With today’s array of cosmetic treatments, you no longer need to wonder if it’s possible to have flawless skin; instead, you must only decide which therapy you should choose. We know the decision can be daunting without the right information. That’s why at the Institute of Aesthetic Surgery in Celebration, FL, we want to answer all of your questions about two of the most common and effective treatments: chemical peels and laser resurfacing.
Which Is Better: Chemical Peel or Laser Resurfacing?
When it comes to these two treatments, it’s not a question of which is better, but rather which is right for your needs. Both share essentially the same goals: to erase skin imperfections and improve your overall appearance. They do this by removing the top layer of skin, where concerns like rough texture, fine lines, and discoloration remain visible. This does not mean, however, the treatments are interchangeable.
Nor does it mean they don’t both offer a host of advantages, because they do. So, how can you possibly know which is the better option for you? The answer depends on how quickly you want to see results and the complexion woes you want to be erased. Peels, for instance, are beneficial for superficial irregularities like lines around the mouth and under the eyes, mild scars, and acne.
Conditions to Treat
For deeper concerns, such as pigmentation and wrinkles, lasers perform better. They’re also more ideal for remodeling collagen, which happens as a result of heat energy. High temperatures cause collagen degradation in a way that prompts new synthesis. In turn, as collagen production increases, wrinkles disappear and skin tightens. Clinical studies confirm that laser can result in up to 40 percent tighter skin.
Laser is also superior in terms of precision. To illustrate, using a laser to treat acne scars or brown spots allows for very targeted treatment. We can focus on these concerns in way that doesn’t damage surrounding tissues or surface skin. Peels, on the other hand, provide for broader therapy because the entire face is treated at once. They can thus rejuvenate your entire appearance.
Timeline of Results
Laser generally delivers faster results than peels, with results showing in just three to five days. This is especially true when patients choose laser resurfacing to fade acne scars. Then, in the coming days, the complexion becomes visibly smoother; scars fade completely after a month or so – in the days following a second treatment – and as collagen levels ramp up, skin becomes plumper, tone evens out, and wrinkles disappear.
The immediate effects of chemical peels are more dependent upon the peel you have rather than subsequent treatments. A superficial peel will improve skin radiance almost immediately with additional improvements showing in two to three weeks. A medium peel, which penetrates more deeply, can take two to four months to shrink wrinkles, fade scars, and stop breakouts. Most patients prefer gradual improvements rather than rapid and drastic changes.
The Skin Types They Benefit
It’s important to note that not all skin is suitable for laser treatment. Fairer skin tones previously responded more favorably because they weren’t susceptible to discoloration or damage. While new developments in laser technology have largely fixed these issues, patients with darker complexions are still warned to approach laser treatments with caution. Those with sensitive skin or that which easily scars should also consider alternative options.
Chemical peels generally provide greater versatility, especially for patients who aren’t considered strong candidates for laser. Ingredients can be customized to address specific concerns and needs, meaning they can be tailored even for those with sensitive skin. Mild ingredients, like glycolic acid peels, can be universally administered and help all skin tones look smoother and brighter. The key is in following the recommended series of treatments.
Frequency of Treatment
That brings us to our next point: the number of sessions required with both treatments. Laser resurfacing is usually completed in a series of four (or more) sessions each delivered about a month apart to give the skin time to properly heal. Each subsequent session builds upon the results of the last, so it’s important to follow the treatment plan exactly as we develop it for you.
The frequency of chemical peels is a little different and depends on the concern being addressed. A patient hoping to cure acne, for instance, may need a total of six peels with one delivered every two weeks; once the desired results are achieved, treatment frequency may be reduced to once monthly or even every six weeks. A patient with sensitive skin, on the other hand, may need treatment just once every eight weeks. Frequency thus depends on the:
- Patient’s skin type
- Treatment goals
- Peel ingredients
Duration of Results
Peels and laser treatments each deliver results that last for different periods of time; this, too, factors into treatment frequency. The effects of laser might last three to five years before additional sessions are necessary. Peels, however, work on much shorter time spans. A superficial peel will deliver results for one to two months, while you can expect a medium peel to last between four and six months. A deep peel is likely to last 10 years.
Each peel – light, medium, and deep – penetrates to a different skin level. Superficial peels only remove the skin’s top layer, whereas a medium peel sinks to the skin’s middle layer and also removes it. Deep peels, as you likely guessed, sink into the skin’s deepest layers to provide total rejuvenation. It is recommended that patients only have one of these in their lifetimes because of the transformative way they affect the skin.
