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Risks & Benefits

A chemical peel is a procedure in which an acid solution is used to remove dead and damaged upper skin layers to smooth and refine the skin’s texture. When performed by a skilled professional, a chemical peel can safely reduce wrinkles and correct skin tone. A qualified dermatologist will take the time to discuss whether your goals and expectations for the procedure are realistic. He or she should also discuss with you all chemical peel benefits and risks.

Benefits of Chemical Face Peels

Chemical peels are typically used to restore a youthful, vibrant appearance to wrinkly, blotchy, sun-damaged skin. There are three main types of chemical face peels, and each has unique benefits for the skin. The light chemical peel improves acne scars and skin texture, and reduces the effects of sun damage. The medium chemical peel improves acne as well. The medium peel also smoothes fine surface wrinkles, and corrects pigment problems such as age spots. The deep chemical peel helps treat sun-damaged skin, eliminates deep, coarse wrinkles, and can remove pre-cancerous growths. A cosmetic dermatologist can advise you on which peel is right for you.

Are Chemical Peels Safe?

With most chemical peels, adverse reactions are rare, but can include scarring, numbness, and infection. Following mild to medium peels, patients can expect some relatively common chemical peel side effects, such as mild irritation, redness, and peeling. These side effects will usually last for only a few days. Stronger chemical peels generally take more recovery time, and the peeling and/or crusting of the skin is typically more pronounced. As with any medical procedure, patients who decide to undergo a chemical peel should carefully follow their doctors’ instructions for pre- and post-procedure care so that they minimize the potential for adverse side effects.

The majority of patients who undergo a chemical peel suffer no serious side effects as a result of the procedure, and most patients say that they would gladly repeat the treatment. However, potential severe risks of chemical peels include permanent scarring, permanent pigment change for people with darker skin, and chemical burns. Because chemical peels can cause adverse reactions, prior to undergoing any chemical peel treatment you should provide your doctor with a complete medical history and tell your doctor if you have:

  • a history of heart disease
  • recurring fever blisters or cold sores
  • a tendency to scar

Deep Chemical Peel Risks and Medical Considerations

There are certain risks and medical considerations exclusive to the deep chemical peel, or phenol peel. Because deep chemical peels can cause permanent darkening of the skin, called hyperpigmentation, or permanent lightening of the skin, called hypopigmentation, they are generally not recommended for patients with darker skin. Phenol peels pose a special risk for patients who have a family history of heart disease, so any patient considering the procedure should inform his or her physician in the pre-treatment consultation of any family connection to heart problems. Additionally, because deep chemical peels generally require anesthesia, there is a risk of anesthesia-related complications occurring during the procedure.

Use DocShop to Locate a Cosmetic Dermatologist in Your Area

To learn more about chemical peel risks and benefits, you should talk to a highly qualified cosmetic dermatologist. Visit DocShop's directory to find listings of board-certified dermatologists in your area.

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