NEW BEAUTY: Skin Deep: Learn about microdermabrasion, chemical peels and other dermatologist treatments

Learn about microdermabrasion, chemical peels and other dermatologist treatments

Looking for more information about the solutions to your most common skin woes? While injectables are the fastest-growing dermatologist treatment, lasers, microdermabrasion, prescription topicals and chemical peels are also part of the arsenal of tools dermatologists use to help you achieve healthy, beautiful skin. To find a dermatologist near you, visit


Chemical peels

Glycolics: Alpha hydroxy acids in concentrations of 30 percent or more are applied for two to five minutes (or more) to slough away the upper layer of dead skin cells. These peels also penetrate into the upper layers of the dermis to soften fine lines, promote a rosy glow, encourage better penetration of other skin-care products or even dry an acne flare up. Glycolic peels are no-downtime procedures, with mild redness or irritation the only likely aftereffect.

Jessner's solution: The common name for a deeper peeling solution of resorcinol and lactic and salicylic acids, this is commonly applied after a glycolic peel of 30 to 50 percent. The Jessner's solution is layered on the skin to treat pigmentation, acne, acne scarring and other skin irregularities. Aggressive peeling and occasional crusting forms within two to four days after the peel. Redness and swelling may last a week or more. Results are visible with new, clearer skin within seven to 10 days, but redness or other pigment changes may persist for several weeks.

TCA: In lower concentrations, TCA peels can deliver a no-downtime peel to reduce fine lines, improve skin texture and even soften sun damage. In higher concentrations, well-trained doctors use TCA in lieu of laser resurfacing to soften acne scarring, erase crinkles and wrinkles across the face, and to reveal wholly new skin. Most TCA peels are a one-time treatment and require one to two weeks of downtime until crusting heals to reveal smoother, younger, clearer pink skin. Pigmentation changes are among the risks, and sun protection is an unquestionable must--for life.

Tretinoin: The same ingredient used in Retin-A and Renova to fight acne and fine lines topically is applied in a peel concentration from one to five percent. Tretinoin slowly penetrates the skin to gently slough away sun damage, aging and melasma spots. While this is a no-downtime procedure, you may be peeling for several days after treatment. Multiple cycles of increasing concentration yield the best results. Staying out of the sun during treatment is an absolute must.


How deep should you go?

The level of your peel will depend on how deep your skin issue lies--literally. Generally, the more superficial the skin concern, the less aggressive the selected acid will be. Remember, the deeper the peel, the higher the risk of potential complications.

Superficial: These "refreshing" peels remove a portion of the epidermis. They address blotchiness and acne and are also used to purify the pores. Examples: Glycolic acid (less than 70%); TCA (10 to 20%).

Medium: This strength of peel goes through the epidermis to the upper layers of the dermis. Side effects include inflammation and potential discoloration. Used to address fine lines, sun damage and irregular pigmentation, these peels may not be appropriate for darker skin. Examples: Glycolic acid (70%); TCA (20 to 30%); combination peels (glycolic acid followed by low levels of TCA); Jessner's peels.

Deep: Performed less often than in years past, deep peels require a medical setting, often with general anesthesia. Expect downtime of two to three weeks. Deep peels are not to be taken lightly. They include concentrations of TCA (above 30%), some Jessner's peels, and phenol, a peeling agent that is no longer widely used.


Quick Skin Boosters

Today, dermatologists can kick your peel up a notch with special boosters to target your key concerns.

Citric acid: Vitamin C sloughs away sun damage and provides a youthful boost.

Kojic acid and hydroquinone: Bleach away sun damage, freckles and dark pigmentation.

Salicylic acid: This beta hydroxy acid penetrates to dry up acne at the source.

Lactic acid: Similar to but milder than glycolic acid, this is the key to giving aging skin a rosy glow.

I did it: Glycolic peel stories

Derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that helps reduce blackheads and other skin impurities as well as smooth out fine lines. Glycolic acid is also thought to help stimulate collagen production within the dermis.

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