No Downtime Peels: Cornerstone of Skin Rejuvenation

If looking your age doesn't sound appealing to you, a chemical peel could be your secret weapon in erasing the tell-tale signs that go hand in hand with growing older. Whether you opt for a superficial chemical peel or a deep peel that penetrates several layers of the skin, peeling agents are giving people more options than ever to treat fine lines, sun damage, mild scarring, and even some forms of acne and pigmentation disorders safely and effectively.

At the American Academy of Dermatology's summer scientific session in New York, dermatologist Neil S. Sadick, M.D., a clinical professor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York, N.Y., addressed the benefits of chemical peels in rejuvenating the skin.

"Superficial chemical peels, often referred to as lunchtime peels, remain the cornerstone of any skin rejuvenation program because they require virtually no downtime and produce good results for signs of aging," said Dr. Sadick. "Patients with fine lines or some mild areas of uneven skin pigmentation caused by sun damage are ideal candidates for this procedure."

Alpha hydroxyl acids used as chemical peeling agents, including beta and polyhydroxy acids, have been shown to help in the treatment of acne by reducing the amount of sebum (oil) trapped in the tiny hair follicles of the skin that produce acne.

If a patient has more noticeable wrinkles or dispersed areas of irregular pigmentation, dermatologists may recommend using an intermediate or medium depth peel to penetrate beyond the outermost layer of the skin. A chemical peeling agent with a higher concentration, such as trichloroacetic acid (TCA) or a combination of solutions, produces more noticeable results. In addition to softening wrinkles and improving the skin's overall texture, Dr. Sadick noted that these peels can tighten the skin, reduce pore size, and diminish mild acne scarring. Side effects are normally temporary and include post-peel hyper-pigmentation (or loss of skin pigment) and redness.

For more severe skin damage, deeper peeling agents are used and applied either openly to the skin or sealed under surgical bandages to further strengthen the effect. While deeper chemical peels produce the most dramatic results, the procedure can be painful due to the higher concentration of peeling agents used and require a longer healing period than other peels--usually two to three weeks. These types of chemical peels should be administered only by physicians since occasionally, patients experience serious side effects, such as persistent post-peel hyperpigmentation or even scarring or infection.

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