Differences between Chemical Peels and Acid Peels

by Anza Goodbar
(last updated July 18, 2016)

Some states don't require a medical degree to perform chemical peels. Other states have laws that allow non-medical personnel to perform chemical peels but regulate the strength of the solutions they use. While most chemical peels are performed safely, it is possible to have long-lasting effects if the procedure doesn't go as planned.

When deciding whether or not to get a chemical peel, it is always best to seek a physician that is trained in plastic surgery. When consulting with the plastic surgeon discuss expectations of the procedure to determine which type of peel is best suited for your specific situation.

Chemical peels and acid peels both use acids to remove the top layers of skin. An acid peel uses the mildest types of acids like glycolic and alpha hydroxyl acids. Chemical peels using TCA and Phenol will penetrate deeper and provide longer lasting results. Before meeting with a plastic surgeon consider the following comparisons of uses and treatments:

  • Alphyahydroxy acids (AHA) can be used to smooth rough dry skin, improve the appearance of sun damaged skin, control acne, correct uneven pigmentation when mixed with a bleaching agent and as a pre-treatment for a TCA peel. Since this is a light peel, several peels may be required to achieve desired results. It is possible to have treatments weekly. The procedure can take place over a lunch hour and minimal healing is required. Sun block is highly recommended after a peel.
  • Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is commonly used to smooth out fine wrinkles, remove superficial blemishes and correct skin pigmentation. It can be used on the neck and other areas of the body. It may require pretreatment with AHA creams or Retin A. The depth of the peel can be regulated to the desired results; however, more than one treatment may be required. The treatment only takes 15 minutes to complete, however, 7-10 days may be needed for swelling to subside and skin to peel and reveal the new skin. The use of sun block is required following the peel.
  • Phenol peels provide the most dramatic and long-lasting results and are often done in conjunction with a facelift. This type of peel is primarily used to correct blotchiness caused by sun damage, birth control pills or aging, smooth out coarse wrinkles, remove facial freckles or remove pre-cancerous growths. Phenol can only be applied to the face and it is not recommended for patients with dark complexions. The procedure can take up to an hour in the office and will require at least two weeks to heal. The new skin will initially be bright red but after a few months will fade to a pinkish tone. Makeup must not be worn during the healing phase. Sunscreen is required to prevent irregular skin coloring that may result from exposure to the sun.

Chemical peels do not prevent the signs of aging and are not a permanent solution to treating wrinkles; however, they are a minimally invasive procedure that can provide noticeable results in the skin's pigmentation and texture. Choosing the right peel depends on many factors so take your time and consider all of the information carefully before committing to a peel.

Author Bio

Anza Goodbar

Anza is a single mother of four who makes her home in Colorado. She enjoys writing, hiking and is an avid football and hockey fan. She is the owner of a virtual business services company; writing is just one of the many services her company offers. ...

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