Chemical peels are a cosmetic procedure designed to enhance skin smoothness, diminish scarring, and eliminate blemishes by removing damaged outer skin layers. There are three main types of chemical peels, each varying in strength: alphahydroxy acid (AHA), trichloroacetic acid (TCA), and phenol. The intensity of the peel is customized based on the individual’s needs. Chemical peels can be complemented with other treatments like facelifts for additional skin improvement. In some cases, insurance may cover chemical peels if they are performed for medical rather than purely cosmetic reasons.

These procedures take place in a plastic surgeon’s or dermatologist’s office, or at an outpatient surgical center. Anesthesia is typically unnecessary, as TCA and phenol possess anesthetic properties, and AHA generally causes only mild stinging.

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Chemical Peel Procedure

In the process of a TCA or phenol peel, the skin undergoes cleansing, followed by the application of a solution that may induce a brief stinging sensation. Subsequent to a phenol peel, petroleum jelly or waterproof adhesive tape may be applied to the skin. Conversely, during an AHA peel, the skin is cleansed and the solution is applied, eliminating the need for post-peel ointment or covering.

Side Effects of Chemical Peels

A phenol or TCA peel may lead to sensations of tingling or throbbing, accompanied by reddened skin, crust formation, or scabbing, as well as significant swelling persisting for about a week, depending on the peel’s strength. In the case of a phenol peel, initial swelling of the eyes may occur, prompting a liquid diet and minimizing talking. Any applied tape is typically removed after a day or two. AHA peels may cause temporary stinging, redness, irritation, and flaking or crusting. Following a chemical peel, it is crucial to shield the skin from sun exposure.

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