Chemical peels, also known as chemosurgery, help restore wrinkled, lightly scarred, or blemished facial skin. Much like chemical paint strippers, chemical peels strip off the top layers of skin, and new, younger-looking skin grows back. The procedure is very effective for the upper lip. It cannot be performed around the eyes. Partial peels are often done in conjunction with a face-lift.
Dermatologist applies chemicals to the skin. They include trichloroacetic acid, high concentrations of alpha hydroxy or beta hydroxy acids, or combinations of them.
In some cases, tretinoin (vitamin A derivative) or alpha hydroxy is applied four to six weeks before and starting one day after the peel. Such treatments can enhance the effects of a peel and reduce the risk of discoloration in people at risk for this complication. (Tretinoin itself is being tested as a chemical peel. In one small 2001 study, it effectively reduced wrinkles with no side effects.)
A crust or a scab generally forms within 24 hours after surgery, which can be removed by gentle cleansing with soap and water.
The skin takes six or seven days to heal.
After the scab disappears, the visible skin is deep red but gradually lightens as it regenerates.
Complications. Complications include white heads, cold sores, infection, scarring, numbness, and permanent discoloration, particularly in people with darker skin. Refinement of chemical peel techniques are now permitting doctors to reach deeper skin, improvements which make it easier to apply peels to non-facial skin and to individuals with darker skin.