Chemical Peels

What are Chemical Peels?

A chemical peel is a procedure in which a chemical solution is applied to the skin to remove the top layers. The skin that grows back is smoother. 

Chemical peels are used to treat wrinkles, discolored skin and scars — usually on the face. They can be done alone or combined with other cosmetic procedures. And they can be done at different depths, from light to deep. 

Types of Chemical Peel

A chemical peel is a skin-resurfacing procedure. Depending on the issues you’re addressing with the procedure, you’ll choose a chemical peel in one of three depths:

  • Light chemical peel. A light (superficial) chemical peel removes the outer layer of skin (epidermis). It’s used to treat fine wrinkles, acne, uneven skin tone and dryness. You might have a light peel every two to five weeks.
  • Medium chemical peel. A medium chemical peel removes skin cells from the epidermis and from portions of the upper part of your middle layer of skin (dermis). It’s used to treat wrinkles, acne scars and uneven skin tone. You might need to repeat the procedure to achieve or maintain the desired result.
  • Deep chemical peel. A deep chemical peel removes skin cells even deeper. Your doctor might recommend one for deeper wrinkles, scars or precancerous growths. You won’t need repeat procedures to get the full effect.

Results

A light chemical peel improves skin texture and tone and lessens the appearance of fine wrinkles. The results are subtle but increase with repeated treatments. If you have a medium chemical peel, treated skin will be noticeably smoother. After a deep chemical peel, you’ll see a dramatic improvement in the look and feel of treated areas. 

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What does it treat?

There are a number of reasons people may get chemical peels. They may be trying to treat a variety of things, including:

  • wrinkles and fine lines
  • sun damage
  • acne scars
  • hyperpigmentation
  • scars
  • melasma
  • uneven skin tone or redness

What to expect after

Recovery time varies depending on which chemical peel you received.

Light chemical peels

Recovery time is about four to seven days. Your skin may temporarily be lighter or darker.

Medium chemical peels

Your skin will recover about five to seven days after a medium chemical peel, though you may have redness that persists for months. Your skin will initially swell, and then form crusts and brown blotches before revealing new skin.

Deep chemical peels

Deep chemical peels will cause severe swelling and redness, with burning or throbbing sensations. It’s common for the eyelids to swell shut. It will take about two weeks for the new skin to develop, though white spots or cysts may last several weeks. It’s common for redness to last for several months.

The doctor will give you specific instructions for how often to wash your face and moisturize, and which products you should use to do so. Try to stay out of the sun until your skin has healed, and avoid using makeup or other cosmetics until the doctor gives you the go-ahead. You can use ice packs for 20 minutes at a time, or a cool fan, to help relieve discomfort at home.