Question: I am a lifeguard and even applying sunscreen regularly has not shielded me completely from the sun damaging my skin. After I have a chemical peel to correct my sun-damaged skin tone, when can I return to lifeguarding?
Answer: The answer to that question really depends on what type of a chemical peel or laser peel you have performed. If it is very superficial, you can most likely apply a sunblock and go back to lifeguarding the following day. If it is deeper and requires a period of time to heal, then you need to wait until the healing process is complete before you can apply the sunblock and then go back to your lifeguarding. For instance, some of our chemical and laser peels require a good three days of the use of a greasy-type occlusive emollient as, during that time period, there tends to be some weeping and oozing from the skin; we do not want this to dry and crust.
After those three days are up, we can then apply a sunblock and you can resume your activities outdoors. Other even deeper peels can require six to seven days of downtime, during which you would not be able to be outside lifeguarding. Even after these deeper peels heal, you may even want to take one more week off due to the significant sensitivity of the skin before you go back outside. Even after you return to lifeguarding, you are going to want to wear a wide-brimmed hat and a very effective sunblock to prevent any unexpected and unwanted pigmentary changes to the skin. So, in essence, depending on which chemical peel or laser peel is performed, you may or may not have any downtime or could even have downtime up to two weeks.
Ultimately, we provide rather detailed postoperative instruction sheets for patients, and we discuss these issues prior to the actual procedure so that they are fully prepared for any downtime that is going to be expected.