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Chemical Peel

Chemical peels remove the top layers of the skin, creating a healthier, youthful appearance. A chemical peel reduces evidence of imperfections due to sun damage, uneven pigmentation, and fine wrinkles. Results can be controlled to an extent by the amount of time and strength of the chemical peel used.

For darker skinned patients, the surgeon may choose a stronger solution, while for patients with light skin or minimal skin problems, the surgeon may choose chemical peels comprised of alpha hydroxyl acids such as lactic, glycolic, or fruit acid.

Chemical peels to treat patients with deep wrinkles use a chemical called phenol; phenol chemical peels use a stronger concentration and generally cause a noticeable burning sensation. These deep chemical peels also carry a higher risk for complications such as scarring, infection, and abnormal pigmentation.


Advanced Chemical Peels

Advanced chemical peels come in a variety of forms and formulations, each designed to provide certain benefits to a patients. All procedures are designed to deliver superficial to deep penetration of the skin's layers to remove dead and damaged skin and stimulate healthier, smoother, and more vibrant skin development.

Advanced chemical peels use a variety of different chemicals to enhance the appearance of the:

  • facial and neck skin
  • chest and back skin
  • hand, arm and leg skin

In general, the stronger chemicals used in advanced chemical peels provide deeper skin penetration and more dramatic results. Stronger peels are also associated with more discomfort, downtime, and risks.

Good candidates for advanced chemical peels are those in good physical and emotional health that have a realistic understanding about what the procedure can and cannot do for them. Light advanced chemical peels affect only the more superficial layers of the skin to provide a mild treatment for:

  • acne
  • rosacea
  • pigment problems

These treatments are usually performed with alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) or betahydroxy acids (BHAs). Most often a series of these advanced chemical peels will be necessary to achieve the desired results.

Medium-depth advanced chemical peels usually contain trichloroacetic acids (TCAs). This procedure tends to cause some mild discomfort but can provide treatment for:

  • sun damage
  • pigmentation problems
  • other skin imperfections

Deeper advanced chemical peels are made of phenol formulations or other special treatments in order to achieve more dramatic results for more serious skin conditions. These treatments require more downtime compared to lighter advanced chemical peels.

Chemical Peel Complications

Chemical peel complications can range from minor irritations to permanent scarring. In very rare cases, complications can be life-threatening. The strength of chemicals used increases the risk of complications; the phenol chemical peels, for instance, have a very high risk of serious complications, due to the strong acids involved.

The plastic surgeon should outline the various complications possible with each level of treatment. For example, with an AHA peel, chemical peel complications are relatively minor, including:

  • stinging
  • redness
  • irritation

These symptoms should disappear within a few days. Chemical peel complications for all levels of peeling include risk of infection and scarring, with the chances for these complications much higher in the phenol treatments. Phenol also presents its own potential chemical peel complications, as it is known to permanently change the pigmentation of treated skin. Possible complications from phenol include:

  • extreme sun sensitivity
  • removal of freckles
  • noticeable color differences

Chemical peel complications from phenol can also be life-threatening; special risks exist for heart patients. Complications should be fully discussed with the plastic surgeon prior to treatment. Patients should understand that complications vary in seriousness, and that some patients are at a much higher risk due to their skin type, medical needs, age, and type of procedure selected.

Cost of Chemical Peels

National averages provided by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery do offer a good starting point for considering the cost of chemical peels. The average cost of chemical peels is about $800. In comparison to other cosmetic techniques, the cost is reasonable in exchange for the dramatic and satisfying results that these procedures can deliver.

The cost of chemical peels depends on several factors. The type of chemical peel that is sought, the experience level and qualifications of the person performing the treatment, and a variety of other variables will all affect the cost. When considering the cost of chemical peels, it is important to understand that fees are often broken down for each specific portion of services rendered. There are:

  • surgeon fees
  • facility costs
  • aftercare costs
  • other expenses

The cost is largely determined by the type of chemical peel that is administered. Mild chemical peels, such as alphahydroxy acid, and PCA peel formulations provide more superficial treatment of skin imperfections. The cost of chemical peels of this nature average $150 to $300 per treatment.

The cost of chemical peels increases with deeper peel treatments. A full face medium-depth chemical peel, such as a TCA (trichloroacetic acid) treatment, costs an average of $1,000 to $1,200. Multiple treatment sessions are often required for these moderate peels that should be considered when determining the total cost.

Deeper peels, such as phenol formulations, are often the most expensive options. The cost of chemical peels of this nature runs an average of $2,500 to $6,500 per treatment. Deep peels generally only require one treatment in order to achieve the desired results.

Because these treatments are usually performed for cosmetic purposes, health insurance policies do not cover the cost. Cosmetic surgeons will discuss options for covering the cost of chemical peels with each patient on an individual basis, based on their specific treatment needs and resources.

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