Skin Deep

Michele Joyce

by Michele Joyce | August 17, 2010 @ 09:00AM

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Looking for smoother, younger-looking skin? Look no further!

Your dermatologist is equipped with a wide array of skin-perfecting treatments, the most powerful of which are skin resurfacing procedures. Your options have never been better.

Skin resurfacing improves the skin by removing the outer damaged layers of skin so that new, smoother, more attractive skin can form. Treatments include chemical peels, laser resurfacing, and microdermabrasion. The best part of all is that these procedures can be combined to create a treatment custom-made for your face.

Skin resurfacing can reduce or remove all of the following skin problems:

  • fine lines and wrinkles
  • small acne scars
  • facial scars
  • freckles
  • sun-damaged
  • brown spots (melasma)
  • uneven pigmentation
  • rough or uneven skin texture
  • blood vessel damage
  • pre-cancerous growths

If you want to treat loose skin, or deep wrinkles, you may want to consider a combination of procedures to tighten the skin. Along with the skin resurfacing techniques listed above, consider a facelift, brow lift, or eyelid surgery, as well as Botox, or a deep laser skin tightening/resurfacing treatment. For detailed information about the best procedures for you, we recommend that you consult a board certified or board eligible dermatologist with experience in the various types of skin resurfacing.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are used to treat wrinkled skin, as well as skin with pre-cancerous growths, uneven pigment, sun-damage, or blotchiness. Chemical peels may be performed on the face, neck, chest, arms, hands, and legs. By applying a chemical solution to remove the outer layer of skin, chemical peels allow a smoother, more evenly pigmented, and glowing layer of skin to appear.

Different chemicals produce different results, and are used to correct different problems. In general, the stronger the chemical, the more dramatic the results. However, deeper peels also cause more pain afterward, and take longer to heal. Recovery always involves some swelling and facial reddening.

Alphahydroxy acids (AHA): AHAs are the mildest of the chemical peels, and are used to treat light damage, such as fine wrinkles, age spots, uneven skin pigmentation, some types of acne scarring, and pre-cancerous growths. These peels are made of glycolic, lactic, and fruit acids. The application generally takes only about 10 to 15 minutes, and can be repeated frequently. No anesthesia or sedation is needed, but there is a slight stinging feeling as the peel is applied.

Trichloriacetic acid (TCA): TCA peels are used to treat moderate damage, such as sun damage, fine lines, and uneven pigment, as well as some pre-cancerous growths. The treatment is quick; a full-face peel takes only about 15 minutes. No anesthesia is needed because the chemical itself has a numbing effect. The treatment may be repeated, but not quite as often as AHA peels.

Phenol acid: Phenol acid produces the deepest chemical peel, and is used to treat extensive and deep wrinkling, discoloration, scarring, and pre-cancerous growths. The peel may only be performed once, and it produces lasting results. These peels are not recommended for people with darker complexions because they may cause permanent lightening of the skin. Full-face phenol peels can take between 1 and 2 hours. Anesthesia is not needed because phenol acid, like TCA, numbs the skin.

Laser Skin Resurfacing

This relatively new method of skin resurfacing has nearly replaced chemical peels in popularity. It uses laser to minimize fine lines, especially around the eyes and the mouth. It can also be used to treat scars from acne and scarring from other surgeries. Treatments may be used over the entire face or just a small area of the face. (The rest of the face may be resurfaced with a lighter chemical peel.) Depending on the type of laser used, laser skin resurfacing can cause lightening of the skin (hypopigmentation) in people with darker complexions.

Brief, high-energy beams of light are used to remove the outermost layers of damaged skin so that new skin can form. Laser skin resurfacing not only removes the wrinkles, but also tightens the collagen, which improves the firmness and elasticity of the skin, giving the face a more youthful appearance. It may take between 15 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the size of the area treated and the severity of the skin problem. The procedure may be repeated.


Dermabrasion is a less frequently used method of treating deep scars and wrinkles, uneven skin pigment, severe sun-damage, some types of scars, and pre-cancerous growths. It can be used on sections of the face or the entire face. The damaged skin is removed through a controlled, surgical scraping. This is performed with a handheld, rotating brush or burr containing diamond particles. The treatment time depends on the size of the area being treated, and the severity of the problem, but it generally takes between 30 and 60 minutes. This procedure is not recommended for individuals with darker complexions.


Microdermabrasion is a popular noninvasive procedure used to correct skin texture problems, uneven scarring, age (liver) spots, whiteheads, and blackheads. It was approved by the FDA in 1997, but has a longer history of successful use in Europe. It is generally performed on the face and neck, but it may also be performed on the rest of the body. The treatment takes between 10 and 15 minutes. It not only removes superficial layers of skin (the epidermis), but also stimulates the growth of new skin cells. It can be repeated as frequently as once a week. With repetition, more dramatic results may be achieved. Microdermabrasion works well on most darker skin tones.

The information on this web site is only intended as an introduction and should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor as a guarantee of the result. The best method of determining your options is to consult qualified surgeons who are able to answer specific questions related to your situation. 

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