Demystifying Chemical Peels

Maybe you've heard some horror stories about chemical peels and you're worried that the harsh chemicals will make you look like something from a horror movie for weeks. Well, fear not. A lot of the chatter about chemical peels is just urban legend. To get the straight scoop, we asked Montclair, NJ, dermatologist Jeanine B. Downie, MD to demystify the process and outcomes of a chemical peel.

First, she explains, there are a variety of peels that offer different strengths, outcome and recovery time. “There's superficial, medium-depth and deep peels,” Dr. Downie says. “You will not be out of commission for a long time if you get a superficial one unless your skin is super-sensitive, and then you'll have a light flaking to some redness for two or three days. I don't think that counts as a long time.”

Jessner, phenol and TCA peels can come in medium or deep strength and your downtime would be about a week, she says.

“A common misconception is that all skin types can't have them,” Dr. Downie says. “Most can have them. Occasionally, for someone who has a very dark complexion, I would not do a medium or deep chemical peel.” That's because darker complexions are subject to hyperpigmentation after a deep peel.

The amount of acid in a peel is what makes it stronger, and it's safe to alternate on a monthly basis between more intense peels with, say, 70 percent glycolic acid, and a 20 percent salicylic acid, she explains.

“No matter what complexion you are, you can do chemical peels and they benefit you in terms of tone, texture, acne breakouts, fine lines and lumps-your general photo aging,” Dr. Downie says.

The best way to ensure you have a safe experience with a chemical peel that won't land you in the next urban legend is to see a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon. And be sure to stay out of the sun completely for the first week after your peel. Afterwards, you'll see significant results and rejuvenated skin.

Related links:
Ask an Expert: Should You Neutralize a Chemical Peel?
Is it Time for a Chemical Peel or Microdermabrasion?

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