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facial peels vs exfoliation

Improving Your Skin

The skin on our faces is a scientific miracle, an extraordinary and delicate organ that requires careful care and attendance. Elaine Fuchs, an expert on the skin’s stem cells at Rockefeller University, calls that surface layer of the skin “our body’s saran wrap”: “It can be easily damaged by scratching, solvents, wear, and tear.” Unless you’re one of those rarities blessed with naturally perfect skin, chances are that you’ve spent hours and dollars trying to master the art of taking care of our body’s largest organ.

Do you exfoliate? Do you moisturize? Do you wear sunscreen? As it turns out, we can actually do more damage to our skin by attempting to DIY its care than by just leaving it alone. For examples, scrubs that physically exfoliate the skin with a gritty texture and tough crystals to slough off dead cells can actually rip or tear your skin. In reality, constantly exfoliating can cause extended and damaging acne, a deterioration of collagen, and an acceleration of the aging process as a result of constantly stripping your skin of its natural oils.

What’s the alternative? Well, there’s a few options, but more and more dermatologists and skin experts than ever before have touted the benefits of chemical peels as a way to save skin and avoid scrubs, revealing glowy, radiant skin by treating underlying concerns and removing dead layers on top.

How Peels Work And If You’ll Look Like This

The word “peel” itself can sound intimidating, but there’s a variety of levels, intensities, and options depending on your needs- so, even if you’ve had a peel before, there may be types of peels available that can change the way you feel about the process.

Here’s the basic idea: The surgeon or dermatologist applies a chemical solution, usually containing glycolic or salicylic acid to your skin with a brush or gauze. Essentially, the treated skin begins to whiten and eventually peels off, revealing new tissue underneath. There’s three different levels of peel that you can undergo:

  • Superficial peels are also often called “lunchtime” peels, and they’re the most gentle option for anyone looking for a quick and easy way to improve the appearance of their skin. A good example is the Illuminize Peel from Twin Cities MediSpa Carillon Clinic, which is “great for skin with mild imperfections or someone just beginning to dabble with peels…this peel is a gentle blend of acids that do a light topical exfoliation with no downtime. This popular treatment is also great before a night out or a special event.”
  • Medium peels are a little bit more intense, often penetrating the outer and middle layers of skin to remove damaged skin cells. However, they can also be good for improving age spots, fine lines, wrinkles, and other skin problems that stem a bit deeper than surface level.
  • Deep peels bring in the big guns, trichloracetic acid or phenol, to deeply penetrate the middle layer of skin. This advanced peel can even remove freckles or shallow scars. There’s usually at least an eight-week preparatory period, and the procedure will involve sedatives and local anesthetics to numb your face. After the procedure, the surgeon will spread a thick ointment over your face, which must stay in place throughout the entire recovery period.

Risks Vs. Reward

There’s no beating around the bush with this one: Recovery from a chemical peel is not the most charming process you’ll ever endure. Light chemical peels are fairly neutral, and you’ll maybe experience some red, dry skin with new skin that develops in the four to seven days following. With more advanced peels, the skin will be red, tight, and swollen, and treated skin begins to form a crust after a few days. And with the deepest peel of all, you will have redness and swelling, burning and throbbing, and your eyelids may even swell shut. Many recipients of chemical peels feel more comfortable staying at home while they recover, and this means that you’ll have to take some time off work.

The rewards, however, are pretty substantial. “Mild chemical peels exfoliate and give a nice appearance to the surface of the skin,” says Dr. Eric Bernstein, director of the Main Line Center for Laser Surgery. “These increase cell turnover, improve hyperpigmentation and help improve melasma, a really tough problem to fix,” he explains. In other words, your skin returns just as it was before, but fresher, healthier, and happier.

And while the recovery process can feel a bit long, it’s a much less invasive procedure than other surgeries while being much more effective than other topical solutions like creams or serums. Additionally, it can be immensely difficult to heal sun damage or deep acne blemishes with only exfoliation and medicated creams: Chemical peels add that extra “kick” that really makes skin radiant.

Finally, chemical peels are usually a fairly good bang for your buck. The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery estimates that the average cost of a chemical peel is between $450 and $588. Although these procedures are rarely covered by insurance (they are cosmetic, after all), the expense of anti-aging or anti-sun products can be massive, and with questionable results. When you pay for a chemical peel, you know that you’ll have concrete results in a given period of time, no questions asked.

To find out if a chemical peel is right for you and your skin, contact your dermatologist or plastic surgeon to learn more. Alternatively, leave a question in the section below, anytime, and we’d be happy to help direct you!

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