chemical peels

The idea of a chemical peel terrifies me. Remember Carrie ordering Samantha to leave her party because the burn victim results of a lunch-time peel were "scaring the other guests"? I do admit though that 'peeled' friends have very smooth complexions. So I can't resist trying to find out more and, hopefully in coming posts, persuade a few victims — er, friends — to spill the beans.

Broadly speaking, a chemical solution is applied to the skin, which causes it to "blister" and eventually peel off. The new, regenerated skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin. It is also more sensitive to the sun. There are three types of peels:

Virtually painless chemical peels:

Alphahydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic, lactic, or fruit acids, are the mildest of the peel formulas and produce light peels. These may cause stinging, redness, and crustiness. Weeping scabs are considered normal providing they clear up after a couple of days. Results are usually described as 'subtle', which means that no one will notice a thing and at best the odd friend might comment on your "healthy glow".

Fairly painful chemical peels:

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is a deeper peel with a couple of days of recovery tim,e according to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. However, if this picture is anything to go by, you'd empty the subway if you went out after only 48 hours. Further investigation reveals that returning to public life can't be undertaken for seven days. This is the part that amazes me most. First, who can afford to keep taking time off work to do this much recuperating and, secondly, even staying at home generally requires interaction with other people like family, the superintendent of the building, the Fed-Ex guy... After all that, the results are not as dramatic as a phenol peel (no pain, no gain) but more friends are likely to comment on your healthy glow than if you chickened out and went with the AHA. Only fine lines (not deep wrinkles) and blotchy complexions retreat at the onslaught of TCA. You have three to six months grace before you'll need to have another treatment.

Extremely painful chemical peels:

Phenol peels work on removing really deep wrinkles. Considerable swelling, oozing, and crustiness can be expected afterwards and should only be attempted if followed by two weeks off work, which probably limits candidates to women who don't work at all. A stiff, crusty, and peeling phase is followed by becoming extremely red for about a month, and then turning ghostly pale (and that's according to a plastic surgeon who sells her services to perform such things). The upside is the results can last for years - even decades.