Do you want to rejuvenate or clear up the skin on your face, neck, chest, or hands? Perhaps home skincare treatments just aren’t giving you the results you want and you’d like a professional treatment to achieve the clear, youthful skin you desire. If you’re looking for a remedy, then you have probably heard of a chemical peel, which is just one of the many skincare treatments we offer here at Atomic Dermatology in Pasco, WA.
What Is a Chemical Peel?
It is important to be thoroughly informed about what a chemical peel is and the different types that you can choose depending on the conditions you are trying to treat and their severity.
Put simply, this treatment is an application of a chemical solution to the skin that causes exfoliation and the eventual falling off of the outer and/or middle layer of the skin. The skin will then grow back over the newly exposed lower layer, resulting in smoother, clearer, and more youthful skin with fewer wrinkles.
Uses for Skin Conditions
These peels can be used to improve and even remedy a variety of different skin conditions, which include:
- Age spots
- Crow’s feet
- Acne scars
- Sagging Skin
- Skin damaged by the sun
- Aging Skin
Types of Peels
There are three different types of peels that you can use depending on the severity of the skin condition that you want to treat: Superficial peels, medium peels, and deep peels.
Superficial/light peels use a mild acid such as alpha-hydroxy acid or another acid to exfoliate just the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of skin. This gentle type of peel is ideal for improving the appearance of rough skin and mild skin discoloration. It can also be used to rejuvenate the face, neck, hands, or chest.
Medium peels use trichloroacetic acid or glycolic acid to penetrate the epidermis as well as the upper portion of the middle layer of skin, or the dermis. This will cause the removal of any damaged skin cells. This type of peel is used to improve wrinkles and fine lines, age spots, moderate skin discoloration, and freckles. It is also useful for smoothing rough skin and treating some precancerous skin growths like actinic keratosis.
Deep peels use stronger acids like phenol and trichloroacetic acid to penetrate the middle layer of skin deeply, removing damaged skin cells. This type of peel is used to remove age spots, shallow scars, freckles, moderate lines, and even precancerous growths. This treatment often provides a dramatic improvement in the appearance of the skin because of its penetration deep into the dermis. It is only used on the face and can only be completed once because of the strength of the acid.
Preparing for the Procedure: Before Your Chemical Peel
Once you’ve confirmed that you have any of the skin conditions mentioned above that you would like treated, you can prepare for the procedure. It’s important that you have a consult with a dermatologist to have a pre-treatment exam. There are also some things you should avoid putting on your skin and exposing your skin to before the procedure if you are a candidate.
The Pre-Treatment Exam
Before you move forward with completing your peel, you want to make sure that you are an appropriate candidate for the treatment and that it will fulfill your expectations. This involves having a physical exam of your skin. By allowing your doctor to examine the texture, thickness, and tone of your skin, he or she can then determine which type of treatment would give you the results you are looking for. You will also be able to find out the staging of your treatment and have all your questions answered before you decide to proceed.
At this exam, you will need to disclose all health conditions, skin conditions, and medications that you take to your dermatologist. This is important for your own safety and health because there are certain conditions that may prevent you from being a candidate. Some of these conditions include
- A history of keloids
- Unusual skin pigmentations
- Severe or recurring outbreaks of cold sores
- Severe medical conditions
There are also medications that you may need to avoid prior to your treatment, which will be discussed in more depth below.
Things to Avoid
Once you’ve had your pre-treatment exam and have been chosen as a candidate, you will need to avoid smoking for a period of time determined by your doctor and depending on the type of peel. For all peels, you will also need to avoid certain skin treatments, medications, and sun exposure to prepare your skin for the peel.
There are certain skin treatments you should avoid before having your peel completed. You want to wait at least two weeks since your last chemical peel or microdermabrasion treatment before having this treatment completed. This will help to avoid over-exfoliation and subsequent irritation of your skin.
You should avoid tanning for two to three weeks before the treatment. This includes using tanning booths because the exposure to artificial UV radiation can damage the skin significantly.
Finally, you want to avoid using chemical hair removal treatments or waxing your skin at least five to seven days before treatment. You also want to avoid any chemical injection treatments like collagen injections and Botox for at least a week before the peel.
