Chemical peels remove damaged outer layers of skin to make skin smoother, reduce scarring and remove blemishes. Ranging from mild to strong, there are three types of chemical peels: alphahydroxy acid (AHA), trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and phenol. The strength of each peel is tailored to the patient. Peels can be combined with other procedures, such as facelifts, for additional improvement to skin. Chemical peels may be covered by insurance if they are performed for medical rather than cosmetic reasons.
Chemical peels are performed in a plastic surgeon's or dermatologist's office, or an outpatient surgical center. Anesthesia is not required because TCA and phenol have anesthetic properties, and AHA produces only a slight stinging.
During a TCA or phenol peel, the skin is cleansed and the solution is applied, which may cause a brief stinging sensation. Petroleum jelly or a waterproof adhesive tape may be put on the skin following a phenol peel. During an AHA peel, the skin is cleansed and the solution applied; there is no need for post-peel ointment or covering.
A phenol or TCA peel can result in tingling or throbbing, reddened skin, a crust or scab, and significant swelling that lasts, depending on the strength of the peel used, about a week. With a phenol peel, eyes may be swollen shut at first, and the patient may be put on a liquid diet and advised to keep talking to a minimum. Any tape used is removed after a day or two. AHA peels can cause temporary stinging, redness and irritation, as well as flaking or crusting. After a chemical peel, it is essential that the skin be protected from the sun.
Laser Skin Resurfacing
Modern technology provides a variety of successful laser resurfacing treatments for improving the condition of the skin. Laser skin treatments employ focused beams of light energy to counteract the effects on the skin of acne, aging, sun damage, hyperpigmentation, scars, or poor nutrition. Resurfacing laser treatments are safe and efficient, requiring little downtime to provide effective results.
Much less invasive than dermabrasion and chemical peels, laser treatments remove damaged skin and rejuvenate the patient's appearance. Most of the time, such treatments are sought for the face, but may also be performed on other parts of the body
Reasons for Laser Resurfacing
Patients seek laser resurfacing for a variety of reasons, all related to discontent with their appearance. Laser resurfacing may be performed for any of the following reasons:
- To decrease or eliminate wrinkles or stretchmarks
- To diminish the appearance of scars
- To rejuvenate non-responsive skin after a facelift
- To remove age spots or spider veins
- To repair sun-damaged skin
- To improve skin tone due to melasma or other causes
- To remove warts or birthmarks
- To decrease the size of enlarged pores
- To remove tattoos
The Laser Resurfacing Procedure
Laser treatments for skin conditions are typically performed in the doctor's office with topical anesthesia. Procedures typically take between 30 and 90 minutes to perform, depending on the size and location of the treated area. While some individuals will notice significant results after just one treatment, particularly with ablative procedures, many patients will require multiple sessions in order to achieve the desired results. It is also possible that additional touch-up treatments will be needed at a future date.
Risks of Laser Resurfacing
Although laser skin treatment is considered safe for most patients and is typically performed with no long-term complications, there are certain risks associated with any type of medical procedure. While considered rare, risks may include:
- Pigmentation changes
- Milia, tiny white bumps on the skin
Recovery from Laser Resurfacing
Recovery from laser resurfacing procedures varies according to the particular procedure undergone and the individual patient's skin type. In all cases, however, patients who have undergone these treatments should avoid sun exposure wherever possible.