Chemical peels have been around for many years already. Even though I really do not like the use of chemicals in cosmetics, I am not actually against the concept of chemical peels. When done correctly, they are considered to be very safe, and the results can be nothing short of dramatic. They can greatly improve the surface of your skin and reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles, but how about a chemical peel for hyperpigmentation?
There is a bit of an irony here because many people have had a chemical peel for hyperpigmentation and the results are mostly great. On the other hand, chemical peels can, under certain circumstances; actually cause hyperpigmentation. This is just one of the reasons why it is crucial that you consult with an experienced board-certified dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon so that a proper evaluation of your skin can be done before any treatment begins.
By the way, in the paragraph above, I was referring to chemical peels which are not freely available over the counter. There are many OTC (over the counter) chemical peels available, but do not expect them to produce quick and/or dramatic results. Used regularly, they can lighten dark areas of skin, but there are also some really good all-natural skin care products that can do the same thing.
Chemical Peel for Hyperpigmentation – How Does It Work?
After your dermatologist or plastic surgeon has evaluated your skin, they will recommend either a mild peel, a medium peel, or a deep peel. Regardless of which of these three they recommend, the chemical which is applied to your skin will cause one or more layers of your skin to slough off. If the sole purpose of your chemical peel is to reduce or get rid of hyperpigmentation, the chemical/s will then only be applied to the specific areas being treated.
Some dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons favor several mild peels rather than a deep peel. As a general rule, a deep chemical peel for hyperpigmentation is mostly avoided, or finally used as a last resort.
Mild chemical peels can be repeated every month or two if need be. With medium peels, the recovery period is longer, which means that follow up treatments need to be spaced further apart. A deep chemical peel, on the other hand, is a “once only” procedure. Once you have had a deep peel done, you can no longer have any chemical peels done on the area or areas that were treated. You cannot even use mild OTC peels on the treated areas.
So, yes, chemical peels can be used to reduce or eradicate hyperpigmentation, but it is imperative that you consult with an experienced professional.
A Chemical Peel Gone Wrong
Mild chemical peels, which are also known as superficial peels, are extremely safe. As is to be expected, the deeper a peel goes, the greater the risk. However, even medium peels and deep peels are considered to be low risk procedures when they are performed by qualified and experienced physicians.
Complications that arise following medium or deep peels are often caused by the patients themselves. This can, for example, happen when patients fail to comply with after-care instructions given to them by their physicians. Of course, not all complications are due to the negligence of patients. Sometimes, dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons also mess up, either because they lack the necessary experience, or because they fail to follow the correct procedures.
Medium depth chemical peels are not very likely to cause serious permanent scarring if something goes wrong. Deep chemical peels are a very different matter altogether. When these go wrong, they can cause significant scarring that can leave you permanently disfigured.
If you end up being a victim of a botched deep peel, you may be successful at suing your physician for compensation, but it is not guaranteed. Even if you are paid compensation, it is not going to do anything for your scars. You will just have to accept the fact that you will be scarred for life. I cannot stress enough just how important it is to find a physician who has hands-on experience with these procedures.
If you would like to find out more about potential complications and risks, and how these different complications are treated, then I strongly recommend reading an article about this that was published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery.
Persistent Erythema – Should You Be Concerned?
Following a chemical peel, the patient’s skin will go through a period during which it is erythematous. This is all part of the recovery process. Persistent erythema is when this period continues for longer than normal for whichever sort of peel you have had done. For superficial peels, skin typically remains erythematous for 2 to 5 days. With medium peels, the skin remains erythematous for 15 to 30 days, and for deep peels, it is 60 to 90 days.
If erythema lasts for longer than it should, it is a relatively reliable indicator that there is going to be scarring.
Chemical Peel Aftercare
If you decide to have a chemical peel for hyperpigmentation, or for any other reason, it is imperative that you take proper care of any and all areas that have been treated. Your dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon will give you detailed aftercare instructions. The aftercare regimen described below is based on advice and recommendations provided by Quincy Plastic Surgery.
- DAY 1 – Approximately 4 to 6 hours after the peel has been done, you should wash and dry your face gently. You should also aim to drink 4 to 6 glasses of water and avoid all types of strenuous exercise/activities. Strenuous activities and direct sunlight should in fact be avoided every day until all peeling has stopped. When going outdoors, always apply a good sunscreen.
