Chemical Peels

A chemical peel utilizes a special solution to improve skin texture by removing the damaged outer layers. Chemical peels increase cellular turnover and refine the outermost layers of the skin. This in turn reduces fine lines and wrinkles, eliminates brown sun damaged areas, and leads to skin brightening and tightening. Specific peels may be used to treat melasma, acne, and even precancerous lesions.

The main categories of chemical peels are:

-Alpha Hydroxy (AHA): AHA peels are derived from fruit acids (ie citrus fruits or sugar cane). They gently exfoliate the outer damaged layers of skin while stimulating the production of collagen. AHA peels are scientifically proven to reduce discoloration, smooth skin and treat fine lines. There is minimal down time with AHA peel – typically just a few days of redness and some flaking.

-Beta Hydroxy (BHA): BHA peels typically utilize salicylic acid. These peels are great for oily skin prone to acne. The salicylic acid is taken up specifically by oil glands. This gently cleanses the blocked oil glands and reduces trapped bacteria. You will notice a significant difference in your acne and mild difference in your discoloration within 5-7 days.  BHA peels typically have minimal peeling. In fact, many of my patients call me saying that they are not peeling (although they acknowledge that their acne and discoloration is improved!).  This is because the peeling is actually going on within the blocked oil glands within the skin.

Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA): TCA is categorized as a medium depth peel as it treats the deeper layers of the skin (the dermis). TCA peels lead to significant redness and peeling–however after 1-2 weeks the results are spectacular.

-Other variations: there are other “brand name” peels such as Obagi, Melanage, VI Peel. These use a special blend of acids to achieve a desired goal (i.e. Melanage is specific for melasma). Ask your dermatologist or plastic surgeon which one is right for you.

Chemical Peels in Ethnic Skin: Chemical peels are a great option to freshen and improve the quality of ethnic skin.  A series of chemical peels is the best way to remove melasma (discoloration). However, medium depth peels such as TCA should be applied with significant caution, as they may lead to even worse discoloration and scarring. As an ethnic skin specialist, my rule is to use gentle chemical peels at more frequent intervals, rather that one aggressive peel.