What Is A Chemical Peel?
A chemical peel is the use of harsh chemicals (often toxic) or caustic solutions to deliberately damage the skin. During the healing process, new cell growth is stimulated and hence new skin.
Chemical peels have been around since well before the 1900s but were not accepted by the medical profession until the work of Thomas Baker, MD in 1960.
There are three types based on the layers based on depth of penetrative objective;
Very light/ very superficial: the outer layer of the skin
Light/ superficial – partial or complete wounding of the epidermis or top layer
Medium -complete wounding of the epidermis and into upper reticular dermis or 4th layer of the skin
Deep -complete wounding of epidermal tissue and into the mid reticular dermis
The chemical peel has many dependents
- Skin type
- Doctor or Professional- each his /her own approach and preferences
- Age and type of chemicals/ chemical strength
- How vigorously it is applied
- The length of time the chemical allowed to remain on the skin
# 1 Chemical Peels Can Cause Burning And Infections
After a chemical peel ( especially a deep one), you may experience severe redness and swelling.
You may also feel burning and throbbing, and your eyelids might swell shut. It would depend on the chemicals used, strength and the duration of exposure.
Chemical peels can cause fungal or bacterial infections
Chemical peels can also reactivate infections such as pre-existing inflammatory dermatoses such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis or even herpetic infections.
Scarring can occur causing additional skin issues and treatments. The most common location is in the lower part of the face.
For medium depth and deep peels…
There is a history of abnormal scarring, keloids, atrophic skin, and isotretinoin (accutane) use in the last six months.
Even some organic peels based on fruits can cause intense burning based on how they are mixed.
#2 Many Of The Chemicals Used Are Toxic And Cancerous
The chemicals used are quite strong, “harsh” require careful handling, many are carcinogenic.
One such chemical is trichloroacetic acid, or TCA, is widely used by dermatologists. It is used to remove damaged skin cells and brighten the skin.
According the article in The New York Times, TCA can be easily absorbed through the skin. Studies have shown very destructive effects in animal studies and International Agency on Cancer Research has classified it as a suspected human carcinogen.
To quote the article, “A few human studies also hint at harm. A report published this summer in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research found evidence of both genetic and cellular damage in human subjects.”
Tretinoin belongs to the family of retinols. It is commonly used to treat extreme acne cases or damaged skin. Side effects include hair loss, stomach issues, bone issues, dryness and more.
Another very popular substance is hydroquinone. It used to lighten the skin and reduce age spots and other skin blemishes.
According to Medicinenet.com, Hydroquinone has been found to cause cancer.
The article also states that Hydroquinone has also been linked to the medical condition known as ochronosis in which the skin becomes dark and thick. Dome-shaped yellowish spots and grayish-brown spots also are observed in ochronosis among black women and men.
Then there effects to the heart and the adrenal glands.
“Phenols are quite toxic and requires hospital monitoring,” says Libby Harkness, author of The Australian Guide To Cosmetic Surgery (Coulomb Communications)
There are many other chemicals used with various side effects and dangers to the liver, kidneys and heart.
Is it worth the risks knowing the results may not be permanent?
Please note that Hydroquinone and Tretinoins are often part of the pretreatment process, which brings me the next point
# 3 You May Require Pre Treatment Before The Actual Chemical Peel
The pre-treatment home regimen period consists of topical products used prior to the actual chemical peel. This period usually last between 2 to 4 weeks.
It consists of the daily application of either one or a combination of different glycolic acid or skin lightening products (i.e. kojic acid or hydroquinone).
You may be required to use pre-peel products in the morning, evening or both.
This is supposed to the accomplish the following:
• Thinning of the epidermal layer of the skin
• Enhance uniform active agent penetration
• Accelerated healing
• Reduce post peel side effects and complications. Really?
• Eliminate and or reduce post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation
According to Skincare Science , without a proper skin pre-treatment regimen, your skin could be stressed beyond its limits and increase the chances for adverse complications such as:
• Hypo pigmentation (light pigmentation)
• Hyperpigmentation (dark pigmentation)
• Delayed healing of the skin
• Prolonged redness
Before applying any chemical peel, doctor or aesthetician ensures the client signs all release forms signed.
I wonder why?
# 4 The Healing Process Can Be Lengthy
After the chemical peel, you have to be very disciplined about your after care. Normal activities outside your house would have to be suspended. Hmm…
Firstly, you have strict avoidance of the sun. Imagine me doing that and I live in the Caribbean!
Based on the type of skin type and chemical peel, the downtime can be a little as 14 days or 3 months and more. Is it worth it?
You also have to use antiviral medication for weeks after the chemical peel to guard against infections.
Then you have avoid itching and touching your face otherwise you can cause serious scarring which brings it own set of complications.
According to Skincare Science, chemical peels particularly deep peels to the dermis can destroy fibroblasts.
If too many peels are repeated to this depth, fibroblasts will have a difficult time regenerating fast enough to repair the damage done by the chemical peel.
Fibroblasts are cells for producing connective tissues like collagen and plays a critical role in the healing process after injury.
In other words, medium and deep chemical peels, especially can exhaust the skin’s ability to heal itself. Say what?
Yep that is correct, the skin can be so damaged that self repair mechanisms can be ineffective.
# 5 Chemical Peels Can Be Risky And Expensive
When deciding on doing a chemical peel ,the following must be considered and discussed with your doctor/professional first:
#1 Skin type and sensitivity
#2 Downtime (depending on depth of peel)
#3 Pre and post treatment requirements
#4 Treatment cost
For example reactive hyperpigmentation can occur after any depth of chemical peels and is usually seen more in dark complexion people.
Furthermore, Milia or epidermal cysts appear in up to 20% of patients after chemical peels, usually 8 to 16 weeks after the procedure. Not to mention, heart issues many experience after the chemical peel.
The chemical peel itself can cost $70 (over the counter) to even professional services costing as much as $6000.
That does not include possible pretreatments and products required for post peel treatment.
You also have to estimate a cost of hiring someone to do errands if you have no one and have to avoid sunlight.
There is the inconvenience of the entire thing. But it can get worse…
You may be required to undergo a series of chemical peels to get desired results and therefore these costs and inconveniences are multiplied.
Although chemical peels can evoke massive changes relatively fast. (depends on your perspective).
Slow and steady still wins the race.
Light peels done on regular basis help provide smoother, blemish free skin, reducing fine lines, even skin tone and glowing skin. It can be done without the harsh chemicals , risks, or any downtime from home.