Chemical peels are an extremely common treatment for acne, age spots, fine lines, melasma, and wrinkles. With so many peels available one is easily confused about them. While there is nothing sexy about peels, no fancy lights or lasers, the right peel for the right person often is the most cost effective way to get a desired result. Why? To put it simply, most peeling agents are cheap, costing little more than a few dollars plus a few more for other supplies.
Choosing the right peel is critical and requires experience. Choosing the wrong peel can have little benefit, thus wasting time and money, or can have bad results, such as scarring or pigmentation changes. Proprietary, “fancy” brand-named peels, while “sexier”, often offer little or no added benefit, increase cost, and are frequently performed by providers whom are less experienced.
While it would be impossible to discuss the pros and cons of every peeling agent available, here are a few of the mainstay peels:
Very superficial peels
Indications: acne, mild pigmentary disturbances, including melasma
Peeling Agent: Jessner’s, Glycolic Acid (often 35%), Salicylic acid
Indications: acne, age spots, fine lines, mild pigmentary disturbances
Peeling Agent: Glycolic acid (often 50% to 70%), TCA (usually 20%)
Medium depth peels
Indications: mild to moderate wrinkles with or without pigmentation abnormalities
Peeling Agent: TCA
Deep Chemical peels
Indications: severe wrinkles
Peeling Agent: Phenol