Peels and Complications

Like all procedures, chemical peels also have their fair share of unavoidable side effects. However, the complications of lighter strength peels are minor. Complications are uncommon if the health professional performing the peel is properly trained. The majority of complications are associated with the higher strength peels. The most common complications include:

Blocked pores (comedomes) or pustules (like acne) may occur from the irritation of the peel or the other chemicals used.

Some individuals do develop an outbreak of herpes simplex on the lips. This can be avoided by taking acyclovir prior to the procedure

With the deeper strength peels, skin infections can occur after the procedure. The majority are bacterial in nature but sometimes a rare fungal infection can also occur. These infections can be treated by a short course of antibiotics

Scarring: With the deeper strength peels, scarring can and does occur. The scarring is permanent and difficult to reverse

Discoloration. In dark skinned individuals, localized patches of skin discoloration can occur. Hypopigmentation in fair skinned individuals is almost universal and should be an accepted sequela of the procedure.

Hypopigmentation is most likely in those with darker skin or who had a pigmentation problem. This is difficult to reverse and it is highly recommended that one wear sunscreens for 6 months after the procedure. The discoloration on the skin may be reduced by the use of the bleaching agent, hydroxyquinone.

Numbness: Rarely with deeper strength peels, the skin damage is severe and can damage the nerves on the face. These individuals will complain of numbness around the lips or the chin. The numbness does reverse with time.

Some individuals develop moderate to intense pain on the face after a peel. This is a rare occurrence but does occur. It is difficult to know before hand who will develop this side effect.

Conscientious attention to every detail of the peel and experience with the procedure are necessary

In general the outcome after peels is good. However the patient must have a realistic expectation of the procedure, the recovery period and the duration of the results.

After a deep peel, the skin is always fresh and younger looking. In most cases, 4 weeks after the peel, the skin may appear wrinkled. After it begins to thicken, many of these wrinkles resolve over the ensuing months.

A repeat peel can be performed after 6-12 months if necessary. Superficial peels can be repeated every few weeks if needed. Many superficial peels do not produce the same effects as a deep peel. The skin continues to age after the procedure, but the effects of the peel are permanent.

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