Do Chemical Peels Hurt?

Today, there are hundreds of skincare treatments to choose from that are meant to improve the skin on our faces. Among these options are dermabrasion, microneedling, dermablading, various facials, and chemical peels.

We always get questions about any type of treatment or procedure, and one we often hear is “Do chemical peels hurt?” Today, we are going to answer this common question and a few others that relate to the discomfort that may be experienced during or after a chemical peel.

What Are Chemical Peels Used For?

References to chemical peels date back to between 69 and 30 BC in ancient Egypt, with references made to peeling applications made with salt and soda. In fact, there are references to Queen Cleopatra bathing in donkey’s milk to enhance her skin’s beauty. Research has discovered that donkey’s milk is rich in lactic acid, vitamins, and antioxidants, and it also contains an agent that inhibits melanin synthesis (keeps the skin from darkening). While we are not entirely sure of Cleopatra’s beauty regime, it is quite likely that she did use donkey’s milk as a combination of chemical peel with vitamins and hydration to keep her skin healthy and glowing.

Additionally, it was recently the subject of a study published by the Journal of Frontiers in Medicine that showed that donkey’s milk was effective in reversing damage to skin caused by UV rays and restoring the skin’s protective barrier function.

What Is Used In A Chemical Peel?

The chemical peels that are performed today by professionals often use salicylic acid, which has been referenced in texts that date back to 1882, where detailed descriptions of chemical peels were written. Another common ingredient in deeper-reaching chemical peels is phenol (carbolic acid), which dates back to 1899, when a dermatologist named Hebra outlined the chemicals peeling properties. Glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid, and lactic acid are also used in the facial chemical peels offered today. These different chemicals each soak through to different depths in the skin’s layers, causing it to peel off. Carbolic acid (phenol) is used in the most intense treatments and reaches deep within the skin’s layers. The chemical used in a patient’s facial peel is dependent on their desired results.

So the bottom line is that most often, chemical peels are used to improve the look, texture, and health of the skin. They are usually used to treat the skin on the face, but they can be used on the back or other areas of the body as well. Chemical peels can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as lighten dark spots.

Do Deep Chemical Peels Hurt?

Most patients describe a chemical peel as feeling tingly, or they may feel a bit of stinging. The stronger the acid, the more opportunity there is for the peel to cause discomfort. That being said, most trained professionals use a special numbing solution that is either added to the peel or applied to the face in advance to numb the treatment areas. Normally, the patient is provided with a hand-held battery-operated fan to help alleviate any warm or tingly feeling. As a rule, the chemical peels that are done today are not painful.

Do Chemical Peels Hurt When They Are Healing?

You will be given instructions on how to care for your skin after your chemical peel, and depending on the depth of the peel, it can take anywhere from 3 to 14 days to complete the peeling process.

Patients who have undergone a deep chemical peel reported that their faces felt like they had a mild sunburn for a day or two. Also, most reported that a few hours after their treatment, the skin on the face felt tight, especially around the mouth area. As their peeling commenced, this tight feeling went away.

Many patients report that as their face is healing from the peel, they experience itching but they do not report feeling any pain or serious discomfort. Using the topical creams and salves recommended by their doctor during their healing process helped alleviate the itching and the feeling of tightness.

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