Before You Go
Questions to ask your doctor:
- Can an AHA peel be combined with a stronger peel before or after the procedure?
- Is an AHA the best peel for my skin, or will I need a stronger solution for my skin concerns?
- If I don't have oily skin, will an AHA peel still be effective for evening out my skin?
Pre-procedure prep for AHA peel: Your doctor may recommend that you first treat your skin with Retin-A, a prescription derived from vitamin A that thins out the skin's surface layer. Another possibility is the use of a skin bleacher like hydroquinone that evens out blotchy skin and other pigmentation problems, priming your skin for the peel. The pre-peel phase can last a month or more.
On the day of treatment: In anticipation of your AHA peel, it's likely that you've already been in prep mode for an entire month before. On the day of your appointment, just show up to your skin care specialist with a clean face. Any makeup will have to be washed off anyway.
What To Expect
Your skin will first be cleansed with acetone or isopropyl alcohol before the AHA peel can be spread over your face. The strength of the peel depends on the concentration of acid. AHA peels must be neutralized after the chemicals are placed on your skin. Right afterwards, your face can appear red and flaky, though the scabs won't usually appear for three or four days.
Who should do it: For mild, use-at-home formulations, at a pharmacy. Some AHA formulations have so low an acid concentration that they can be purchased in home-use kits, although these mild treatments don't have a very strong effect. Over-the-counter products can have up to 10% acid; performed by a licensed aesthetician, 30% solution may be used; and a physician may use a peel that contains up to 70% acid. The stronger AHA peels are administered in an aesthetician, plastic surgeon, or dermatologist's office.
Duration: The acid solution takes no longer than 10 minutes to apply. The chemicals are then left on your face for about 10 to 20 minutes before being wiped off (your skin care specialist will do all of this). No after-peel creams or ointments are necessary.
How Painful Is It?
Mild to moderate stinging. It's not particularly painful.
Options for anesthesia: Anesthesia is unnecessary for an AHA peel.