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Eight FAQs About Chemical Peels

Our expert from Poise Brands sheds light on the fears and truths of chemical peels.

Jo-Ann Janse van Rensburg met with Juliette Armand skincare expert and training co-ordinator, Liza-Marie Prinsloo, to educate her on chemical peels, a popular treatment performed during winter that is gaining momentum within the skincare industry. There are many misconceptions about chemical peels that need to be addressed and clients need to be reassured that when treatments are done by properly trained professionals; the benefits far outweigh the risks.

  1. What is a chemical peel?

A chemical peel is a treatment in which an acid solution is used to remove the damaged outer layers of the skin. In performing chemical peels, physicians apply alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), beta hydroxy acids (BHA), Trichloroacetic acid (TCA), or phenol to the skin. The chemical peel is one of the oldest cosmetic procedures in the world, and was performed in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome to help people achieve smoother, more beautiful skin.

Typically administered as a facial peel, a chemical peel enhances and smoothes the texture of the skin. It is an effective treatment for facial blemishes, wrinkles, and uneven skin pigmentation. Chemical peels exfoliate the outer layers of dead skin, revealing a new skin layer with improved tone, texture, and colour.

  1. Who should not have a chemical peel?
  • Chemical peels are contraindicated to dark Indian and dark African skin (Fitzpatrick Classification 5 – 6) due to the increased risk of developing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation.
  • Chemical peels higher than 10% solution is prohibited during summer months because of the increased risk of photosensitivity.
  • Chemical peels should not be performed on pregnant woman or nursing mothers; the acids are proven to pass into the blood stream and reach the placenta. The skin is also hyper sensitive during pregnancy and if you peel the skin during pregnancy you run the risk of developing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation because the cause of pigmentation is hormonal. The only safe acid to use on the skin during pregnancy is lactic acid because the mother is producing it naturally.
  • The best outcomes will be achieved if a client does not take any acne medication, such as Accutane®, for six months prior to a chemical peel. The same applies for any derivative of Vitamin A, such as Retin A®, for six weeks prior to a chemical peel.

RELATED ARTICLE: Skin Pigmentation Explained

  1. Are there precautions for chemical peels?
  • Clients that have the herpes zoster virus need to be informed that the acidity of a chemical peel might activate the virus after application.
  • It is important to avoid the sun and sunbathing after a chemical peel as the skin becomes photosensitive.
  • Avoid heat or heat treatments over the treated area, such as waxing, IPL, etc.
  1. Why is the pH of a chemical peel important?
  • The pH of a chemical peel indicates the effectiveness and how deep the peel will penetrate the skin. The lower the pH of the peel the deeper and more active it will be.
  • With a low pH, the peel will be more uncomfortable on the skin and the client will experience a pH flux once the skin is neutralised. With a high pH, the skin won’t be as sensitized and it will be more comfortable for the client. This is recommended for clients with sensitive and reactive skin.
  • A low pH peel will cause obviously peeling of the skin; whereas a high pH peel will cause rejuvenation of the skin. When the skin’s proteins react with an acid of low pH, the acidic environment destroys the existing tissues, and the body’s repair system works to replace the destroyed tissue with new structures.
  1. Does the percentage of a chemical peel indicate the strength of a peel?
  • Most people still associate the percentage of an acid with its efficacy – a higher percentage acid being more effective and aggressive. In fact, it is the pH of an acid that is the major driver of the potency of a product.
  • All acids are driven by pH as their primary criteria in formulation. A 50% glycolic acid can be made as mild as water by adjusting the pH. Conversely, a 30% glycolic acid peel solution at a pH of 2 to 2.5 would be very potent.
  1. Will I be sedated during a chemical peel?

A local anaesthetic in combination with mild or full sedation is typically used for deep chemical peels. For superficial and medium-depth skin peels, no anaesthetic or sedation is necessary.

  1. Why is sun protection important after a chemical peel?

It is important to avoid sun exposure for the first 24 to 48 hours after a chemical peel because your skin will be at its most vulnerable. It is important to wear a sunscreen that contains broad spectrum sun filters to protect against UVA and UVB rays daily after a chemical peel. New skin is more likely to be damaged and change colour from sunlight.

  1. Are there risks associated with chemical peels?
  • Chemical peels rarely result in serious complications, but certain risks do exist. These risks include scarring, infection, swelling, changes in skin tone, and cold sore outbreaks. You can reduce the risks associated with facial peels by following all instructions completely and by providing your complete medical history.
  • When performed by an experienced cosmetic therapists, dermatologist or plastic surgeon, chemical facial peels are safe. With light and medium-depth peels there are relatively mild side effects such as redness, stinging, and crusting which usually subside within a day or two after the treatment. The side effects of deep chemical peels are typically more pronounced, and recovery time is longer. More serious side effects, such as infection and scarring, are possible with deep chemical peels.

RELATED: The Different Types Of Skin Peels

By Jo-Ann Janse van Rensburg. Image: Depositphotos

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