“Chemical peel gone wrong” are not the words you want to read before your chemical peel appointment. However, you need to be aware of the possible side effects and chemical peel risks that can happen if you are not careful in choosing a trustworthy (read: trained and licensed) practitioner for this treatment.
Keep reading to learn what side effects are normal, which are not, and what the potential risks are.
The most important step in making sure your chemical peel goes fine is finding an experienced practitioner to perform it.
A chemical peel is a skin treatment that intentionally destroys the epidermis, the first skin layer. In some cases, it reaches deeper, into the upper part of the dermis. Most often, it’s done by applying some type of acid that is best suited for your skin type and the severity of the condition treated.
If done improperly, it can have serious negative effects on your skin. These treatments are not one-size-fits-all and they need to match your skin needs specifically. That’s why you need to go to a trained professional who will assess your skin and provide you with the right treatment.
Image source: Freepik
When done improperly, a chemical peel can result in some complications, mainly scarring, blisters, burns, infection, and some other adverse reactions. The best way to avoid the majority of these risks is to go to a licensed professional.
Here are the most common chemical peels risks.
Scarring happens rarely and it can be handled with the use of antibiotics and steroid medications. It usually occurs if the peel was too intense for your skin or if you are disrupting the proper recovery by ripping off the peeling skin.
Blisters can be caused by deeper peels.
Sensitive areas such as the nasolabial fold and areas surrounding your mouth and eyes are especially at risk of blistering. It is also more common for younger people, but also those that have loose skin around the eyes.
Blistering is usually expected to crust over and heal on its own, but if it doesn’t, there is a point after which you should go to the doctor (usually after 2 weeks have passed).
Adverse reactions are usually in the form of an allergic reaction or an irritation. Both forms cause itching, swelling, blistering, skin burning, and pain.
Depending on the severity of your reaction, a doctor might prescribe you topical steroids or even oral medication if the reaction is very severe.
It’s important to note you should not try to treat the reaction by yourself, at home. There is a chance of making the reaction even worse and causing permanent damage to your skin.
A chemical burn is essentially a severe inflammation and irritation of the skin after one or more layers have been destroyed.
At the site of contact, you may experience redness, pain, irritation, burning, or numbness. If it’s severe, then symptoms can also include blisters and blackened, dead skin cells.
Chemical peeling should be done in a well-ventilated room. Inhaling the chemical can cause shortness of breath and coughing.
After its top layer has been removed, the skin is very sensitive to external influences, which enhances the chances of contracting bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. It can also cause various flare-ups – especially cold sores.
If the peeling agent comes in contact with the eyes, it might cause some vision changes. Accidental spillage of any chemical peel agents in the eyes can cause eye injuries in the form of corneal damage. If that happens you should visit an ophthalmologist.
To prevent this, your eyes will be covered with appropriate eye protection during the procedure.
Image source: Freepik
The harsher the chemicals, the bigger the risk. Deep chemical peels are the most intense chemical peel treatments. They penetrate into the deepest layers of your skin, causing intense skin peeling and a very meticulous aftercare regimen.
You need to be extremely careful with your aftercare because your skin will be extra sensitive and very susceptible to infections. The risks are quite a bit higher compared to light and medium chemical peel. In cases of over-exposure to phenol or carbolic acid, there can even be internal organ damage – your heart, liver, or kidneys.
So, once again, we need to highlight the importance of going to a trained professional.
As with all other cosmetic treatments, some risks are bound to exist. Chemical peels are safe when done properly (seriously – go to a professional! Ideally to a cosmetic dermatologist). These treatments are great for reversing damage already done to the skin – you just need to be careful not to further damage it after the treatment.
So, refrain from picking, rubbing, or scratching your skin. And be patient as it could take several months before you see the full effects of the peel. In the meantime, don’t forget to use SPF!