Anyone who has watched the episode of Sex and the City where Samantha has a chemical peel will probably have vowed never to have any such treatment.
You remember the episode - Samantha is going to be attending Carrie’s book launch party as her plus one, and decides to have a little something done to improve the look of her skin. However, she has a chemical peel treatment the day before the party, and is looking, um, not so fabulous on the evening of the event. She scares a few people, gets compared to beef carpaccio (not exactly the look anyone is going for), and spends the majority of the evening with her very raw looking face covered by a black veil.
Well, the 19-year-old me who first watched this was horrified and sure I would never do that to my face.
Skip forward several (and some more) years and a chemical peel is seeming more appealing. Fine lines, blemishes and sun damage appear to have moved onto my face like uninvited tenants, and I am at the stage where I am ready to do something about them. But does that mean I will have to avoid all social engagements for the next year while my face calms down post treatment? Not exactly.
For a start, there are three types of chemical peels to consider: superficial, medium depth and deep peels. These all have different effects on the skin, and different healing periods. Let me explain and show you what happened when I had my very own chemical peel.
The superficial chemical peel
Superficial peels - the mildest of the three - work by the practitioner applying an acid such as lactic or glycolic acid to the skin, which takes off the outer layer and leads to the production of new skin cells. This is great for smoother looking skin and reduced lines.
If Samantha had had one of these types of peels, she would have been able to show of her fabulously fresh looking skin at the party with no problems.
The medium-depth chemical peel
For a medium depth peel, the practitioner uses trichloroacetic acid (TCA) acid to break down the dead skin cells in the epidermal and upper dermal layers of skin, creating a fresh new layer. This type of peel is great for reducing wrinkles caused by photoaging.
The recovery time is a bit longer for this type of treatment, so don’t go booking yourself in for an appointment if you know you have a party the next day, à la Sex and the City's Samantha. Instead, you’ll need up to a week to ensure you are looking as great as possible, and in the meantime, you’ll need to make sure you’re well covered in ointment (your practitioner will speak to you about the type) to aid recovery.
The deep chemical peel
Deep chemical peels are definitely the most invasive of the three, but also the most impactful. Deep peels are great for reducing acne scarring and sun damaged skin, as not only do they remove the epidermal and upper epidermal layers like the medium depth peel, they also remove deep dermal layers of the skin.
As you can imagine, this means the skin needs much longer to recover, as it is essentially traumatised. The initial results look like extreme sunburn, and it can take up to a few months before the redness has really subsided, but the effects after this period are brilliant and shouldn’t need repeating.
With deep peels, the recovery stage is so important. Your skin will look raw and red, and it will be essential to keep it covered in ointment. Sitting out in the sun is a no-no, and you’ll need to use plenty of moisturiser and good SPF30 protection...everyday.
Still don't believe me? I had a chemical peel in the name of research (it'd be rude not to), and here's how I got on...
My chemical peel experience
I recently got the Obagi Blue Radiance skin peel, which is a salicylic acid peel that helps with fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin, blemishes and photoageing. You can read my full chemical peel experience here. But essentially, it made a big difference to my dehydrated, lined and wrinkled skin, rendering it smoother and more youthful. Not bad for maybe half a hour on a clinic bed.
Chemical peel before and after results
To show you the kind of results that can be achieved, here are my chemical peel before and after images for you to take a look at...
My chemical peel before and afters
Did I come out looking like Samantha from Sex and the City? No. My skin was a bit pink, and in the following days it started to peel - but not to the extreme - just a bit in certain patches. And that's a good thing. You know it's working if it does that.
And my chemical peel results? After just a few days, my skin was clear, smooth, and looked like it had even managed to ditch a few of those fine lines.
The key with chemical peels is to be well informed, know what to expect and see someone who is trained and experienced with this type of treatment. So, don’t do a Samantha and make an “impulse purchase”; do your research, speak to a practitioner and make sure you give yourself the relevant amount of recovery time.
Don’t forget that while chemical peels can lead to amazing results, they should only be performed by medically qualified practitioners who know exactly what they are doing. After all, we are talking about acid, which if used by someone inexperienced, could lead to a whole range of issues.