Before you have a chemical peel, your doctor will likely:
- Review your medical history. Be prepared to answer questions about current and past medical conditions — especially any heart, kidney or liver conditions if you're considering a deep chemical peel. Tell your doctor about any medications you're taking or have taken recently — particularly those that might make your skin sensitive to the sun — as well as any cosmetic procedures you've had in the past. Be sure to tell your doctor if you've been using a retinoid cream (tretinoin), which can enhance the penetration of some chemical peels.
- Do a physical exam. Your doctor will inspect your skin and the area to be treated. This will help him or her determine what type of chemical peel you might benefit from most and how your physical features — for example, the tone and thickness of your skin — might affect your results.
- Discuss your expectations. Talk with your doctor about your motivations and expectations, as well as the potential risks. Make sure you understand how many treatments you might need, how long it will take to heal and what your results might be.
If you decide to proceed with the chemical peel, you might also need to:
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- Take antiviral medication. If you have a history of herpes infections around your mouth, your doctor will likely prescribe an antiviral medication before and after treatment to help prevent a viral infection.
- Use glycolic acid lotion. If you're having a light chemical peel, your doctor might recommend using a glycolic acid lotion for two weeks before treatment to ensure a more uniform peel. Using the lotion ahead of time also helps you find out if you're sensitive to glycolic acid.
- Use a retinoid cream. If you're having a light or medium chemical peel, your doctor might recommend using a retinoid cream (tretinoin) beforehand to shorten your treatment time and speed the healing process.
- Use a bleaching agent. Your doctor might recommend using a bleaching agent (hydroquinone) and a retinoid cream (tretinoin) before or after the procedure to prevent skin darkening.
- Avoid unprotected sun exposure. It's important to consistently use sunscreen at least four weeks before the procedure to help prevent irregular pigmentation in treated areas. Discuss sun protection and acceptable sun exposure with your doctor.
- Avoid certain cosmetic treatments and certain types of hair removal. About a week before the peel, stop waxing or using depilatory hair removal products. Also, avoid bleaching, massages or facial scrubs in the week before your peel.
- Arrange for a ride home. If you'll be sedated during a medium or deep chemical peel, you'll need help getting home after the procedure.
- Bolognia JL, et al. Chemical and mechanical resurfacing. In: Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 20, 2015.
- Chemical peel. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/chemical-peel.html. Accessed March 27, 2015.
- Flint PW, et al. Management of aging skin. In: Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 20, 2015.
- Anitha B. Prevention of complications in chemical peeling. Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery. 2010;3:186.
- Langsdon PR, et al. Latest chemical peel innovations. Facial and Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America. 2012;20:119.
- Golden AK. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 6, 2015.
- Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 6, 2015.