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If you're bothered by fine wrinkles around your eyes or mouth, acne scars, blemishes, pre-cancerous skin growths or uneven skin pigmentation (and a good concealer just doesn't cut it anymore), you might be thinking about cosmetic procedures that can improve your skin. One of your options is a chemical peel, which is a procedure that uses a chemical solution to burn your skin. Yeah, it sounds painful, and you definitely don't want to try this one at home -- but if it's done right, the regenerated skin produced by your body's healing processes is usually smoother and more evenly colored.
Chemical Peel Basics
Doctors can perform chemical peels on your face, hands, arms, legs, chest and neck -- basically, nearly any problem area on your body. Chemical peels usually contain alphahydroxy acids (AHAs), trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and phenol. Chemical peels come in different strengths and combinations -- for example, phenol (the strongest of the chemicals) can only be used for facial peels.
Side Effects and Complications
Chemical peels may cause stinging, dryness, skin irritation and redness -- not surprising, since you are burning off a layer of skin! Your skin may also become a lighter shade (especially after phenol peels), which may be permanent. If you have the herpes simplex virus-1 (the virus that causes cold sores), you might have a breakout after a chemical peel. Phenol chemical peels sometimes cause abnormal heartbeats, which can be dangerous. Scarring, allergic reactions, skin sensitivity and pain may also occur, and you'll have to wear sunscreen to protect your skin after a peel.
Choosing a Doctor
Chemical peels are pretty safe when applied by a professional, but don't trust just anyone wearing a white coat to apply dangerous chemicals to your skin. State laws vary, but in some places, you don't need a medical degree to perform chemical peels. Make sure you choose a doctor who is medically trained and experienced in chemical peels. Don't let a doctor pressure you into choosing any cosmetic procedure, either -- the decision is yours.
Chemical peels may improve your skin, but make sure you're looking for improvement, not some impossible, airbrushed idea of perfection. No cosmetic surgery will remove every imperfection, and it's not necessary to try. Feeling beautiful and confident from the inside out is way more important than the texture of your skin, so make sure you've got your priorities straight. Talk to your doctor about what results you can expect before getting a chemical peel, and tell your doctor if you have depression or other mental health disorders.