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Featured Doctor Chemical Peel Doc

Ronald C. Russo, M.D.
2504 Galen Drive
Suite 107
Champaign, Illinois 61821
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Featured Doctor Chemical Peel Doc Almost weekly, a new laser enters the worlds of cosmetic and plastic surgery. Their main purpose? Mostly to remove the outer layer of skin on your face which it does by vaporizing the tissues. The whole idea, of course, is to eventually create smoother, more beautiful facial skin, but that can only happen when new skin grows up from beneath to replace that zapped layer of hide.

Of course, various lasers do various things to the entire body but some plastic surgeons have eschewed high-tech gizmos over the tried-and-true chemical face peel.

“Medicine has more than fifty years experience with chemical peels,” says Ronald Russo, M.D., a plastic surgeon at Russo Center for Facial Plastic Surgery in Champaign, Illinois. “We know the peel is safe and produces wonderful results that often last up to twenty years. Moreover, lasers are extremely expensive – some costing upwards of $100,000 -- which makes it harder for a surgeon to hold his fees down.”

Additionally, surgeons must invest time learning to use each new laser that comes down the pike.

“You don’t hear more about chemical peels because a literal army of public relations people and advertisers loudly bang the drum every time another laser comes onto the market,” says Dr. Russo who also owns and operates lasers in his practice.

But despite constant news about lasers both new and old, the American Society for Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery (A.S.A.P.S.) recorded 1.1 million chemical peels in 2004, a 51 percent increase over the previous year. But, despite the popularity, chemical peels can not remove loose or sagging skin, take away deep scars or repair broken blood vessels.

So what does a chemical peel do?

If you’ve ever overdone a day in the sun and peeled afterwards, you’re halfway to understanding the principle. However, it’s not rays of the sun, but an acid solution which is painted onto the face to take off the outer layer of skin.

“Generally, patients have three strengths of peels available,” says Dr. Russo. “Light, medium and heavy.”

Used on all skin types to improve pigment changes, acne scars, wrinkles, age spots, scarring and mild sun damage, superficial peels use an acid, AHA (alpha hydroxy acids.)

Here’s how the process goes:

The surgeon applies the solution with a sponge, cotton pad, cotton swab or brush. Usually, no anesthesia or sedation is needed because the patient feels only a mild tingling or stinging sensation. Often, one treatment provides a healthier, radiant look for the patient who can immediately resume normal activities. Overall, the actual depth of peeling depends on the amount of time the solution remains on the skin and how many coatings of acid are used. A light peel requires the patient to return to her surgeon to maintain the look.

Medium peels penetrate the skin more deeply and remove sufficient skin to cause a sunburned appearance. Medium peels treat mild to moderate wrinkles, moderate sun damage, pigment changes and precancerous lesions. Stronger acids, known as Phenol or TCA (trichloroacetic acid) are usually used. Medium peels can also require return treatments to keep the look fresh.

“The strongest peel uses Phenol with croton oil, a chemical which is designed for light-eyed, fair-skinned people who have deeper wrinkles, acne scars, rosacea or a lot of sun damage,” Dr. Russo says. “The deep peel is one of the best techniques we have for removing deep wrinkling and can last a lifetime.”

The technique requires deep sedation or general anesthesia and takes one to two hours to perform for a full face treatment. You’ll need about one to two weeks off from work and usual activities. However, Phenol is not indicated in treating patients with dark, oily complexions and may be a risk for patients with heart conditions. The deep peel patient is always given IV fluids and monitored with an EKG because Phenol is dangerous to the heart in higher doses. In most cases, a deep peel can only be done once. After application, the skin will peel for about 14 days. The treated area will remain very red and raw for up to two weeks with some severe swelling possible.

Risks include infection, scarring, color and even pigment changes in the skin which are the same risk involved with any deep resurfacing procedure.

“However, the deep peel will not take out the oft-maligned nasolabial lines, those folds of skin that run from the corner of the nose to the corner of the mouth,” says Dr. Russo. “To treat those, I usually use a filler such as Radiesse which will last for one to two years, or the solid implants, Advanta which are permanent.”

Some surgeons do a combined procedure, first performing a classic facelift or eyebrow lift and then doing a chemical peel. All post-peel patients must use sun block and stay out of the sun as much as possible.

“Unfortunately, many patients still come into the office waving a copy of a magazine that carries a recent article about the newest laser,” says Dr. Russo.

They, too, are just as likely to opt for a chemical skin removal process after their surgeon tells them more about all the procedures at his disposal – even the “old fashioned” ones like peels.

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