There has been a veritable explosion of interest in chemical peeling for the removal of tattoos in the last 20 years. Before the advent of resurfacing lasers, people would frequently use some of the stronger chemical peels to try to erase tattoos as well as deeper lines and wrinkles. When carried out by experts the results of some of these strong peels could be excellent. However, there was a real risk that the deeper the peel, the more white skin discoloration would occur, often leading too patchy and irregular results, and in some cases white and red scarring.
Now, however, in the current peel revolution, we have the benefit of peels that has a much more superficial effect. To achieve the optimum results, they are typically repeated up to three to four times.
What is chemical peeling?
Chemical peeling involves the application to the skin of a chemical that causes a shedding of the surface skin layers. By shedding these layers, a new skin layer is formed which is both healthier and less mottled. As well as prompting the process of regrowth, the chemical also tricks the dermis (the skin's supporting structure) into producing new collagen under the skin.
There are several types of superficial (surface) chemical peel (in order of most superficial to deepest):
Lactic acid peels Glycolic acid peels Beta-hydroxy acid peels Jessner's peels Combinations of the above peels
Lactic acid is one of the alpha-hydroxy acid peels obtained originally frm milk and dairy products. Lactic acid peels are extremely valuable for people with very sensitive skin. They are usually well tolerated and will lead to less peeling and skin shredding than glycolic and beta peels. Lactic acid could be considered an 'entry level' peel.
It is useful to touch on TCA peels (trichloroacetic acid) and how they compare to surface peels. A lower strength TCA, for example 10 – 25 percent, could actually be used as a superficial peel, whereas a strength of 35 percent will constitute a medium to deeper peel. These deeper peels are still used by some dermatologists, but many have moved over to laser resurfacing because of its potential for controlling depth. TCA is one of the most common acids in a number of tattoo removal products, and can be used on its own as a treatment.
There are however, various qualities of the acid to consider including whether or not the TCA is simply a commercial grade or is in a more pure 'medical' grade. The better the quality of the product, naturally the higher the price so make sure that you are selecting a product that will be effective rather than one that will simply save you money.
The acids named above, apart from the Jessner peel, are typically ineffective at removing tattoo ink, they simply do not penetrate the skin's surface deeply enough. They are safe, glycolic acid is actually derived from sugar cane and is non-toxic, but will not be effective for your needs since they will only loosen the dead surface skin cells to reveal brighter, smoother, younger-looking skin beneath.
Beta-hydroxy acid peels come in varying concentrations of salicylic acid (related to the chemical in aspirin) in a peel. They are similar to the glycolic acid peels in most ways, the main difference being that these are slightly stronger and may cause more redness and surface peeling. However, these are not used with as much effectiveness as TCA peels, they simply are not strong enough to penetrate to the necessary levels to get at the tattoo pigment. I hope this article sheds some light on the various peels that are out there and will help you have a more informed decision when contemplating using one of these methods to remove your unwanted ink