A Moment of Science

Chemical Peels

If you want to look younger, but cosmetic surgery seems too drastic, many magazines suggest chemical and other peels. What the heck is a peel?

There is a variety of peels out there, but in general, they all work similarly. These procedures remove the top layers of skin in order to reveal smoother, brighter, less blemished skin underneath. They can diminish fine lines, large pores, scars, and acne. In fact, the first uses of chemical peels in the 20th century were for the purpose of diminishing facial scars.

The basics aside, peels come in three forms, chemical, abrasive, or laser. Chemical peels remove skin by burning it off. Alpha hydroxy acid is the mildest of these. Its results are the least remarkable, but the chemical is less likely to involve complications. The strongest of the chemical peels are those using phenol. Phenol can produce dramatic results, but it can potentially damage the liver and kidneys, cause noticeable lightening of skin pigmentation, and is rather painful. One can experience intense burning for up to six hours.

A peel that is growing in popularity is an abrasive, microdermabrasion. This technique removes skin by sanding it off. Then there are laser peels, which work by vaporizing the top layers of skin.

Not just anyone can elect to get a chemical peel. Patients are carefully evaluated before being approved for these procedures. For instance, people with darker skin are at a higher risk for pigmentation side effects than are people with lighter skin.

If you and your doctor decide that a peel is safe for you, it’s essential that you follow your doctor’s orders prior and post peel, so that your skin heals smoothly.

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