Washington Dermatology Consultants in Arlington, VA offers a variety of solutions to help our patients enjoy youthful, healthy skin. Chemical peels and light treatments are very different procedures, but they have very similar effects. Both work by eliminating damaged skin and activating natural processes to stimulate rapid development of healthy, new skin.
Understandably, many patients are confused about the differences in results and benefits. They often ask which procedure is best. The answer is, “it depends…”
About chemical peels
Chemical peeling was probably one of the first aesthetic treatments developed, with a history dating back to ancient Egypt. Cleopatra was known for bathing in milk, which was a primitive form of the lactic acid peel. The technique has evolved and improved dramatically with modern science, but it continues to be a staple of cosmetic medicine.
The procedure is performed by applying a topical formula, which is allowed to soak into skin. It causes upper layers to rapidly shed, eliminating many skin imperfections. The depth of the peel, and well as the specific formula used, is customized to the needs of each patient.
Chemical peels can treat:
- Superficial wrinkles and fine lines
- Uneven skin tone
- Acne and acne scarring
- Sun damage, signs of aging, and more
About light therapy
While chemical peels are a tried and true procedure steeped in history, light-based therapies are the product of cutting-edge modern technology. Laser and IPL (intense pulsed light) devices work by applying light energy to the skin, which causes a therapeutic thermal reaction.
Laser skin resurfacing can destroy damaged cells while encouraging rapid development of new ones, resulting in fresher, smoother, more youthful skin. A single laser treatment can provide significant improvement. IPL is a very gentle light therapy with benefits similar to laser treatment, though improvement from each session is less dramatic. A series of treatments are usually needed to achieve desired results.
Laser or IPL procedures can treat:
- Skin tone and texture
- Facial redness
- Brown spots
- Sun damage, signs of aging, and more
Unique benefits of each technique
Light based therapies excel in precision. Each wavelength of light reacts differently with different skin components. A laser device works with a single wavelength, and IPL devices can be adjusted with filters. That means light therapies can be targeted to specific types of cells and tissues. For example, facial redness and broken capillaries can be treated with a device that targets vascular tissue, while hyperpigmentation can be treated with a device that targets melanin. Additionally, these devices can be adjusted to target very specific tissue depths.
Chemical peels are also uniquely customizable, but in different ways. By necessity, peels work from the top down – they can’t target deep layers without affecting the surface. However. the depth of the peel can be adjusted by varying the strength of the formula, and the length of time it is allowed to soak in.
The greatest benefit of chemical peels, which cannot be duplicated with lasers, is the ability to combine therapeutic topicals with skin resurfacing or rejuvenation. Chemical peels can be customized to treat specific skin conditions, skin types, or aesthetic concerns. For example, acne may be treated with a chemical peel including agents such as salicylic acid, which can penetrate skin oil to deep clean pores.
While ablative laser resurfacing is safe for most people, it may not be recommended for those with extreme light sensitivity or a history of scarring easily. Deep peels are capable of achieving dramatic skin resurfacing, with minimal risk of scarring.
Which treatment is right for you
The best solution to your cosmetic concerns will depend on a number of factors.
- For targeting certain problems, such as redness and visible vessels, light therapy may be best. Lasers can also be used for procedures such as hair removal or tattoo removal, which chemical peels don’t help.
- For skin conditions that benefit from nourishing and therapeutic topical ingredients, a chemical peel may be best. Peels are also preferable for certain light-sensitive conditions.
- However, in some cases both light therapy and chemical peeling may be part of the same treatment plan, scheduled with adequate healing time in between.
Would you benefit most from a chemical peel, laser treatment, combination therapy, or another procedure? The best way to answer that question is to visit Washington Dermatology Consultants for an evaluation and consultation. Dr. Neal and his team are dedicated to providing top quality dermatological care for every patient, and we recognize that requires a customized plan for each individual. Give us a call at 571-431-6175 and schedule your appointment today.