You don’t have to be a dermatologist to know that exfoliation — shedding old skin cells and replacing them with new ones — is key to vibrant, younger-looking skin. Chemical peels are a great way to help the body’s natural exfoliation process (we shed our entire skin layer every 27 days). Periodic peeling of the skin helps to stimulate cellular activity and can be used to address all kinds of conditions, from age spots and pigmentation problems to acne and enlarged pores.
Chemical peels have been popular for a long time. Cleopatra was one of the early proponents. The Egyptian pharaoh bathed in sour milk to rejuvenate her skin — the lactic acid in the sour milk was the active ingredient and is still used in peels today.
Our skin is our largest organ. Unlike most of our other organs, however, the skin is constantly exposed, taking a beating from the sun, wind, and the environment. It consists of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the fat layer. We are constantly shedding our skin cells (skin cells are the major component of household dust)! The process is called exfoliation.
Chemical peels simply give the process a boost. Peels remove layers of skin so that younger, healthier skin cells can show themselves. In the process, age spots, acne scars, fine lines, dead skin cells, and other imperfections are peeled away. The purpose of a peel is to erase imperfections and improve skin tone and texture.
At Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, we use chemical peels for a variety of skin conditions:
Chemical peels are not meant to address issues such as sagging skin or deep lines and creases.
At the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, we perform light/superficial peels and medium peels. We don’t perform deep chemical peels using phenol acid, as we feel the recovery and potential for scarring outweigh the benefits. Also, we offer numerous laser skin rejuvenation treatments that provide similar results without any of the same risks.
Light chemical peels are perfect for exfoliating just the outermost layer of the epidermis, removing dead and damaged skin cells, and creating a healthy glow. Light peels are good for acne, dry skin, and fine wrinkling. For our superficial peels, we usually use naturally derived alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acid. These acids come from sources such as sugar cane (glycolic), milk (lactic), and the bark of willow trees (salicylic).
There will be some minor redness and irritation from your first few light peels, but as your skin becomes healthier, this won’t happen with future light peels. Light peels can be done on a regular basis to keep your skin glowing.
This is one of the specific superficial peels we offer:
This is a medium superficial peel from SkinMedica with a unique blend of alpha and beta hydroxy medical-grade acids. It is meant to improve mild to moderate acne, superficial acne scars, moderate pigmentation/sun damage, and melasma. It will cause some mild to moderate peeling for 3-4 days.
Medium peels can address acne scars, deeper wrinkles, and uneven skin pigmentation. The trichloroacetic acid used in a medium chemical peel penetrates more deeply, past the epidermis into the upper part of the dermis (the middle layer of the skin).
Medium peels leave your skin red and stinging and will cause some crusting. That redness can linger for a few weeks. Medium peels may be repeated quarterly.
This is one of the specific medium peels we offer:
This is a deeper peel that penetrates the epidermis to stimulate collagen production, destroy acne bacteria, unplug pores, peel away lesions, and remove excess oil. This will create two days of moderate redness and up to five days of moderate peeling. The Jessner Peel is effective for treating medium to deep wrinkles, inflammatory acne, moderate acne scarring, and moderate sun damage.
We don’t offer deep peels at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery. They can be fairly painful. Our light and medium peels create a stinging sensation (mostly with medium peels), but patients don’t find it painful. We use a fan to blow cooling air across the peel area for our medium peels to help you keep comfortable.
You have to remember what the goal of a chemical peel is — to remove varying degrees of the outer layers of your skin. Because this exfoliation is forced to a deeper degree, there is some redness and tenderness after your treatment. Your face will feel a little dry. With a light peel, it will feel as if you have a light sunburn. With a medium peel, it will feel more like a medium sunburn. There will be some light flaking with light peels. Medium peels will have a little crusting of the skin. Other than that, our light and medium chemical peels are safe without any real side effects. Deep peels have a much more involved recovery and there can be danger of infection; that’s one reason we do not perform deep phenol peels.
After a superficial peel, especially if you’re not a regular customer, your skin will have some redness and irritation, but as your skin becomes more exfoliated this will pass and your skin will simply glow after your peel. There is no recovery; your skin may feel a little tight for a couple of days and you may have some slight flaking, but that’s about it.
Medium peels will require some recovery. This is because the trichloroacetic acid creates deeper penetration than the glycolic acids used for our superficial peels. Because they penetrate more deeply TCA peels loosen the skin bonds more deeply. They leave the skin red and stinging, and there will be some crusting. Facial redness can linger for up to a few weeks.
The main thing after a peel of any strength is sun protection. Because the peel has removed some of your epidermises and potentially some of your second layer, the dermis, the newly exposed skin doesn’t have the accumulated layer of dead skin cells to help provide sun protection. After any peel, you need to protect your skin with 30+ SPF sunscreen and clothing.
From there, it makes sense to step up your skincare routine a little bit. If you’ve been winging it in the past, it would be a good idea to let our team at Center for Dermatology give you advice on morning and evening skincare products and practices.
Light peels can be done as much as you want. Our patients from around the Portland area often come in once a month for light peels to keep their skin turning over and vibrant.
Medium peels penetrate more deeply, so they cannot be done as often. We suggest having medium peels no more than once every three or four months.
If you’re interested in learning more about chemical peels please contact us for a consultation with one of our providers at 503.297.3440. We will discuss your needs and concerns, and determine your best course of action.