It happens so subtly that it can feel like it occurs overnight. One night, after washing your face, you’re patting yourself dry when you see them—really see them—for the first time: the fine lines beneath your eyes, or around your mouth, or across your forehead.
Fine lines are typically the first signs of aging. Inevitably, as the collagen and elastin beneath our skin breaks down, those lines will deepen and become wrinkles. While there’s no way to stop the effects of aging, that shouldn’t imply that you should sit back and let nature take its course.
In fact, beyond minimizing your sun exposure and leading a healthy lifestyle, chemical peels have proven to be quite effective at diminishing many of the signs of aging on the face, hands, neck, and chest. So, let’s take a deeper dive to better understand what a chemical peel is and how it works.
What to expect
In addition to diminishing aging signs, dermatologists also use chemical peels to treat some types of acne and conditions that discolor the skin. In either case, following a treatment, you can expect to see:
- Fewer lines and wrinkles
- More even skin color
- Brighter complexion
- Smoother skin
Before getting a chemical peel, your dermatologist may recommend that you follow a pre-peel skin care plan for two to four weeks. In some patients, it can enhance the results and reduce potential side effects.
On the day of the peel, the treated skin will first be thoroughly cleansed. After you’re prepped, your dermatologist will apply the peel quickly and evenly. And then they’ll watch your skin carefully so that they can remove the peel at just the right time.
There are three different types of chemical peels, the most significant of which is a deep peel. For a deep peel, you’ll be given general anesthesia beforehand. And the skin is treated in one small section at a time to limit the effects on the heart and lungs.
Here’s a breakdown of what to expect after each type of chemical peel:
“Lunchtime peel” The redness should subside within a week, often even less than that. (Some scaling may develop within that period, too.) But you should be able to start wearing makeup again right after the treatment. However, it may take three to five peels to get the results you want.
Medium peel Healing time ranges from a week to two weeks, during which time your skin will be red and swollen. At some point during the second week, the treated skin will crust and peel off. You can start wearing camouflaging makeup within five to seven days of the peel, though you’ll need to avoid the sun completely until your skin heals. You’ll also need to soak the treated skin on a daily basis and apply ointment after each soak.
Deep peel Healing time lasts between two to three weeks, and the treated skin will be bandaged throughout that period. For the first two weeks, you’ll need to soak the treated skin four to six times each day and apply ointment after each soak. You’ll also need to follow-up with your dermatologist several times over the first week and avoid the sun completely for three to six months.
That may sound a little daunting, but dermatologists have been performing chemical peels for more than 50 years with an excellent safety record. Even more, it’s safe for all skin types and colors. It’s critical, though, that the procedure be performed by a board-certified dermatologist, who has in-depth knowledge of the skin.
Another big positive: You’ll notice the difference as soon as your skin heals. This isn’t a treatment where it’ll take months for the results to gradually become evident.