Chemical peels help rejuvenate the skin via a chemical solution that sloughs off the damaged, outermost layer of the skin, which allows smoother, more evenly pigmented skin to surface, notes the American Academy of Dermatology. The mildest type of chemical peels generally contain alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs. A medium-depth peel consists of trichloroacetic acid, or TCA, while a deep peel uses the strongest chemical solution, known as phenol, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Aftercare will vary depending on the strength of your chemical peel.
Don't Pick or Scratch Skin
Mild or light chemical peels can cause a reddening and peeling of skin in the days following the treatment, while deeper peels can cause blistering, scabbing and peeling that persists for up to two weeks, notes the website Plastic Surgery Guide. Strong peels may also cause swelling of the skin.
Even though skin may itch or burn early in recovery, it's important to resist the urge to rub or scratch the affected skin, cautions the AAD. Picking, patting, wiping or otherwise touching the treated area may lessen the results of the peel and increase the risk of infection. A cold compress may help relieve any post-peel discomfort. Your doctor may also prescribe oral steroids following medium and deep peels.
It's important to keep your face moisturized after a chemical peel since dry skin is more vulnerable to cracks and possible scarring, reports the AAD. Make sure to apply cream or lotion diligently in the days and weeks following a peel until your skin has completely healed. Your health care provider may also recommend or prescribe soothing ointments if your skin is very sensitive.
Shielding your skin from the sun is critical following all types and strengths of chemical peels, cautions the ASPS. It's best to avoid the sun completely in the first seven to 14 days after a peel unless you are wearing sunscreen. Unprotected skin is at risk of developing blotchy patches or irregular skin coloring following a peel.
Once your skin has healed, continue to wear sunscreen in order to minimize the formation of new lines and wrinkles. The AAD recommends using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher. Remember to apply sunscreens 20 to 30 minutes before you head outdoors.
Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.