If you are considering undergoing a chemical acid peel, whether performed by a dermatologist or done by you in the privacy of your own home, you may have some questions about the process, what is used, what is involved, and what to expect. Some of these questions, with the answers are listed below.
What is a chemical peel?
A chemical peel is exactly what it sounds like. It is the application of certain acids—either alphahydroxy acid, glycolic acid, trichloracetic (also known as tca) acid, or phenol (also known as carbolic acid—yes, you read that right!) The first two are acids that are found naturally in some fruits, sugar, and other foods and organic substances; the next two are mainly synthetic, although tca acid may have some natural compounds in it.
Are chemical peels safe?
Done properly, they are. However, you should be aware that even with the more natural acid peels, such as the alphahydroxy acid or the glycolic acid ones, you are putting acid on your face, even though it is in a very diluted form.
If you choose to perform your own procedure, you must make sure to follow the instructions exactly. Don’t skip any part of them, especially the one concerning conducting a patch test several days before you give yourself a full facial treatment.
What can I expect from a chemical acid peel?
You can expect clearer-looking skin, because dead skin cells, or, depending on the type used, even a thin layer of skin will have been removed. Pores will look smaller, because any impurities that were in them will have been removed by the process. You may also see a reduction in mild scars, and previously oily skin may become drier for a short period of time.
What should I not expect from acid peels?
A complete change in appearance, of course. After all, you are only removing or exfoliating skin. You should also not expect the procedure to be permanent. It will be necessary to repeat it within a few weeks or months (depending on the strength of the chemical used) if you want to continue to achieve and enjoy the same results.
A chemical peel may not work on hyper-pigmentation; that is, dark spots or areas that can be caused by different things, including excessive sun or artificial tanning exposure, ethnicity, or other reasons. (Freckles are an example of hyper-pigmentation.) It may cause a slight temporary lightening of these places, but it will not remove or correct them.
Should I even try to do a chemical acid peel myself or should I let a professional do it?
That is entirely up to you. If you feel confident enough in yourself to follow the instructions to the letter, then you may want to do it yourself. If you are concerned about harming your skin, or if you have an underlying physical condition, such as diabetes, lupus, or other condition that can affect the skin, as the two mentioned can, you may want to let a professional do it for you.
Can I buy any type of chemical peel, including a tca chemical peel, without a prescription?
Yes. You can purchase the ingredients in certain retail outlets or online. You might want to do some research first before making your purchase, however, so that you will be aware of the differences between products and other factors.
What should I do if I do injure my skin during a home treatment?
If you feel as though the chemical peel is burning or stinging more than it should, or if you start to notice a rash or other signs of irritation or reaction occurring, follow the directions for removing the peel, even though the time in which you were to leave it on has not passed, then immediately call a health care professional. If you begin to experience difficulty breathing or feel as though your eyes and/or throat are swelling, call 9-1-1, or have someone drive you to the nearest emergency room.