Work together with your derm for the perfect peel

June 1, 2007

Working with your dermatologist is the key to receiving the perfect peel

Key Points

If any of these concerns warrant your attention, discuss cosmetic peel options with your dermatologist.

Cosmetic peels come in a number of strengths, ranging from the superficial to deep chemical peels, explains dermatologist Helen M. Torok, M.D., medical director, Trillium Creek Dermatology and Surgery Center, Medina, Ohio.

"But, once your skin has recovered, it looks healthier and fresher."

INITIAL CONSULT CRUCIAL Because cosmetic peels can deeply penetrate the skin, it is vital to find a dermatologist well-trained in all aspects of these procedures, Dr. Torok emphasizes.

Be prepared for the dermatologist to conduct an extensive review of your medical history and to fully examine your skin for evidence of acne, eczema, herpes simplex virus, sensitivities and other conditions, and to review your use of past and current medications for any skin condition. This ensures you are a suitable candidate for a peel. Women with a prior or current history of conditions such as eczema or sensitivities will require lower strengths of peeling agents. The color of your skin will also be a factor in what kind of cosmetic peel your dermatologist chooses. More darkly pigmented skin types are carefully evaluated to help ensure that there will be no post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or formation of keloids.

Ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid are often used for superficial peels. The levels of these ingredients are controlled by your doctor to produce specific results, which depend on how deeply into the skin the ingredients penetrate. At their lightest concentration, they are like a deep exfoliating treatment and can leave skin radiant. As the concentrations increase, however, it's important to note that you will likely experience significant redness, peeling and sometimes swelling that may take up to one week to resolve.

"Some people wrongly believe that a cosmetic peel is simply a matter of putting some chemicals on the face and peeling off the years," Dr. Torok says. "But, in fact, a cosmetic peel is a complicated and exacting procedure. Sometimes a dermatologist may determine that combining several different peels may produce the best results. This means that different peeling agents may be used on different parts of your face or neck to produce the desired result."

Whichever cosmetic peel you and your dermatologist choose, be sure to ask about recovery time and what to expect immediately and in the weeks following the procedure. This will help you make decisions concerning time away from work, if you opt for a deeper peel.