Chemical peel

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Peel pain
Pain-o-meter ( 1 = light pinprick and 5 = agony): Anywhere from 1 to 3. Microdermabrasion feels like a soft suction against your skin. Light peels cause mild stinging but are rinsed away within two minutes (and most doctors and aestheticians direct a small fan at the face to minimize any discomfort). Medium peels (usually trichloroacetic acid) are much more intense, so Ranella Hirsch, MD, president-elect of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology & Aesthetic Surgery, tells patients to take one extra-strength Tylenol beforehand and often uses a high-powered machine called a Zimmer cooler to blast cold air against the skin so that any burning sensation is slight. Deep peels (which use a substance called phenol) are rarely performed anymore (they've been replaced by lasers); they are quite painful and require complete sedation.

Downtime: Your skin may be slightly pink for a day after a light chemical peel or microdermabrasion. A medium peel will leave your face red and flaky for several days. And following a deep peel, the skin will crust over and can remain red for a month or more. Gauze (like what you see at left) is often applied for the first few days to help the skin retain moisture and heal more quickly, says Alan Matarasso, MD, clinical professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University. The deeper the peel, the higher the risks of hypopigmentation, so anything beyond a light peel is risky for women with darker skin. And only light peels are safe to use on the neck and chest (where there is a greater risk of scarring).

Average cost: $100 to $200 for a light peel, $400 to $4,000 for a medium to deep, depending on size of area being treated.