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Understanding How Chemical Peels Work

About 1.4 million chemical peels were performed in 2019 in the United States, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, making the treatment the third most popular minimally invasive cosmetic procedure overall. Chemical peels owe their popularity to their versatility: Peels can be used to treat a wide array of cosmetic issues, including scars and wrinkles, and they can be customized and adjusted to meet each patient’s unique and individual needs. 

Orange Coast Dermatology is a leading provider of chemical peels for women, men, and teens in Rancho Santa Margarita and Mission Viejo, California, using advanced techniques and solutions for optimal results. Wondering if a chemical peel is right for you? Here’s what you should know.

How a chemical peel works

Most people know a chemical peel helps your skin slough off dead, dull upper layers of skin. But just how does it do that? And how does it help minimize scars, wrinkles, and other types of skin damage? The answer is acid.

On the pH scale from one to 14, skin naturally has an acid balance between 4.7 and 5.7, which is slightly acidic. Peels are acid based. When applied to the skin, they temporarily raise the acid level of the skin tissue, loosening the weak bond that “glues” those skin cells together. That’s why after a peel, your skin starts to slough off, releasing the upper layer of tissue and revealing the healthier skin underneath.

A lot of skin’s visible damage, like wrinkles and scars, occurs in those upper layers of skin. Once the peel goes to work removing those layers, you’ll start to see smoother, healthier layers of skin underneath. 

Peels also cause what’s called “controlled damage,” a reaction designed to promote healing responses deep inside the skin. After your peel, your skin ramps up its production of collagen, strong fibers that help your skin feel firmer and more resilient. Collagen production slows as we age, and too much sun exposure can also cause collagen production to decline. Peels help restore collagen production to promote better elasticity and improved texture overall.

Types of peels

Chemical peels are often roughly divided into three types — light, medium, or deep — based on the depth of skin they treat. The deepest peels are used to treat the most severe damage, but because they come with some pretty serious risks, most patients opt for light or medium peels to achieve the results they’re looking for. At Orange Coast Dermatology, we offer both light and medium chemical peels for our patients, customizing each treatment plan for the best results.

Salicylic acid peel

This mild peel is ideal for people who suffer from acne, helping to unclog pores to prevent breakouts. A salicylic acid peel lifts the uppermost layers of your skin, helping your skin feel smoother and look fresher and more radiant. It can also be a good choice for very fine wrinkles or light scarring from acne or trauma.

TCA peel

TCA stands for trichloroacetic acid, the basis of the solution used in this medium-depth peel. A TCA peel is considered the “gold standard” for treating many types of skin problems, including tone or texture issues, fine lines, wrinkles, and scarring.

Chemical peels vary in their strength, and the way they’re used can also be adjusted. For instance, leaving a peel on for a slightly longer period of time can be useful for treating deeper lines or scars, while using it for the minimum amount of time can be a good option for those looking to “brighten” their skin’s tone or improve its texture.

Enjoy more beautiful, healthier skin

Lines, wrinkles, scars, enlarged pores — lots of issues can make us feel self-conscious about how our skin looks and feels. Fortunately, chemical peels are versatile enough to treat these and other problems, revealing fresher, healthier, more beautiful skin beneath. If you’d like to learn more about chemical peels and how they can help you get sexier skin, call Orange Coast Dermatology or use our online form to book an office visit today.

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