More about chemical peels - Jamaica Observer

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CHEMICAL peels are done on the face, the neck, the hands, the legs, and elsewhere on the body.

These chemical peels are used to:

1. Treat acne.

2. Treat the dark spots we get with acne.

3. Reduce the appearance of acne scars and blackheads.

4. Reduce uneven skin colour and lighten the dark spots to give an even tone.

5. Smoothe the rough texture of the skin and soften the skin.

6. Gradually reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

7. Reduce ingrown hairs.

8. Smooth razor bumps.

Before the peel is done the doctor may ask you to stop using some products on your face and he may wish to prepare the skin by using some other medicine like Retin A and glycolic acid. It is important that the doctor who will be doing the peel has this initial consultation with you as potential problems can be identified and solved before they arise.

How the chemical peel is done

The peel can be done in a doctor's office. The face is washed and then cleansed using acetone or alcohol or often a combination of both. This removes all the excess oil from the face. The hair is then pinned back and gauze which has been soaked in saline is then placed over the closed eyes of the patient.

The chemical solution is then applied to the face. After a few minutes, this solution is neutralised often with cold water, or a compress of a towel soaked in cold water or a spray of sodium bicarbonate. Sunblock is then applied to the face.

After the peel you will be instructed:

1. Not to use your make-up for at least three hours or for the next 24 hours.

2. To wash the face with cold water in order to keep the face cool.

3. To avoid exercise for the first 24 hours.

4. To moisturise the skin and to keep out of the sun and;

5. To use sunblock and a moisturiser frequently.

While having the peel, the patient may experience a burning or tingling sensation. This will normally last for about two to five minutes. This may be followed by a stinging sensation and cold water is usually applied to stop the stinging sensation. After the peel, sunblock must be applied to the skin.

What to expect after the chemical peel

This really depends on the depth of the peel. In some cases, you may get a reaction in the skin that looks like sunburn. This usually clears after a few days. This is usually followed by scaling which ends in three to seven days.

In glycolic acid peels you may see none of this as the reactions are occurring at a cellular level. Again, you will be treated for this and advised to stay out of the sun and to use sunblock.

You will be advised not to pick your skin or play with it during the peeling process. The dermatologist and you must determine the depth of the peel before the procedure is done.

Complications of chemical peels

Side effects are usually very rare with chemical peels. But they include:

1. Excessive swelling.

2. Blistering, crusting or heavy scaling.

3. Infection or acne pimples.

4. In certain cases, you may get a temporary darkening of the skin after a chemical peel.

This is usually due to inflammation of the skin caused by the peel and is usually treated with some steroid creams. You should note that this complication can occur more often if you are pregnant, taking the birth control pill, or if you have a family history of dark pigmentation on the face — a condition like melasma.

5. Scarring is the worse complication and can be permanent, especially when you do deep peels. This is almost never seen in Jamaica as we use the more superficial peels here. However, it must be stated that all complications should be brought to the attention of the doctor as complications are best treated early for best results.

6. Cold sores may be activated after a chemical peel and the doctor will always ask you about this. If you have a history of cold sores, he will put you on a tablet, Acyclovir. This will prevent the cold sores from breaking out.

Dr Persadsingh is a skin specialist and author of Acne in Black Women and The Hair in Black Women. He can be contacted at 960-2797.

12 Sep, 2011

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