I got the peel done around 5:30 Wednesday night. I was nervous. I don’t know why I didn’t think to ask beforehand, but I didn’t ask until I got to the doctor’s office what the pain was like. I suppose if they gave you the truth in simpler terms, they would probably have trouble selling this peel, much less the deeper kind of peels (Phenol) that they do today.
I asked how painful it would be when I was in the waiting room. The answer I got was a hesitant “it will feel like someone is burning your face.” Like laser hair removal? I asked. “No… that is more momentary, while this is going to be on your face for a few minutes, and because it’s uncomfortable, it will feel like it’s longer than that.” That is what the receptionist that got this peel done before said. “The feeling is different for everyone.” I could tell by the look on her face - piteous and worrisome - that she was sugar-coating her statement a bit. But it is true that pain is experienced differently person-to-person.
When I saw the doctor, I asked him. He said I would feel “discomfort” and that they would blow cold air on me because that would lessen the “discomfort”.
They put the first layer on. It felt hot, but bearable. The doctor was kind, his tone was even and soothing. The nurse was blowing cold air on my face. He said that he would be putting the second layer on, and they would just wait for the skin to turn a greyish white and then they would know it was finished. He asked if I was ready. I nodded…
Now, I don’t know if you consider yourself a person with a high tolerance for pain. But I do. When I get laser hair removal done, I do not use an ice pack, nor do I use numbing gel. I’ve broken both my ankles, endured a slight - but jolting crash - thanks to a wave, into a beach pier. I’ve had root canals, teeth extractions, dental implants, braces, and a permanent retainer. I’ve had jaw surgery due to a misplaced jaw that was pushing on nerves in my neck that was causing me every day headaches. I have more than a dozen tattoos covering my upper arms, one partial shoulder, a tiny one on my lower left torso, my upper back including my shoulder blades and lower right back. I’ve also had piercings before. I have not, however, experienced child birth. Which is in my book, the most painful thing I’ve seen portrayed regularly in pop culture. They never show anyone having an “easy” pregnancy. They always show some woman screaming at any/everyone. They often show women who have sworn off drugs during childbirth asking for those same drugs when the time comes.
I mentioned earlier that pain is relative. Well, this peel was painful for me. I mean, it is literally acid on your face. It’s a chemical peel with acid in it. TCA stands for Trichloroacetic Acid. Imagine the feeling of getting sunscreen in your eye. Now imagine that sunscreen was lit aflame and then put in your eye. That’s what it felt like.
I imagine this is the piercing pain that those vampires on True Blood experience when someone puts silver on them, or they are caught in the sun. I would hiss too! I probably did. My arm involuntarily jerked from the pain. My eyes were tearing like it was a race to rehydrate the ocean. Perhaps I’m under-estimating but it was maybe over in 30 seconds, 50 seconds max… It felt like 5+ minutes. It burned a piercing hot burn that felt almost cold. Maybe it was the nurse blowing cold air on me. She really should have had two air blowers instead of one - one for each side of my burning face.
They quickly ‘neutralized’ the chemicals, I felt better after tht. I was sent home with Cetaphil cleanser and Aveeno lotion, advised to put on Aquaphor as soon as I could, and given Prednisone to take for the next 4 days.
I felt fine. A little shaken from the pain, but I was able to drive home myself and didn’t even have to take pain killers.
I had to go to a movie screening a few hours after having this done. I was fine, but I did put a bit of make-up on. I took my first dose of Prednisone at the movie. 4+ hours after getting the procedure done, I noticed my skin was darkening in spots, like I was born with a light birthmark all over my face. They didn’t say I would darken, so I took the photos below to show my doctor.
I left him a message around 9:30, washed my face, put heaps of lotion on it and went to bed.
I woke up about 30 minutes later in a panic. Why was my skin turning brown?! They said pink! They said red like a bad sunburn! Why didn’t my dermatologist call me back? He said I would just have to push 4 after I left a message and it would page him, indicating it was an urgent matter.
I started to search the web.*
All I saw were horror stories saying they got permanent hyperpigmentation. PERMANENT! Nothing said my skin browning was normal. After 2 hours of google searching… I finally saw ONE site saying that the browning was normal. This was enough to give me hope, and mental rest to get some sleep.
*Everyone agrees that searching the web was a bad idea, myself included… But I had no resources but this after waking up in a worry.