- DAYS 2 to 6 – Only use very mild facial cleansers, and apply a good quality skin moisturizer as often as is necessary. Under no circumstances should you try to assist the peeling process by picking or pulling on the skin, Doing so can significantly increase the chances of developing hyperpigmentation. You should also avoid any and all types of facial treatments, as well as skin care products that contain tretinoin, retinoids, alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) products and/or bleaching creams. To be on the safe side, I would recommend that you rather find and use good quality all-natural skin care products.
- DAY 8 – Providing your peeling has stopped by now, it is usually okay for you to continue with your usual / typical daily skin care regimen.
- Day 10 – This is generally when you will be required to visit your dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon again for a checkup.
Please keep in mind that the above guidelines are related to milder peels and may vary from one person to the next, based on several factors. For deep chemical peels, aftercare will typically be quite a bit different, but your physician will discuss everything with you.
Chemical Peel vs Microdermabrasion
Which is better for treating hyperpigmentation; a chemical peel or microdermabrasion? Both of these procedures are used to remove skin cells. If you have a chemical peel for hyperpigmentation, your physician will apply a chemical solution to the area being treated, and the chemical/s being used will destroy the skin cells up to a certain depth, causing the treated skin to slough off.
With microdermabrasion, this process is done manually, rather than with the use of chemicals. The tools / appliances used for microdermabrasion procedures come in different shapes and sizes. Some are essentially miniature abrasive disks, while others are more like miniature sandblasters. These days, however, most microdermabrasion procedures are done with miniature diamond-tipped abrasive disks/wheels.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, if you are having a chemical peel done, your physician should provide you with detailed instructions regarding the necessary preparation for your peel, and for the necessary aftercare following your treatment. In short, chemical peels typically involve some downtime for patients, and especially in the case of deep peels.
With microdermabrasion, there is generally no downtime. You can visit your doctor’s office for the treatment, and once it has been done, you can essentially head straight back home or back to work. On the downside, microdermabrasion very often requires multiple treatments to get the desired look and/or outcome. With a chemical peel, the chemicals can penetrate deeper into the skin, thereby producing far more noticeable results, even after only a single treatment.
Microdermabrasion or Chemical Peel for Hyperpigmentation?
If you are willing to put up with a certain amount of discomfort and some inconvenience, and you are willing to accept the risks, then I would probably recommend a chemical peel for hyperpigmentation rather than microdermabrasion. Even if it meant I had to stay at home for two or three weeks, I would see that as less of an inconvenience than having to go for multiple microdermabrasion treatments to achieve the same sort of result.
Is Chemical Peel Good for Skin?
Is a chemical peel good for your skin? Well, it is certainly bad news for some of the outer layers of one’s skin. After all, the chemicals that are used essentially destroy the outer layers. Also, if you have read any of my other posts, you will most likely already know that I do whatever I can to keep chemicals as far away from my skin as possible. But, there is a bit of an irony here.
Apart from being able to improve the appearance of your skin by removing the outer layers, chemical peels may also benefit your skin in another way as well. We all know how important collagen and elastin are when it comes to having youthful and radiant looking skin. We also know that our natural elastin and collagen levels start declining as we age, and that this is the main reason why we start to get lines and wrinkles.
As surprising as it might seem, chemical peels may be able to help in this regard. According to Dr. Chung from Jeanie Chung Plastic Surgery, chemical peels stimulate production of collagen and elastin in a patient’s skin. Another article published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology backs this up as well. You can read the full clinical report on the US National Library of Medicine website.
You can also read more about the connection between chemical peels and collagen stimulation on The Institute of Aesthetic Surgery website if you still have doubts.
My Personal View and Opinion
As I always try to point out, I am not a dermatologist, or any other kind of medical professional. I am also not some sort of skin care professional. I am just a regular person, but one who is passionate about skin care. It is no big secret that I am also passionate about only using all-natural skin care products on my skin. Still, there are times when even the very best skin care products cannot give you the sort of results you are desperately hoping for.
As I have said, if I had to choose between a chemical peel for hyperpigmentation or microdermabrasion, I am certain I would opt for a chemical peel. For me, there are two main reasons why:
- I like the fact that I would most likely be able to get the results I want after a single treatment, even if the treatment involves a certain amount of recovery time during which I have to stay off work.
- I also like the fact that if I were to have a chemical peel for hyperpigmentation, I would most likely also benefit from the extra stimulation of collagen and elastin production.
Of course, with me being me, I would never try a chemical peel for hyperpigmentation until I was absolutely convinced that I could not acquire the desired results with natural topical product.
If you have read through this post because you are contemplating having one of these procedures done, then I wish you the very best of luck. Please just remember to choose your dermatologist or your cosmetic surgeon carefully, even if it means that you have to pay a bit more than you were hoping for.