Chemical Peel FAQs
Considering a chemical peel? If so, you probably have lots of questions, and you may have some concerns. Here are some of the most commonly-asked questions about chemical peel, along with their answers:
- What is a chemical peel?
- At what age can a chemical peel be performed?
- What does a typical chemical peel consultation entail?
- How is a chemical peel performed?
- What should I expect postoperatively?
- What are the risks of a chemical peel?
- Are the results permanent?
A chemical peel uses acid to remove layers of damaged or aged skin, revealing newer, softer, younger-looking skin. The acids used range from very mild to very strong. Mild alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) can be used to remove a very minimal layer of skin, thus rejuvenating dull-looking skin. Stronger acids like trichloracetic acid (TCA) or phenol can be used for deep peels to correct acne scarring, serious pigmentation problems or fine wrinkles.
A chemical peel can be performed at any age when there is enough damaged skin to be removed.
During a consultation you will meet with the physician and/or the skin care technician who will perform the peel to ask questions and find out what kind of a procedure you need for your skin type and condition. The first step is a full evaluation of your skin and its overall health, including its elasticity. The skin care specialist will also go over the types of chemicals used and explain which approach would be best for your skin.
A very minor peel can be performed by a trained skin aesthetician or technician as an outpatient procedure in a doctor's office or medi-spa; deeper peels, especially if done in conjunction with another facial rejuvenation procedure like a facelift, are often done in a hospital setting with anesthesia. Before the peel, your skin will be cleansed and toned to remove natural surface oils. The chosen chemical will be applied gently to your skin in one or more layers. After a specified length of time, the physician or skin care specialist will neutralize the acid and remove it from your skin, which is then wiped clean and treated with a moisturizer or antibacterial ointment.
Your face will be red, scabby and peeling for up to two weeks after your treatment; for this reason a burn dressing may be used to bandage the treated skin. After a light peel your skin may feel tight like it does after a sunburn. After a deep peel, expect several days of discomfort and tenderness as your skin becomes crusted and weeps clear fluid. It may be a few weeks until you see pink, new skin, which must be protected from the sun like a baby's skin. Your doctor will give you explicit instructions which should be followed to the letter.
If the peel goes deeper than intended, there's a risk of bacterial or viral infection to your skin before it heals. Likewise, if you develop a cold sore or fever blister before you heal, it can spread to the whole treated area and cause scarring. Hyperpigmentation (excessive coloration) and hypopigmentation (pale areas) can be a problem after a chemical peel, especially for darker-skinned people or those who do not take proper care of their face after the peel. Following all your physician's instructions will help maximize your outcome and minimize the risks.
You will, of course, continue to age following your chemical peel. However, you will be starting with virtually new skin, so you have set the process back somewhat. Taking great care of your skin going forward will also maximize the benefits of your chemical peel, as will limiting sun exposure, quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol intake.