Glycolic acid, commonly used in anti-aging skin care treatments and skin peels, comes in several strengths or percentages of dilution. You can also dilute glycolic acid further by adding distilled water. Dilution is especially helpful in cases of sensitive skin. When used at 40 percent strength, glycolic peels improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, acne, sun damage and age spots. Considered a superficial peel, 40 percent glycolic peels treat the outer layer of skin, and the results last for up to one month, notes Mayo Clinic.
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The glycolic acid peel procedure usually begins with the administration of a mild oral sedative and topical numbing cream. However, glycolic peels only cause mild discomfort, so some dermatologists perform the procedure without pain medications. The treatment itself lasts only a few minutes, but you can expect to be in the dermatologist office for about 20 minutes. During the procedure, you may experience some discomfort and stinging of the skin.
Initially, your skin will appear pink. The redness usually fades within the first 24 hours. Stinging and discomfort may continue after the procedure. Treat side effects with cold compresses, moisturizer and by keeping the skin spritzed with water. Other common side effects include flaking, scaling and drying of the skin. As with all cosmetic procedures, there is risk of infection.
Benefits of a 40 percent glycolic acid peel include an improved appearance of the skin and the reduction of common skin problems including rough skin, dry skin, acne, acne scars, uneven pigmentation, age spots, freckles and fine lines. Regular peels help keep the skin looking younger and slow down the aging process, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
In rare cases, infection can occur. The risk of infection increases along with unsanitary practices in the office and failure to follow proper post-procedure care instructions. Other risks include changes in skin pigmentation. Lighter or darker patches of skin may appear. Pigmentation changes occur more frequently in darker skin. In even rarer instances, scarring can occur.
Initially, glycolic acid peels are given every two weeks for a period of two to three months. After three months, maintenance treatments occur every month, indefinitely. The results from each treatment last approximately one month.