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'll 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 using glycolic acid, 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. Too much sun up to two months before the procedure can cause permanent irregular pigmentation in treated areas. Discuss sun protection and acceptable sun exposure with your doctor.
- Avoid makeup and hair products. Your doctor might recommend avoiding cosmetics, moisturizer and hair products — such as conditioner, mousse and hair spray — for 24 hours before a medium or deep chemical 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.
- Bernstein EF. Chemical peels. Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2002;21:27.
- Friedman S, et al. Chemical peels, dermabrasion and laser therapy. 2009;55:223.
- Landau M. Chemical peels. Clinics in Dermatology. 2008;26:200.
- Wolff K, et al. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=3007358. Accessed March 27, 2012.
- Chemical peel. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/chemical-peel.html. Accessed March 27, 2012.
- Chemical peel information. American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. http://www.asds.net/_ConsumerPage.aspx?id=508&terms=chemical%20peel#. Accessed March 27, 2012.
- Facial peels and laser surgery. The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. http://www.aafprs.org/patient/procedures/resurfacing.html. Accessed March 27, 2012.
- Roenigk RK, et al. Roenigk's Dermatologic Surgery: Current Techniques in Procedural Dermatology. New York, N.Y.: Informa Healthcare;2007:763.
- Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 18, 2012.