How They Work
In terms of operation, these two treatments are at distinctly opposite ends of the spectrum. Chemical peels employ acidic ingredients, such as citric acid, to change the skin’s pH from a normal base of around 5.5 to 3.8. This loosens the cells that bind dead to healthy skin, and once those bonds are no longer intact, dead cells can basically be lifted from the face. Hence, peels remove the skin’s top layer(s) to expose new and fresh cells lying underneath.
Chemical peels made a strong showing in the 1990s but faded from the spotlight because they hurt and made the skin raw. Techniques and formulations have since changed dramatically, meaning peels are now safer than ever. They’re also highly effective because the goal is no longer to cause visible peeling but to instead drench the skin with beneficial ingredients that:
- Improve tone
- Erase fine lines
- Build collagen
- Eliminate acne
Acne and Chemical Peels
This last effect is especially noteworthy, as peels are often lauded for being one of the most effective cosmetic therapies for stopping acne. Laser can help, but in a less complete way, meaning you may continue to experience breakouts even after treatment. It may also require a second modality, like the application of topical medicine, to provide the desired results.
Peels provide another unique benefit by helping your skincare products work more effectively. Removing that top layer of dead cells triggers a chain reaction: living cells below the surface multiply and rise to the surface. This creates a blank canvas that is ready to soak in the serums and lotions you normally apply. Now, however, those products reach deep tissues, where they are most beneficial, rather than sitting on the surface to no effect.
Laser resurfacing directs short and highly concentrated light pulses at unwanted irregularities to remove skin layer by layer. The instruments that deliver these pulses – lasers – are characterized by their wavelength, which is absorbed by select skin targets, and pulse width, which refers to the rate at which the light beam is delivered.
The faster the pulse width, the better it is for targeting spots like tiny pigment fragments. Once a targeted spot is hit, the heat forces it to break down. Resurfacing lasers work a little differently, as the intended targets are water molecules that exist within collagen. The heated water causes microthermal zones to develop that trick the skin into a healing phase, wherein collagen production increases.
The Benefits of Collagen
Collagen is one of several components contained within the extra-cellular matrix (ECM). It is, in fact, the main component of this support system that gives skin its shape and structure. When it depletes, as happens with age, the ECM becomes weaker and causes the skin to develop lines and wrinkles. Igniting collagen synthesis is, therefore, the most optimal and natural way to give skin a more youthful appearance.
Once production is elevated, it will remain so for an extended period of time. And throughout this time, your skin will remain line- and wrinkle-free so you look younger for longer. You might therefore think of collagen as the key to youth.
The Ways They Are Similar
The first thing to note is that chemical peels and laser resurfacing are not one-size-fits-all approaches to skin health. We customize these treatments by regulating the intensity of each to maintain patient comfort, protect the skin, and achieve the results you desire. To illustrate, different chemicals can increase or decrease the effects of a peel. Likewise, lasers can be controlled in terms of pulses, wavelengths, and depths of penetration.
We should also note that both therapies are highly beneficial in giving you clear, rejuvenated, and fresh-looking skin. And both require specific aftercare measures. We recommend that after either treatment, you take some time to avoid:
- Cleansing brushes and washcloths
- Facial scrubs
- Heavy sweating
- Saunas, hot tubs, and excessively warm showers
- Strenuous exercise
What you can use are gentle cleansers complemented by velvety smooth moisturizers. You’ll also need to get serious about sunscreen, if you’re not yet, and apply it every day. In this same vein, you can further protect your skin and treatment results by wearing a wide brim hat whenever you go outside.
This brings us to the idea of downtime, which can take up to three weeks with both treatments. This can, however, vary significantly depending on your skin and the type of laser or peel you choose. Professional peel options are nearly endless, and light peels typically need very little recovery. The same is true of lasers, many of which offer mild resurfacing with almost no recovery necessary. We can discuss your anticipated downtime during your consultation.
Either Option Is a Good Option
The take away is this: both treatments will promote a more youthful appearance and correct skin imperfections like scars, wrinkles, and discoloration. The choice is ultimately yours to make, and we will certainly provide guidance that reflects your skin health and the exact concerns you want to address. Schedule your consultation today by calling the Institute of Aesthetic Surgery in Celebration, FL.