Is a chemical peel the right choice for you?

There’s no denying that chemical peels are successful at targeting skin care concerns. They are a great way to improve the overall condition of your skin, as well as even out skin tone, reduce the look of age spots, and lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. But the term ‘chemical peel’ has a scary ring to it and the thought of using chemicals to remove layers of skin is enough to send shivers up and down anyone’s spine – and rightfully so. While mild chemicals peels are a relatively safe form of skin care, medium and deeper peels can be quite dangerous and hold a number of possible side effects. To get a deeper understanding, let’s first take a look at the different types of chemical peels:

Low Grade Chemical peel

  • Uses alpha hydroxy acid as its main chemical
  • Used to remove surface layers of the skin and improve skins overall texture
  • Following treatment your skin may look sunburned and skin will start to peel
  • You can return to work immediately following a low-grade peel
  • Skin can take up to 5 days to heal completely

Medium Grade Chemical Peel

  • Uses tricloroacetic acid as its main chemical
  • Used to treat fine lines, surface level acne, and small skin imperfections
  • A medium grade peel usually takes about 15 minutes in total
  • Side effects may include swelling, redness, scabbing, and peeling
  • Downtime can be anywhere from 5-10 days after a peel

All in all, low grade chemical peels are considered to be relatively safe, and medium grade chemical peels are slightly riskier. But here’s where things get dangerous – high grade chemical peels. These peels use carbolic acid or phenol peel as their main ingredient and are used to treat coarse skin, deep wrinkles, and more difficult skin perfections. So yes, they are more effective than a low grade chemical peel, but they are also more dangerous – much more dangerous.

In fact, deep chemical peels are so dangerous that your blood pressure must be monitored during the treatment because the chemicals used can have a dangerous effect on your heart and kidneys. Deep chemical peels can also be extremely painful – remember, they are essentially melting off several layers of your skin – and nothing about that sounds comfortable! To deal with the pain, most physicians will supply you with a local anaesthetic or sedative. Unfortunately, pain from deep chemical peels is not limited to the treatment session. Such extensive peels can lead to discomfort and swelling that can last up to two weeks after treatment. In addition, many people also claim that they feel ill following a treatment, and eating usually needs to be limited to soft and liquid foods for several days following a session. Downtime? A few weeks – unless you’re okay walking out into the public looking like a giant red tomato.

All of that and we haven’t even touched on the potential side effects of a deep peel yet. In addition to extreme pain, deep peels can also lead to permanent discoloration of the skin, bruising, swelling, and scarring. So, is it really worth it? In my opinion that’s a harsh no. While I would never talk someone out of a low grade chemical peel, I would definitely never advise going for a medium or high-grade peel. If you have a high pain tolerance, are desperate to remove wrinkles, and don’t care about potential side effects than sure, give it a try. Otherwise, I’d avoid melting off your skin and suggest spending your time looking for safer and less painful alternatives for anti-aging and skin care concerns.

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