Chemical Peels work to enhance the skin’s appearance. During this treatment, a chemical solution is applied to the skin, that causes it “blister” and eventually peel off. The new skin is typically smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin.

Chemical Peels can be administered to the face, neck, or hands. They can be used to:

  1. Reduce fine lines under the eyes and around the mouth.
  2. Treat wrinkles due to sun damage and aging.
  3. Improve the appearance of mild scars.
  4. Treat specific kinds of acne.
  5. Reduce age spots, freckles, and dark patches (Melasma) due to pregnancy or taking birth control pills.
  6. Improve the overall appearance and feel of skin.

Areas of sun damage might improve after chemical peeling.

Following a Chemical Peel, skin is temporarily more sensitive to the sun, so wear sunscreen every day. It should say “broad spectrum” on the label, meaning it protects against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. In addition, it should be a physical sunscreen and be above SPF 30. Limit your time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and wear a wide-brimmed hat.

Who Would Benefit from a Chemical Peel?

In General, fair-skinned and light-haired patients are better candidates for Chemical Peels. If you have darker skin, you may also have good results, depending upon the type of problem being treated. But you also may be more likely to develop an uneven skin tone following the procedure.

Skin sags, bulges, and more severe wrinkles do not respond well to chemical peels. They may need other kinds of cosmetic surgical procedures, such as Laser Resurfacing, a Facelift, Brow Lift, Eyelid Lift, or Soft Tissue Filler (Collagen or Fat). A Cosmetic Surgeon can help determine the most suitable treatment type for you.

Prior to Your Chemical Peel

Tell your doctor if you have any history of scarring, Cold Sores that continually reoccur, or facial X-rays.

Before you receive a Chemical Peel, your doctor may ask you to stop taking certain drugs and prepare your skin by using other medications, such as Retin-A, Renova, or Glycolic Acid. The doctor may also prescribe antibiotics or antiviral drugs.

Work with your doctor to determine the depth of your peel. This decision depends on the condition of your skin and your goals for treatment.

Ask your doctor beforehand whether you will need to have someone drive you home after your peel.

The Science Behind Chemical Peels

You can undergo a Chemical Peel in a doctor’s office or in a surgery center. It’s an outpatient procedure, meaning there’s no need to stay overnight.

The professional who administers your peel will first clean your skin thoroughly. Then he or she will apply one or more chemical solutions—such as Glycolic Acid, Trichloroacetic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, or Carbolic Acid (Phenol)—to small sections of your skin. That creates a controlled wound, allowing new skin to emerge.

During a Chemical Peel, most people experience a burning sensation that lasts approximately 5 to 10 minutes, followed by a stinging sensation. Putting cool compresses on the skin may alleviate that stinging. You may need pain medication during or after a deeper peel.

Recovery After a Chemical Peel

Based on the type of Chemical Peel, a reaction similar to sunburn transpires after the procedure. Peeling typically involves redness followed by scaling that ceases within 3 to 7 days. Mild peels may be repeated at 1 to 4 week intervals until you get the look you desire.

Medium-depth and deep peeling may result in swelling in addition to blisters that may break, crust, turn brown, and peel off over a period of 7 to 14 days. Medium-depth peels may be repeated in 6 to 12 months if needed.

Following treatment, you may need bandages for several days on part or all of the skin that was treated.

You’ll need to avoid the sun for several months after a Chemical Peel since your new skin will be fragile.

Possible Chemical Peel Complications

Some skin types are more likely to develop a temporary or permanent color change in the skin following a Chemical Peel. Taking birth control pills, future pregnancy, or a family history of brownish discoloration on the face may make that more likely.

There is a small risk of scarring in certain areas of the face. Some people may be more likely to scar. If scarring does occur, it can often be treated with a good outcome.

For people with a history of Herpes outbreaks, there is a minor risk of reactivating Cold Sores. Your doctor can prescribe medication to prevent or treat that.