by your doctor: Since newly formed skin might not tolerate certain strong ingredients, make a point to ask your doctor to recommend post-peel skin care regime.
  • Do not scratch: Avoid scratching the peeling skin, instead let it shed naturally.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals: Facial procedures like steaming, scrubbing, waxing, bleaching or facials should be avoided in the first week after the peel. Irritant like Dettol, scrubs and loofahs should be strictly avoided for a week.
  • Report to the doctor: If there is excessive crusting or redness, consult your doctor immediately.

What are the side effects of a chemical peel?

Side effects are essentially few, and occur if you fail to follow the precautions more so in sensitive skin and with the use of medium depth or deeper peels; these include:

  • Burning sensation
  • Swelling
  • Pigmentary changes like darkening  or lightening of the skin colour
  • Persistent redness
  • Allergic reactions
  • Milia
  • Acneiform eruptions
  • Scarring in case of deep peels
  • Lines of demarcation
  • Textural changes
  • Infections (bacterial, viral, fungal)
  • Ocular complications can occur in the case of accidental spillage of peels in your eyes.

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