When the procedure is finished, you may be feeling drugged, and you'll need someone to drive you home. When you get there, you may want to sleep for a few hours until the drugs work their way out of your system. The next morning you will likely feel more normal.
You'll often leave the doctor's office with a dressing on your face or sometimes a layer of special ointment on your skin. There are many different schools of thought about dressings, and doctors are continually learning more about which are most effective. I believe that dressings are important for recovery from a peel deep enough to remove wrinkles effectively. We currently like a dressing that looks like clear food wrap, but is much more expensive and lets air penetrate to the skin to a certain degree. For lighter peels, ointment may be used. In some cases, tap water splashes every hour while awake are sufficient, or possibly no treatment at all. For very deep peels, it's helpful to leave dressings in place for about two to three days. A clear benefit is that most patients have virtually no pain when modern full-face dressings are used for several days. They describe their dressings as annoying but not painful. For lighter peels used to treat minor facial problems, a dressing may be removed sooner or may not be needed at all.
Our deep-peel patients leave the office with their faces wrapped like a mummy or "the invisible woman." The eyes and lips are exposed, and may swell, and they look very strange at first. One patient's four-year-old son became very frightened when his mom returned home with her face bandaged. He wouldn't let her near him until her face normalized. He even had nightmares. Depending on the depth of your laser peel, you might want to make arrangements to have very young children stay at Grandma's for a few days, or prepare them well for the event.'
Again, pain isn't a big issue with most laser peel recoveries when the full-face dressing is used. Some people have a burning sensation. If you are having much pain, see the doctor right away — you may be having a cold sore outbreak and this might cause scarring, especially if it's not treated properly. Others have itching, and special creams may be used to relieve this. The most irritating thing is the night-and-day facial wrap and the strange feeling of your swollen face. For the first day or two, it will help to ice your face several times a day for ten to twenty minutes with a washcloth (or the dressing) between the skin and the ice.
You may also find that the swelling (and sometimes the dressing) makes it difficult to move your mouth comfortably for the first couple of days. Some people lose a little weight because they don't eat much. When the dressing is removed, your face will be red and still swollen. Your skin will feel dry and tight, and you should keep it lubricated with the cream your doctor recommends.
Depending on the depth of your peel, you can expect to look presentable with makeup in one to two weeks. During the second and third weeks, the swelling decreases, but redness remains. Don't expect to lose all the redness for up to several months. You may also experience some temporary darkening, which can be treated with bleaching creams and should disappear in time. Remember, the depth of the treatment is proportional to the risk, the recovery and the results.
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