Chemical Peels FAQs
Chemical peels correct a variety of skin imperfections such as blemishes, wrinkles, and uneven pigmentation. They exfoliate the outer layers of dead skin, revealing a new skin layer with improved tone, texture, and color. In addition to full facial rejuvenation, certain types of skin peels can also be used for spot treatments and as a way to remove stretch marks or rejuvenate skin elsewhere on the body.
What are chemical skin peels?
In performing chemical peels, physicians apply alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), trichloroacetic acid (TCA), or phenol to the skin reduce or eliminate fine lines, acne scars, sun damage, and other skin imperfections. After a chemical peel, the outer layers of skin in the treated area slough off, revealing a new layer of skin. TCA and phenol skin peels require at-home recovery of two weeks or more. Light skin peels, however, are so mild that there is little recovery time, and improvement in the skin’s appearance is immediately visible.
How much do chemical peels typically cost?
Though the cost of chemical peels varies according to the physician, locale, and other factors, prices typically fall into certain ranges:
- Light chemical peels cost $150 to $300 per treatment (treatments must be repeated for optimal results)
- Medium (TCA) chemical peels cost $1,000 to $2,000 per treatment (treatments are generally repeated every two to three months)
- Deep (phenol) chemical peels can cost $2,500 to $6,000 for the full face (only one treatment is necessary)
What are the different types of chemical skin peels?
There are several types of chemical peels, each indicated for different types and degrees of skin problems.
- Light (glycolic acid or salicylic acid) chemical peels can improve rough, dry skin, as well as uneven pigmentation. They can also improve the texture of sun-damaged skin and help control acne. Because a light chemical peel is the mildest type of peel and penetrates the skin the least, multiple treatments may be necessary to achieve the desired results.
- Medium (TCA) chemical peels are best for people who want to smooth out fine wrinkles, remove superficial blemishes, and even out skin pigmentation. Medium skin peels can be used on any part of the body, and the peel depth can be adjusted to best suit the needs of the individual patient.
- Deep (phenol) chemical peels can remove major blotching, such as that caused by aging, sun exposure, or birth control pills. Deep peels can also be used to smooth deeper wrinkles. Deep skin peels are only used on the face.
- Acne chemical peels help to control acne and smooth acne scars. A mild, medium, or deep chemical peel may be used, depending on the patient’s skin condition. As with cosmetic chemical skin peels, an acne chemical peel can also reduce or eliminate wrinkles and improve skin pigmentation.
Which type of chemical peel is right for me?
Only a qualified cosmetic dermatologist or plastic surgeon can determine which type of skin peel is appropriate for you. In deciding who is a good candidate for a chemical peel, a physician must consider several factors, including the patient’s medical history, pigmentation, the skin condition to be treated (especially the extent of sun damage), and desired results.
How are chemical skin peels actually performed?
Some aspects of the chemical peel procedure differ according to the type of peel (light, medium, or deep) being administered. However, all skin peel procedures follow the same basic protocols:
- The chemical peel is administered in a doctor’s office, surgery center, or hospital by a certified and trained cosmetic dermatologist or plastic surgeon.
- If a deep chemical peel is being administered, or if the patient requests it, the patient is given a sedative to aid relaxation.
- The doctor cleanses the patient’s skin and, if necessary, applies a topical anesthetic to the treatment area.
- The doctor then applies the chemical peel solution. This solution is formulated according to each patient's specific needs and goals. It is common for the patient to feel a tingling or stinging sensation as the chemical peel is applied.
- After the skin peel solution has been on the skin for the prescribed amount of time, it is washed off with water. A soothing ointment is then applied; a thick coating of petroleum jelly is often used after deep chemical peels.
- The doctor then instructs the patient on aftercare, and the doctor may also prescribe a mild pain reliever for discomfort after the procedure, especially if a deep chemical peel was administered.
- Depending on the patient’s skin condition and the depth of the chemical peel, multiple treatments may be necessary to achieve the desired results.
Can chemical peels be performed on areas other than the face?
Though deep (phenol) peels are only appropriate for the face, the skin on any part of the body can be treated with a special mix of the chemicals used in mild and medium skin peels.
The chemical solution for body chemical peels is typically comprised of a combination of trichloroacetic acid (the main ingredient in a medium-depth skin peel) and glycolic acid (the main ingredient of a mild peel). The solution for body chemical peels is typically formulated to be slightly stronger than the chemical solution used for light or medium facial skin peels, though it is milder than the phenol solution used for deep skin peels.
As with facial chemical peels, body peels address the effects of sun damage, even out skin pigmentation, and improve skin texture. Chemical peels can also be used on the body to minimize stretch marks. Read more about treating stretch marks with chemical peels.
Will I be sedated during a chemical peel?
A local anesthetic in combination with mild or full sedation is typically used for deep chemical peels. For light and medium skin peels, no anesthetic or sedation is necessary, though patients may request a local anesthetic or mild sedation to alleviate discomfort.
Are chemical peels painful?
In general, patients only feel a mild stinging sensation during light or medium chemical peels. After the procedure, the physician may prescribe a mild pain reliever to relieve any discomfort.
Will my skin literally "peel"?
Chemical peels remove the outer layers of skin to reduce or eliminate the appearance of a number of skin imperfections and conditions. After a patient undergoes a skin peel, the treated layers of skin gradually flake away, revealing a fresh new layer of skin.
How long is the recovery period after a skin peel?
The recovery time after a chemical peel depends on the type of peel administered, because each type of peel affects the skin to a different degree.
- Light chemical peels: These mild peels require virtually no recovery time. Though the skin may be mildly irritated after the peel, patients can return to their daily activities immediately after treatment.
- Medium chemical peels: The new layer of skin appears three to seven days after treatment. About two weeks after treatment, the skin will be fully healed.
- Deep chemical peels: The new layer of skin begins to appear seven to ten days after treatment, though complete healing can take two months or longer. Patients typically take a week off from work after undergoing a deep chemical peel.
Find a Dermatologist near You
As with any medical procedure, choosing a qualified doctor for a chemical skin peel is key to undergoing a safe, successful treatment. DocShop provides a comprehensive directory to help you find a doctor in your area who performs chemical peels. Use DocShop's directory to locate a cosmetic dermatologist near you who is experienced in administering skin peels.