A chemical peel is a very useful procedure that may be used to treat various superficial skin conditions, including discoloration, fine lines, and some scars. The basic mechanism of peels is to remove the superficial layers of the skin so that smoother, younger-appearing skin grows back in its place.
There is a variety of different peels available, each formulated to reach a particular depth and address a specific concern.
Before your peel, Dr. Thomas will advise you on the best way to optimize your results and avoid side effects. This may involve taking an antiviral medication, particularly if you have a history of cold sores. He may also encourage you to use a retinoid cream to shorten the recovery period and speed healing.
You should also avoid unprotected sun exposure before your peel to help prevent irregular pigmentation. Additionally, you should avoid waxing, hair-removal products, and facial scrubs prior to your treatment.
Chemical peels are generally done in our office or outpatient surgery center under local anesthesia or IV sedation. You will be able to go home after the procedure, but someone will need to drive you home if you have sedation.
Your hair, eyes, and untreated parts of your face are protected during the procedure. During the treatment, the peel is applied with a brush, cotton applicator, or sponge. You may feel mild stinging or burning, and your skin will turn white or light grey (“frosting”).
Depending on the type of peel used, a neutralizing solution may be applied at the completion of the procedure. In other cases, this solution is not needed, and you will be given some cool compresses for comfort following the treatment.
If a deep peel containing phenol is performed, you will be given IV fluids, and your heart rate and blood pressure will be closely monitored. This peel is applied very slowly and carefully, so this treatment typically takes about an hour or an hour and a half to perform.
Following a light chemical peel, your pain can generally be controlled with over-the-counter pain medication, such as Tylenol. After a medium or deep peel, you may need to take prescription pain medication for a few days. Ice packs or breeze from a fan may be helpful in reducing pain. Dr. Thomas and his staff will go through all necessary skin care following the procedure, which generally includes moisturizing agents and protective ointments.
After your procedure, your skin may initially look lighter, darker, swollen, or raw with a “crusted” appearance. These changes generally resolve over 1 week for light peels, but some redness and changes in skin color may persist for weeks to months after a deep peel. Sleeping in a partially reclined position may help decrease swelling.
You should take care to avoid sun exposure to treated areas. After approximately 1-2 weeks, depending on the type of peel used, you may start wearing makeup to conceal any persistent redness or discoloration during the healing process.
A light peel can improve skin texture, even skin tone, and decrease the appearance of fine wrinkles. After your first treatment, the results may be subtle but will become more noticeable with subsequent treatments.
After a medium or deep peel, in addition to the improved appearance of discoloration and mild scars, your skin will be noticeably smoother after the procedure. A deep chemical peel offers the most dramatic results but also involves a longer recovery period. The results of a chemical peel are not permanent because the skin continues to age following the procedure; thus, Dr. Thomas may recommend repeating a particular peel after a safe interval.
Chemical peels are very safe and effective, but as with any treatment, there are some possible side effects.
Redness of the skin following a peel is normal and indicates that the skin and surrounding blood vessels are involved in healing the treated area. After a deep chemical peel, mild redness may persist for up to a few months.
If a peel goes too deep, there is a possibility of scarring. Discoloration of the skin is a possibility, particularly in patients with darker skin. Very rarely, a chemical peel may result in an infection in the treated area, particularly in patients with a history of cold sores caused by the herpes virus.
Dr. Thomas and his staff are available throughout the healing process to monitor your recovery and address any concerns or questions you may have.