There are some medications that can interact with the acids used in chemical peels, so your dermatologist may request that you stop taking them for a period of time before treatment. These are most commonly photosynthesizing drugs, which increase sensitivity to sunlight and may cause inflammation of the skin after exposure to sunlight. These medications include:
- Certain contraceptives (female sex hormones or birth control pills)
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Coal tar/coal tar derivatives
- Antimicrobials (sulfonamides)
- Tranquilizers (phenothiazines)
- Oral diabetes medications (sulfonylureas)
- Antibiotics (tetracyclines)
- Water pills (thiazide diuretics)
- Tricyclic antidepressants
Another important medication to avoid is the acne medication isotretinoin, also known by the generic names Claravis, Amnesteem, and others. If you have used these medications in the past six months, you will need to let your doctor know and postpone your treatment.
One major concern before you get a peel is exposure to sunlight. Sometimes exposure to the sun cannot be avoided because of work or family life, but you should try to avoid sun exposure at least ten days before treatment. If you do expose yourself to the sun for any amount of time within that period, make sure you apply plenty of sunscreen and limit your time outside as much as you can.
Things to Do
Though there are many things you should avoid, there are also certain steps you need to take to prepare your skin and body before treatment for it to be the safest and most effective.
Take Antiviral Medication
Your physician may recommend that you take antiviral medication before your procedure, especially if you have a history of recurring cold sores in or around your mouth. The two most commonly used medications are Acyclovir and Valacyclovir.
Acyclovir, also known as Zovirax, is taken between two days to one week before treatment and up to two weeks after treatment. Valacyclovir is taken at least two days before the peel and 10 to 14 days after the peel.
If you have certain health conditions and are going to have a deep peel treatment, then your doctor may recommend that you take an antibiotic for a period of time before and after the procedure. This will help you to avoid any potential infection due to your medical condition.
Use Prescribed Lotions/Creams
Your doctor may prescribe a healing and moisturizing lotion before treatment depending on which type of peel you will be undergoing. He or she may recommend that you use glycolic acid for two weeks before treatment if you will be doing a light peel. This will help your skin heal more easily and peel uniformly.
If you will undergo a light or medium peel, a retinoid cream like Retin-A or tretinoin may be used to help speed up the healing process and shorten your treatment’s duration.
Use a Bleaching Agent
Your doctor may also recommend that you use a bleaching agent like hydroquinone with the retinoid cream to help prevent the darkening of your skin during treatment. This is typically recommended for people with darker complexions.
Arrange a Ride Home
This step is only necessary if you will be getting a deep peel. Sedation is often used for deep peels to penetrate the deeper skin layer more effectively. If you know you will be getting sedated for your procedure, then make sure you plan for someone to drive you home for your personal safety.
Completing Your Peel: What to Expect
Now that you know what you should and should not do before you get a chemical peel treatment, you may want to know what to expect during and after the procedure. The doctor will first clean your face with an oil- or water-based cleanser and dry it. He or she will then perform and complete the procedure. After your skin has peeled and you’ve healed, you will have smoother, more even, and more youthful skin depending on which type of procedure you chose.
During a light peel, the doctor will apply the solution using a cotton ball, brush, sponge, or gauze. After a short wait, the doctor will apply a wash or neutralizing solution to remove the chemical solution from your skin. Once the procedure is done, the doctor may apply a protective ointment like petroleum jelly to soothe the skin.
During a medium peel, the doctor will apply the solution using gauze or a cotton-tipped applicator. Then your doctor will apply cool compresses to the skin to soothe it and may also give you a hand-held fan to cool the skin.
Once the procedure is done, the doctor may apply petroleum jelly and recommend that you use over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen or Aleve. You may also be scheduled for a checkup sometime soon after the treatment.
During a deep peel, the doctor will sedate you with IV fluids and use a cotton-tipped applicator to apply the acid solution to the skin, turning it white or gray. This treatment will be done in at 15- to 20-minute intervals, which can cause the treatment to take about 90 minutes for a full-facial peel. Once the procedure is done, the doctor will apply a watertight dressing to the treated skin and may also prescribe painkillers.
Conclusion: Chemical Peels and You
We know how important your skin is to you and do everything we can to give you the results you desire. If you have any further questions about chemical peels, contact Atomic Dermatology today and set up a consult at our office in Pasco, WA. We will be happy to help you with your skin care needs. We look forward to hearing from you!