Our Top Chemical Peels: Which is Which?

At the UMass Memorial Cosmetic Surgery Center, we offer our patients a wide array of choices for skin rejuvenation. In addition to our cosmetic surgery procedures, we have a variety of peels—professional facial treatments, applied by nurse practitioners and physicians, that cause the surface of the skin to peel and reveal a smoother, more radiant complexion underneath. Peels are available in different levels of intensity depending on what you want to achieve. Here’s a look at what each peel is designed to do and how the treatment process works.Note: All of these are professional peels that are not offered in spas.

California Peel
Sometimes referred to as a “lunchtime peel,” this is a popular peel for exfoliating skin and providing improvement of very fine lines. It is a milder treatment that doesn’t deeply penetrate the skin or cause the temporary burning sensation associated with some peels, so it really is a peel you can have done on your lunch break. Some patients do report feeling a little itchy, but we use a cool fan to soothe that symptom. The California Peel formula uses three chemicals—glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid and phenol—applied in stages. Each solution is left on the skin for just five minutes. Including prep and cleanup, the peel takes about 20 minutes.

Your skin may look slightly yellow immediately after treatment because phenol stains the top layer of dead skin cells. In about 36 to 48 hours, your skin will begin to exfoliate, revealing fresh pink skin underneath. Many patients see an added benefit by having this peel done every six to eight weeks for a total of five sessions.

Barcelona Peel
This “peel” is actually a mask designed for patients who want to even out their skin pigmentation. It lightens age spots caused by sun damage and dark blotches caused by hormonal changes such as pregnancy. It isn’t used for patients with naturally dark skin because skin bleaching can have unpredictable and undesirable results.

Like the California peel, the Barcelona Peel doesn’t hurt. It takes time, however— the hydroquinone mask is applied and left in place for six to ten hours—so it’s best to arrange to have it done on a day off when you can relax and let the chemicals do their work. You’ll need to follow a specific skin care regimen at home as directed for two weeks afterwards to continue the lightening process. Then, at your next session, the mask will be reapplied only to those areas that still need to be evened out. This session is followed up again with at-home lightening creams. Achieving the maximum level of pigment reduction can take about a year, depending on the level of correction needed.

For more information about peels, contact the UMass Memorial Cosmetic Surgery Center at 508-334-5990.