Guide to Chemical Peels


To get the best results, you have to take care of your skin -- before and after.
To get the best results, you have to take care of your skin -- before and after.
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So, you've taken great care of your skin throughout your life, using the right soaps and moisturizers to properly care for your face. But despite your best efforts, you can't fight the effects of aging and you find those inevitable wrinkles creeping in around your eyes and forehead. No matter how fastidious you are in your skin care regimen, the fact is that everybody ages, and with the ticking off of the years comes the degeneration of the skin. Fortunately, there are professional treatment options available if you're tired of obsessing about your crow's feet.

Chemical peels have become increasingly popular through the years, with most patients undergoing the procedure to treat the face -- particularly the areas around the eyes, forehead and mouth. There are different levels of chemical peels that use different agents that vary from light to deep, but they all involve spreading a chemical solution on the skin, allowing it to blister, and then peeling that skin away to unleash the new skin underneath. The benefit? Smoother skin with fewer wrinkles. Read on for some of the benefits of chemical peels, as well as what you need to know before and after the procedure.

Benefits of a Chemical Peel

The benefits of a chemical peel are pretty straightforward: It will definitely minimize and possibly eliminate some of those unsightly wrinkles around your eyes, forehead and mouth. One thing you need to know going in, though, is that the chemical peel does have its limits. It can help smooth out your skin tone and get rid of some kinds of wrinkles, but it won't help you with the bags under your eyes or severely wrinkled skin. Unfortunately, that's plastic surgery territory. Chemical peels are much more effective at cleaning up those hereditary wrinkles, or the slight wrinkling caused by sun damage and good old fashioned aging. If you have reasonable expectations going in, you're more likely to be satisfied with the result.

Aside from wrinkles, there are some other benefits for some patients. Acne scarring can be somewhat alleviated with the help of a chemical peel. It can also help even out your coloring if you suffer from liver spots, age spots, severe freckling, and other kinds of splotchy skin conditions. Sun damage can also be alleviated with the help of a chemical peel. You're more likely to get a positive result if you have light colored hair and fair skin, but that doesn't mean you won't benefit from a peel if you have darker features.

What Not to Do Before a Chemical Peel

Stay away from the needles before a peel.
Stay away from the needles before a peel.
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Depending on what kind of chemical peel you choose to undergo, there are some instructions that your doctor may advise you to heed pre-peel. In the week before treatment, you're likely going to be asked to not undergo any other chemical peels, any kind of waxing, electrolysis or laser hair removal procedures or Botox injections. You should also avoid using exfoliating masks or rough, abrasive sponges on your skin. In the three days before your procedure, you'll be asked to not use tretinoin, the acid form of vitamin A that's commonly used in a gel to treat acne or stretch marks, among other things. Other retinoic acid derivative creams and gels are probably also likely to be on the no-use list, which includes Retin-A.

On the day of your treatment, you should arrive with a clean face and no make-up, moisturizers, cologne, perfume or aftershave. Men are advised not the shave their face the day of the appointment. Cleaning your face the day before your treatment with an antiseptic soap is also generally recommended. It should be noted that these are all general instructions. Depending on what kind of peel you're undergoing, you'll receive specific instructions from your health care provider and it's important to follow them explicitly if you want a positive result.

Chemical Peel Aftercare

After you undergo a chemical peel, there are going to be some specific aftercare instructions from your doctor you need to follow. In general, you can expect treatment somewhat similar to what you might do if you have a bad sunburn on your face. There will be some redness, crusting, irritation and mild stinging if you have a light peel performed. A medium peel will have the same after effects, and you might be advised to stay out of the sun for a few weeks to allow the skin to fully heal. In fact, even after a light peel it's advised to avoid direct sunlight for a while to allow the new skin to fully adapt the world around it. A deep peel can leave your face red for several months and there's even the risk of slight scarring.

Most light peels will take several days to a week to fully recover, and you can expect one to two weeks for recovery for a medium peel. Some peels, mostly deep ones, can require bandages in order to fully heal, so take this into consideration when deciding on what kind of peel is best for you. If you have a history of cold sores, you might expect some level of reactivation. In all cases, your doctor is going to prescribe some kind of ointment, cream or gel for treating the skin for a period of time afterward. You may also get some kind of oral steroidal medication to help the healing process along.

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Sources

  • "Chemical Peel." Plasticsurgery.org. Aug. 12, 2012. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/chemical-peel.html
  • "Chemical Peels and Your Skin." Webmd.com. Aug. 12, 2012. http://www.webmd.com/healthy-beauty/guide/cosmetic-procedures-chemical-peel-treatments
  • "Chemical Peels Information." Asds.net. Aug. 12, 2012. http://www.asds.net/ChemicalPeelsInformation.aspx