When it comes to improving dull skin, rough texture, hyperpigmentation, and acne, chemical peels and lasers remain the gold standard. Both help to reduce the appearance of pores and soften fine lines. Both entail relatively minimal downtime (a few days of redness, swelling, and peeling). And both can be exceptionally effective—in the right situations. Here, I’ll help you pin down which treatment is right for you.
How do they work?
First, let’s take a closer look at each treatment. A chemical peel uses various acids, such as lactic, salicylic, or trichloroacetic (TCA), to resurface the skin and remove surface pigmentation.
Which treatment is right for me?
Regardless of your skin type or the issue you want to address, both peels and lasers will require multiple treatments in order to achieve the best results. The total number can be as few as two, but it’s generally between three and six.
With that in mind, if given a choice, a chemical peel is the better option if you’re on a budget. Its price depends on the strength and concentration of the peel, but the range is typically less than that of a fractionated laser treatment.
Both types of treatments can provide you with more radiant skin, though, if you have dark skin and you opt for a lower-energy fractionated laser, like Clear + Brilliant, you’ll want to make sure the treatment is done by someone who has a lot of experience using this laser on dark skin types. It’s considered safer than a stronger laser resurfacing procedure, but the results can vary in under-experienced hands.
For the most part, however, a chemical peel is the safer means to resurface and tighten dark skin. The heat of a fractionated laser can contribute to hyperpigmentation. (For everyone else, a laser is the clear choice for skin-tightening. The heat will spur the production of natural collagen and elastin, the basic building blocks of firmer skin.)
Some plastic surgeons will start with a peel and move to a laser if the results aren’t meeting their expectations. In those instances, they’ll use a lower-energy fractionated laser at low strength over a few treatments in order to avoid post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
A similar approach is often used when aiming to erase persistent patches of acne. A series of salicylic acid peels exfoliate the skin and penetrate the pores to unclog them. At which point, a long-pulse laser can shut down overactive sebaceous glands. It’s safe for dark skin because it won’t burn the upper layers.
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