If you're interested in changing the appearance and texture of your skin, you should know all about chemical peel aftercare procedures.
The Chemical Peel Process
A chemical peel is formulated to eliminate irregularities on the skin's surface and reveal a smooth, revitalized texture. Through this process, the skin's damaged outer layers are removed as the peel is applied to specific parts of the face.
There are three types of chemical facial peels. Depending on the strength of the chemical used, the peel will offer different results.
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as fruit, glycolic and lactic, are all considered mild peel formulas. A superficial peel does not require as much time to recover as other types of chemical peels, making it ideal for anyone who does not have much time to spare. AHA peels are used to treat the following skin imperfections:
- Fine wrinkling
- Uneven pigmentation
- Sun damage
In order to receive longer-lasting results, the doctor may choose to apply different concentrations of AHA acids on a regular basis. Some patients may choose to continue the treatment on their own time; if this is the case, AHAs can be mixed into regular skin care products, such as facial cleansers and moisturizers. The procedure is typically not painful to a great degree; doctors often recommend the usage of a small fan to cool the face during the procedure.
Trichloroacetic acids (TCAs) are most commonly used in medium-depth peeling. TCA peels are formulated to treat the following imperfections:
- Uneven pigmentation
- Obvious blemishes
- Fine surface wrinkles
- Visible sun damage
- Certain precancerous lesions, such as actinic keratoses
The TCA peel is stronger than a superficial peel, but clearly not as intense as the strongest chemical solution (phenol). Therefore, the results are not as visible or dramatic, and several treatments may be required in order to see a difference. Though some pain is involved, an aspirin or mild sedative is usually sufficient for relief. The recovery time is slightly longer than that of a superficial peel.
Severe skin imperfections call for phenol, also known as a deep peel. Phenol is very strong, and is formulated to treat the following imperfections:
- Severe sun damage (such as blotchiness)
- Coarse facial wrinkles
- Pre-cancerous growths
Deep peels can often be quite painful to patients; for this reason, some doctors may recommend general anesthesia, while others prefer to combine local anesthesia with intravenous sedatives. It is also important to note that skin discoloration may occur with phenol. It is typically not recommended for individuals with dark skin. The recovery period is extensive, and complete healing may take as long as several months. The results, however, are long lasting.
Proper Chemical Peel Aftercare
Redness, dryness and flaky patches of skin are an unfortunate side effect of almost any chemical peel treatment. It is important to prepare in advance for the aftermath of the procedure. If you are not comfortable dealing with flushed skin or excess dryness, you might consider an over-the-counter AHA treatment in lieu of a medical procedure.
Each type of peel has its own individual side effects. The following details the chemical peel aftercare programs for each treatment:
Temporary dryness, scaling and discoloration (in the form of a faint pink or brown tone) may occur following the AHA treatment. These side effects are quite mild, and should generally not inhibit you from going about your daily activities. In order to expedite the healing process, it is important to protect the skin from sun exposure with a sufficient UVA/UVB sunblock. It is also important to keep the skin moist. Doctors recommend washing the face with a mild cleanser, such as Cetaphil, and rinsing with cool water. Follow immediately with a gentle moisturizer or prescribed ointment.
A deep red or brown tone, as well as crusty scales, will typically follow a medium-depth peel. Treatment for this type of procedure is similar to that of the superficial treatment. Again, it is especially important to avoid sunlight, as the skin will be sensitive for at least two months post-treatment. Slather a protective UVA/UVB sunblock on, wear a hat and sunglasses when outdoors and do your best to stay out of the sunlight, if possible.
A phenol peel will result in the most severe side effects of the three treatments. Redness and swelling are extremely common, and patients may be limited to a liquid diet for the first few days post-treatment. Phenol-peeled skin will turn crusty and dark brown, and some fluid may also ooze from the skin. While this will generally heal within two weeks, the redness will persist for several weeks beyond that.
Frequent, gentle cleansing and prescribed ointments are recommended to aid the healing process.