A chemical peel (Dr Young of Bellevue Washington) 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.
Thanks for reading, Dr Young
Dr Young specializes in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and is located in Bellevue near Seattle, Washington