Chemical Peels: Part 4

Side effects and warnings for using chemical peels |

Part 4: Side Effects and Warnings

Before getting chemical peels, either from professionals or at-home kits, make sure you are well educated about their side effects and dangers. Chemical peel side effects range from slight redness and irritation to permanent skin discoloration. The deeper the kind of peel you get, the greater the reward and the greater the risk.

Below are some of the common side effects and precautions of chemical peel use:

  • Redness and irritation:
    Redness and irritation are the most common side effects of chemical peels. Light peels will leave your skin red for a day, while deeper peels will leave your skin red for two or more days. Super deep peels, where your skin physically peels, might give your skin a pinkish tone for several weeks after you finish peeling. Irritation from chemical peels include dry, itchy, or flaky skin. These side effects will usually go away on their own and won't hinder everyday activities. Post-peel, you should avoid using harsh products, such as those with acids or retinoids, because they will worsen any redness and irritation. You should also avoid exfoliating and rubbing your skin. Moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup, however, are safe to use post-peel.

  • Sun sensitivity:
    After you get any chemical peel done, you want to avoid the sun. You can use a good sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher, ¼ teaspoon all over your face half an hour before you go out) if you're going outside, but I tend to stay indoors and not put anything on my skin while the peel is fresh. After you heal from your peel, you still have to wear a good sunscreen to prevent any further damage to your skin. While you are indoors, be aware that sunlight still makes it through windows. Whenever I get a chemical peel, I wear a big UV proof hat, even when I'm inside. It seems a bit extreme, but you really don't want to get any sun exposure when your skin is so sensitive because that could cause parts of your skin to permanently brown.

  • Swelling and/or peeling skin:
    Mild or light peels usually do not cause your skin to swell or peel. Medium-strength peels, such as TCA peels, may cause swelling and peeling (in flakes instead of in dramatic, big sheets or skin). Both swelling and peeling skin will subside in around one week. However, if you get a deeper peel, that time may vary.

  • Infection and/or scarring:
    Infection and scarring are not very common, but they are more likely with deep peels, such as phenol peels. Taking proper care of your skin post-peel drastically reduces the chances of infection and scarring. Scarring, however, will depend on your skin type. If you have skin prone to scarring, you should probably avoid getting deep peels because you cannot predict how your skin will heal. It doesn't mean that if you get a deep peel, you will automatically get an infection and scar, but there is a greater risk of those two things happening the deeper the peel you get.

  • Pigmentation changes:
    For some people, chemical peels can cause skin to depigment, or in other words, turn a lighter color than the surrounding area. This can happen in patches on your skin. It can also occur when the places the peel was applied leaves a line of demarcation on your face. Light, olive, and light brown skin tones tend to do well with chemical peels. However, those with darker skin tones run a higher risk of this discoloration. The opposite, or browning of the skin, can also happen. This usually occurs when people expose their newly peeled skin to the sun without adequate protection or if people use too strong of a peel right away and permanently damage their skin. Proper post-peel care and smart peel selection can prevent this from happening. In addition, dark spots and red marks you're trying to fade may appear darker right after the peel. This is usually temporary and will fade with time or with more peels. They look temporarily darker because the chemical peel is bringing the pigmentation closer to the surface of your skin.

  • Who should not use chemical peels:
    Chemical peels are not suitable for everyone, especially high concentration peels or medium-strength peels like TCA peels. People who are immune impaired, pregnant, lactating, on Roaccutane, or prone to keloids/scarring should not use chemical peels. Similarly, those with active infections, skin diseases, or overall poor health should avoid getting chemical peels. People with Rosacea or those with sensitive skin may also want to stay away from these facial treatments. The acid in the peel solutions could inflame skin even more or be overly irritating. Generally, you should get chemical peels only if your skin is non-irritated. Check with your dermatologist, plastic surgeon, or aesthetician for further clarification.

Because of the numerous side effects, it's usually best to get a chemical peel done in a professional setting. That way help will be at your finger tips on the off chance that something goes wrong.

Like all products, chemical peels take time to work. It takes around 2 weeks to one month, depending on the type and strength, after the peel to see the full effects of the peel. Even if your skin doesn't look like how you expected it to look right after you finish your peel, don't be too disappointed. Your skin will continue to improve in the coming weeks if you've taken care of it properly, even if it seems like the peel didn't work!

Be careful when you are getting chemical peels because you are putting an acid on your skin. No one cares more about your skin than yourself, so whatever you do, make sure you do it safely.

Chemical peels can help fix and repair many unwanted skin conditions, but they must be used with caution.

Last updated: September 20, 2012

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Glycolic Acid Peels

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