Chemical peel at a glance
- A chemical peel uses acid to remove the outermost layer of skin, revealing instantly younger, softer skin that has fewer imperfections.
- Ideal candidates for chemical peels have fair skin and hair, although other patients may also achieve good results depending upon their goals.
- Recovery times vary depending upon acid strength, and usually involve skin flaking, redness and stinging.
- Mild peels heal within seven days; medium and deep peels may take up to three weeks for skin to return to normal.
What is a chemical peel?
Chemical peels use acid (such as glycolic acid, lactic acid and salicylic acid) to remove the outermost layers of skin, along with many of its imperfections.
Chemical peels most commonly treat fine lines, acne scars, freckles, age spots, wrinkles and overall texture. Peels can be applied to the face, neck and hands and offer immediate aesthetic results. The procedure is typically performed on an outpatient basis.
Chemical peels are offered in three acid strengths: mild, medium and deep. The stronger the solution, the deeper it penetrates the skin and the more dramatic the results.
Milder peels are good for face, hands and neck, and can be repeated at intervals of one to four weeks (as advised by a doctor). Deep peels are good for deeper creases and take off several layers of skin at one time.
Who is a good candidate for a chemical peel?
Patients with fair skin and light hair are the ideal candidates for chemical peels. However, patients with other skin tones and hair colors can also achieve lasting results.
Our plastic surgeons will help patients determine the most appropriate type of treatment for their skin type and goals.
Chemical peel procedure
Prior to a chemical peel, a patient’s skin will be cleansed and prepped for treatment. If a patient is undergoing a deep chemical peel, they will receive general anesthesia.
After prepping, a surgeon or aesthetician will apply the acid solution evenly over the patient’s skin. Procedure times vary according to the depth of the peel. Mild peels take approximately 20 minutes.
During the procedure, patients may feel a slight burning or stinging sensation. To soothe the skin, patients will often receive a cool compress or lotion after the procedure is complete. Patients receiving a deep peel may require surgical dressing.
Over the course of the healing process, the skin will then curst over, flake or blister and then peel away – revealing smoother and younger looking skin.
Patients may need several treatments to achieve desired results.
Recovery from a chemical peel
Recovery times vary depending upon the type of chemical peel and the treatment location.
Recovery usually involves redness and stinging followed by scaling that, for mild peels, heals within three to seven days. Medium and deep chemical peels may result in blisters or swelling, and can take up to three weeks to heal.
The skin is temporarily more sensitive to the sun after a chemical peel. Patients should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day and limit sun exposure.
Risks and considerations for chemical peels
Side effects tend to be mild and include persistent redness, infection and skin discoloration. In rare cases, scarring may occur. If scarring does happen, a doctor may recommend other treatments to correct it.
Prior to a peel a patient may be asked to stop taking certain drugs, such as retinol, Accutane, glycolic acid or hormone medications. Patients are also urged to quit smoking a few weeks before and after a chemical peel.
Some skin types are more likely to develop a temporary or permanent color change of the skin after a chemical peel. Discussing these issues with your doctor and using a qualified plastic surgeon will decrease these risks.