Chemical peels have been around in one form or another for decades and have experienced a resurgence in popularity over the past few years. Skin treatments are used to treat a wide variety of issues, including everything from freckles to age lines and wrinkles. Most people associate chemical peels with face skin treatments, but they are also used for neck and hand areas. Here are a few things everyone should know about chemical peels when deciding whether to try the treatment option.

Different Types of Chemical Peels

Not all chemical peels are the same. Medical professionals offer options to match the needs of each client. Three strength levels allow a light treatment that works on minor issues, a medium-strength option that penetrates slightly deeper into the skin, and a deep peel designed to treat significant skin problems.

  • Light Chemical Peels: This treatment option only penetrates the surface of the skin and is generally recommended for clients seeking to reduce blemishes and minor skin breakout issues. Patients usually return to their daily activities immediately following the treatment and rarely experience more than mild discomfort related to the chemical peel.
  • Medium Chemical Peels: Medium chemical peels, as might be expected, penetrate deeper into the skin. While light chemical peels only penetrate the epidermis, medium peels enter the papillary dermis, which is the layer immediately below the epidermis. Medium chemical peels treat acne scars, hyperpigmentation, and melasma. They also help slow the effects of aging. This treatment requires some downtime and usually needs at least a couple of weeks to heal completely because the acids used are more potent.
  • Deep Chemical Peels. Doctors only recommend deep chemical peels for patients with significant scarring, deep wrinkling, pre-cancerous growths, and other serious issues. Because the acids used for deep chemical peels are stronger than those used for either of the other two treatment options, patients experience several days of downtime after treatments and should expect the healing process to be rather lengthy.

When discussing the various options with a provider, ask questions to evaluate any issues related to the treatments before deciding which option to consider. The plastic surgeons in Knoxville, Tennessee are happy to discuss the pros and cons of each chemical peel and explain why they recommend one option over the others for each patient.

Preparing for a Chemical Peel

First, the doctor chosen for the procedure will want to discuss your reasons for wanting a chemical peel and what you expect from the procedure. Remember that different issues require different types of treatments, which means everyone must be on the same page to ensure the results meet each patient’s goals. Also remember that not everyone is an ideal candidate for a chemical peel, which means the medical professional will evaluate the situation to determine how to proceed.

The doctor will also want to review every patient’s medical history to help them determine whether they are a good candidate for a chemical peel. Be prepared to answer questions about current and past health issues and medications now or previously used. That will include supplements, so take the time before an appointment to list all OTC and prescription supplements and medications used.

Next, the doctor will conduct a basic exam to evaluate each patient’s condition before recommending a specific treatment option. Since the skin condition, pigmentation, and other factors impact how well chemical peel options work, this step is crucial. At this point, the doctor is better able to discuss treatments and how they may or may not resolve an issue.

After the initial appointment, the doctor may recommend taking steps to improve the odds of a procedure providing the desired results. Proper preparations also reduce the chances of infections or other problems. Sometimes, the doctor may recommend taking antiviral medications to minimize the risk of a viral infection during the recovery period.

The doctor may also recommend using a retinoid cream before the chemical peel. Retinoid creams improve the skin’s condition, which means the healing process is usually faster when they’re used pre-treatment. In some cases, the doctor may also recommend using a bleaching agent to reduce the odds of experiencing side effects further.

Finally, the doctor will usually recommend staying out of the sun prior to a chemical peel to avoid unusual pigmentation in treated areas. The recommendations will vary depending on the treatment option selected and the patient’s specific skin conditions.

On the Day of the Procedure

A chemical peel may require sedation in some cases. If sedation is used, arrange to have someone provide transportation, as patients can’t drive after being sedated. If your procedure is a light peel, there may not be any need for sedation, but discuss this with the doctor prior to the day of the procedure.

Chemical peels are often conducted in the doctor’s office, but many are completed at outpatient surgical facilities. The type of peel and the patient’s needs dictate the procedure strategy. Always plan carefully to avoid being late for an appointment, as most doctors and facilities operate on tight schedules.

As part of the chemical peel, the doctors apply a solution, and the skin begins to whiten. During the process, patients may feel a stinging sensation. Once the acid selected creates the desired effect, the doctor neutralizes the chemical and removes the remaining solution.

The time required for a chemical peel varies depending on the treatment option. Light and medium peels take only a few minutes, but a deep chemical peel may take up to 90 minutes to complete.

Following the Procedure

All chemical peels irritate the skin to some extent, and doctors always recommend using caution following the procedure. To ensure the best results, doctors generally recommend specific types of moisturizing ointments to assist with healing. In addition, most recommend avoiding sun exposure as well as rubbing or scratching the treated areas until the skin heals.

After a light peel, the treated area will take up to a week to heal. The healing process is longer following a medium chemical peel. Patients should expect the initial healing to take roughly two weeks, but doctors caution that some redness could occur for several months.

Deep chemical peels take far longer to heal, and the process is more complicated for patients. Surgical dressings are routinely used to protect the treated areas, and doctors often prescribe pain medication to keep patients comfortable. Follow-up visits to the doctor are needed to ensure the healing process is proceeding properly. Ointments must be applied several times per day to prevent issues from developing. New skin develops after a couple of weeks, but some redness may persist for several months. During the healing process, the doctor should be notified immediately if any problems develop.

Are Multiple Treatments Needed?

That depends on the patient’s skin condition and the type of treatment. Light and medium peels are often repeated to achieve the patient’s goals, but the doctor will evaluate the specific situation and recommend when any repeat treatments should be considered. However, as a rule of thumb, light peels generally last for a couple of months, and medium ones for up to six months. Some patients may wish to schedule additional peels to achieve the look and feel they’re trying to achieve.

Are Chemical Peels Painful?

Most chemical peels are relatively painless. That’s why they’re so popular and routinely recommended by skincare experts. Remember that both light and medium chemical peels only penetrate the outer skin layers, so there is minimal pain to contend with. The less intrusive the procedure, the lower the pain level should be. In most cases, patients can return to normal activities quickly and only require mild OTC pain medications.

Deep chemical peels are different and will result in significantly more pain. However, most patients’ needs are met with light or medium peels. If you’re concerned about the potential for pain and how it might impact your daily activities, discuss that concern with your doctor prior to the procedure.

Getting Back to Normal After a Chemical Peel

Most patients want to return to their normal activities as quickly as possible following a chemical peel. That’s normal, and the doctors understand that need. While some redness and irritation are common after light and medium peels, most patients return to normal activities quickly.

After a light chemical peel, most patients are able to wear makeup the next day. Medium peels take longer to heal, but patients can generally wear makeup again after five to seven days. The key here is to listen to the doctor’s recommendations, as every person’s skin is different. Rather than risking complications, use caution when using makeup or spending time outdoors in direct sunlight following a procedure.

Patients may not need a follow-up visit after a light chemical peel, but they should expect a follow-up appointment after a medium peel. The goal is to ensure the healing process is proceeding normally. However, if any signs of infection or abnormal reactions are present, even light chemical peel patients are encouraged to contact their doctor for advice.

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