This is a question many people want to know the answer to. It can be confusing because both procedures are outpatient procedures and both promise the same results; to exfoliate the skin. Exfoliation involves peeling off layers of dead or old skin. There are several levels of exfoliation with both procedures.
You may be wondering why someone would choose to exfoliate. It can improve the skin texture and may reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars and other skin blemishes.
Although these procedures are faster than other options, they usually need to be repeated every 4 weeks for a several month period in order to maintain the results.
The first difference between the two is in cost. A chemical peel typically costs between $750 and $850 per treatment, whereas laser resurfacing costs a whopping $1,100 to $2,200 per treatment. Both treatments promise to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as scars, pigmentation and blemishes.
During a chemical peel treatment, chemical solutions are applied directly to the facial skin. Outer layers of skin begin peeling off. The solution is then rinsed away. During laser resurfacing, a laser is used to target and remove skin a layer at a time. Both procedures have side effects. Chemical peel treatment patients can expect to see redness, swelling, burning, scarring, and peeling.
Some patients may see infection or abnormal pigmentation. Laser resurfacing patients will also see redness and swelling and may see blisters, itching, acne flares, bacterial infection, cold sores, hyperpigmentation and scarring.
Generally speaking, if your goal is to improve the texture of your skin (i.e. to treat sun exposure, acne and wrinkles), you may want to try a chemical peel. If you have a more severe problem with facial wrinkles, scars and blemishes, laser skin resurfacing is the way to go.
Chemical solutions of phenol, tricholoraecetic acid and alphahydroxy acids are used in chemical peels. These solutions are applied to the other layer of skin. You may also be interested in opting for a light chemical peel, where the facial area is cleansed and then a solution is brushed on the skin and allowed to sit for 10 minutes. The solution is then washed off and neutralized. With a deep chemical peel, you will need a pretreatment.
Retin A is typically prescribed and is meant to thin out the surface layer of your skin. Patients are given a sedative and local anesthetic during a deep chemical peel. The peel is allowed to stay on the skin anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. The patient then receives a thick coat of petroleum jelly to the treated area and must where this for two days.
During the laser peel process, short, concentrated beams that pulse concentrate on irregular skin. This process removes the outer layer of damaged skin a layer at a time. It is considered to be an outpatient procedure that lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. Skin is numbed with local anesthetic. Surgeons will apply a dressing at the end of the procedure.
Deep chemical peel patients are advised not to wear makeup or return to work two weeks following treatment. People who have active acne, very dark skin, deep wrinkles or sagging skin are not recommended to receive laser peel treatment. Individuals with certain skin types may see a temporary or permanent change in their skin color following a chemical peel.
This is especially true for patients who are on birth control, who become pregnant or have a family history of brownish discoloration. There is a risk of hyperpigmentation or infection. If you want to face fewer risks, you should opt for laser treatment. It has fewer risks of hypopigmentation (lightning of the skin).
You will also have to use a sunscreen specially formulated for sensitive skin every day after treatment. You can expect your recovery time to be between one to two weeks.