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Can a Chemical Peel Cause a Cold Sore?

I have a tendency to get cold sores and I was wondering if having a chemical peel can bring these out.  I am thinking about starting a series of glycolic acid or possibly salicylic acid peels and need to know.

Doctor Answers (24)

A chemical peel can definitely lead to a cold sore

+3

Whenever any treatment is done to the face or lips including procedures such as a chemical peel, filler injections, or laser resurfacing there is always a chance that a cold sore can develop.  It is very important that you tell your physician that you have a history of getting cold sores.  in this way the doctor can prepare you before hand by giving you a medication called Valtrex which will prevent the outbreak.  The reason being is that if you do have an outbrak after a procedure, there is a chance of scarring.  Prevention is the key!

Dr. Halem


New York Dermatologic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Chemical Peels can cause cold sores

+3

Any trauma (including laser or peels) can cause reactivation of cold sores. It is important that your plastic surgeon or dermatologist take a complete history including whether you have had cold sores.

If you have you may be at increased risk for reactivation. Typically medications can be started prior to your treatments that will minimize the chance of reactivation.

I hope this helps!

Steven Williams, MD



Steven H. Williams, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

A chemical peel can cause a reactivation of the herpes virus that leads to cold sores

+2

A chemical peel can cause a reactivation of the herpes virus that leads to cold sores. Some 90% of people are infected or have been infected by the Herpes Virus simplex 1 that cause oral herpes. Chemical peels, resurfacing, dermabrasion all stimulate the skin that can reactivate the virus that usually resides in the sensory nerves (dorsal ganglion).

These peels or procedures stimulate the nerves, decrease barriers and active the virus to come down the nerves to the cause the cold sores. They don't actually lead to a new infection, they just reactivate the virus that has been there since childhood. Usually if the peel is more than superficial, I will prescribe acyclovir, or vacyclovir as prophylaxis. I don't always do that for superficial peels like glycolic, low strenght tricholoracetic acid, or jessner peels, etc. Laser resurfacing, dermabrasion, and medium to deep depth chemical peels usually require prophylaxis.

Philip Young, MD
Bellevue Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

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Any Form of Trauma to the Lip Can Cause a Cold Sore

+2

The fact is that any form of lip trauma, in the form of scratch, burn, or bruise can trigger a cold sore. More specifically, I have seen patients have cold sores after injectables, chemical peels, laser treatments, Dermabrasion, etc. I generally pre-treat any patient having a skin resurfacing procedure with anti-viral medication (Valtrex, etc.) to minimize occurrences.

Stephen Prendiville, MD
Fort Myers Facial Plastic Surgeon
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Cold Sore with Chemical Peel Skin Resurfacing

+2

Yes, one can have a breakout of their cold sores with any skin resurfacing, such as lasers, chemical peels, or dermabrasion. Cold sores are due to a virus, and may come out during times of stress or skin treatment.

Any skin resurfacing treatment (laser, peel, or dermabrasion) has a preparation guide and post-treatment guide provided by your cosmetic specialist or dermatologist. To reduce the incidence of cold sore eruption, your aesthetic specialist will provide antiviral medication prior to treatment, which may also continue after treatment.

Best of luck.

Houtan Chaboki, MD
Washington DC Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 50 reviews

Chemical peels and laser treatments can cause cold sores... Precautions may be appropriate

+2

Hi there-

Yes, if you carry the virus that causes cold sores it is possible, but not certain, that you will develop them after having a chemical peel.

Make your Aesthetician aware of this concern and typically if the problem develops a prescription for an anti-viral medication can be prescribed for you.

If it seems that you develop them with each peel it is a good idea to take the anti-viral for 3 days- the day prior to your treatment, the day of and the day following. This can work to prevent the lesions from developing at all.

Not everyone will have this reaction however, even if they are prone to having cold sores

Armando Soto, MD, FACS
Orlando Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 103 reviews

Cold sore activation after chemical peels or laser resurfacing can scar

+2

Any kind of chemical peel, e.g. salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peel or laser resurfacing, should be performed under supervision of board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon. Prophylactic administration of antiviral medication such as acyclovir, valcyclovir or famciclovir is important, particularly for those with prior history of cold sores as the herpes virus can be scattered to the entire treated area and if not intervened appropriately, can lead to scarring, pigmentation.

William Ting, MD
Bay Area Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

Chemical Peel and Cold Sore

+2

Chemical peeling can trigger a cold sore (fever blister) not only on the lips but elsewhere on the face. We treat all our patients undergoing chemical peeling with anti-viral medication, even if they have no history of cold sores. It can be very problematic to have an outbreak while healing from a chemical peel. One can get serious infecions, which can result in scarring and/or permanent discoloration.

Channing R. Barnett, MD
New York Dermatologist
4.5 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Yes, TCA peels can cause cold sores

+2

Yes, TCA peels can certainly induce the development of a cold sore particularly in patients that have a propensity for developing them. In these cases we typically place the patient on an anti-viral medication to prevent cold sores. That's why it is so important to provide a complete history to your doctor prior to undergoing any procedures.

Ritu Saini, MD
New York Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Peels can trigger fever blisters

+2

Chemical peels can trigger cold sores, or fever blister outbreaks in patients. If you have a history of cold sores, be sure and tell your physician. You will need to take Valtrex (or an equivalent) antiviral medication prophylactically before your peel. Cold sore outbreaks can be more severe when they are triggered by chemical peels, so it is important to discuss this with your dermatologist. However, I would not let this history stop you from getting a peel. You just need to take medicine before your peel.

Mandy Lynn Warthan, MD
Dallas Dermatologist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.