Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are a relatively old cosmetic procedure. In fact, it was done in ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt to help their people have more beautiful, smooth skin. These days, chemical peels for the face are common because of how this procedure can be done as an outpatient and the nearly immediate results that it offers. If you are interested in eliminating or reducing the appearance of acne scarring, uneven pigment of the skin, fine lines or wrinkles, the SpaHub can offer you with details so you can learn more about getting a chemical peel, including the cost, risks and benefits.

Chemical Peel - What is It?

Those who haven't ever heard of chemical peels will likely want to know what they are. This is a type of treatment where a solution of acid is applied to the skin to help take off the old damaged top layers of the skin. Most often used on the face, chemical peels help to smooth and enhance the skin texture and can be an effective way of treating uneven skin pigment, blemishes and wrinkles.

What Are Chemical Peels Used to Treat?

Chemical peels can be used to treat areas on the hands, face and neck. They are most often used for the treatment of:
  • Fine lines around the mouth and under the eyes. Wrinkles due to hereditary factors, sun damage and aging.
  • Mild scars
  • Certain kinds of acne
  • Freckles, dark patches caused from pregnancy or birth control pills and age spots.
  • Dull skin color and texture.

  • Areas that have been damaged by the sun and may have pre-cancerous keratoses, which appear as scaly spots have been shown to improve after a chemical peel. After a treatment, it is less likely that new pre-cancerous areas will show up.

    Chemical peels are often used to help reduce the appearance of fine lines around the mouth and under the eyes. Wrinkles that have been caused from sun damage, hereditary factors and aging are also often reduced and can even be eliminated with a chemical peel. Bulges, sags and deeper wrinkles are not usually affected by getting a chemical peel. They might need the assistance of other surgical cosmetic procedures like you will find in laser resurfacing, a facelift, brow lift, eyelid lift or collagen or fat fillers. Your cosmetic dermatologist can help you to decide which procedure will work best for you.

    Should You Consider A Chemical Peel?

    A chemical peel is most often done because of cosmetic reasons. If you want to increase your self-confidence and improve your overall appearance, then a chemical peel might be a good idea. It has also been found that chemical peels can help to remove skin growths that are precancerous and help to reduce the appearance of scars, as well as help to control acne. Sometimes, your health insurance might cover the cost of the procedure.

    Generally, those who have light hair and fair skin are the best candidates for a chemical peel. However, those with other skin coloring and hair coloring have still experienced positive results with this procedure. The ideal candidate is unhappy with the look of their skin, but still has realistic expectations in what to expect and don't smoke.

    The Chemical Peel Types

    There are different concentrations of acid, which will help to determine how much of a burn you get for the superficial, medium or deep peel.

  • A superficial peel is made with alphahydroxy acids, also called AHA. These are lactic, fruit and glycolic acids. This type of peel helps to treat dry, rough skin and improve the overall texture of the skin. This type of acid is often mixed with bleaching agents to correct pigmentation problems.
  • A medium peel will be done with a trichloroacetic acid, also referred to as TCA. This type of peel can be used to help treat superficial blemishes and fine lines on the skin.
  • A deep peel will use carbolic acid, or phenol. Deep peels are used for the treatment of deeper wrinkles, blotches caused from aging, birth control pills and the sun and growths that are precancerous. Phenol is almost exclusively used on the face and may cause scarring on other parts of the body.


  • A chemical peel doesn't actually peel the skin. It actually works to quickly exfoliate the top layer of the skin so that the dead skin cells come off more rapidly and easily. When you keep dead skin cells and extra oil on the face, it clogs hair follicles and blocks the pores, which is why pimples are dramatically reduced with this treatment.

    Your dermatologist will likely use a type of glycolic acid for the exfoliating agent. Glycolic acid is a type of AHA that comes from sugar cane and is most often used for a light chemical peel. Beta hydroxy acid peels are rapidly becoming more popular.

    Beta hydroxy acids, also known as BHAs are closely related to AHAs and work much like they do. BHAs are very effective at helping to dissolve the oil buildup that can occur in pores and they are often much less irritating to the skin than an AHA. Salicylic acid is a common anti-acne ingredient and is the most frequently used BHA in a chemical peel treatment.

    What You can Expect In a Chemical Peel Procedure

    Before you have a chemical peel, you may need to stop taking certain medications and drugs and you might also have to use pre-conditioning medications to prepare the skin. You might also be advised to clean your treatment area with a type of antiseptic soap a day before the procedure.

    Chemical peels are done in the doctor's office or as an outpatient procedure in a surgery center. Your dermatologist will decide the depth of your peel and while your input is important, the decision will also depend on what condition your skin is in and what you hope to achieve.

    For a deep chemical peel of the whole face, it will take an hour or two, but you might choose to have a targeted procedure, such as to treat the wrinkles above your lip and this can take about a half hour. Solution will be applied to the treatment area, making sure to avoid lips, eyes and brows. You will notice a slight burning, but since the solution is also an anesthetic, this will be only slight. After the solution has had time to work on the skin, it is then neutralized with the use of water. About an hour later, you will receive a coating of petroleum jelly over your face to cover the protective crust that rapidly develops over the treated area. This crust will be in place for a day or two. Alternatives to this crust might be a "mask" of adhesive tape to cover the face in cases of extreme wrinkles.

    Some people feel uncomfortable after they have a deep chemical peel, but it is often controllable with pain medications. A few days after your procedure, you will notice new skin that has a bright pink color - much like sunburn - but the pink will fade after a few days. You may also notice some puffiness after the procedure, but this will go away after a few days, but the skin will be sensitive, so it's important to avoid sunlight and use sun block.

    Chemical Peel Recovery

    Depending on the kind of chemical peel you have, you may notice a reaction much like a sunburn afterward. You may then notice that there is scaling, which goes away in about three to seven days. The milder peels can be done every one to four weeks until you get the results you're seeking.

    After you have a phenol peel, your doctor may give you medication for the pain and throbbing or tingling that you will likely experience. If you have tape covering your face, it will come off in about two days.

    Light chemical peels or AHA peel: AHA peels have a similar effect to the skin as sunburn. The skin turns dry and red and begins to peel and flake. Flaking usually goes away within about five days and most people can get back to normal life right away.

    Medium chemical peels or TCA peel: With this procedure, you will likely notice that the treated area scabs or crusts and there is the potential for swelling. This will go away in about a week and it will take about ten days for the new skin to start to show so the healing has gotten a good enough head start to get back to normal life.

    Deep chemical peels or Phenol peel: With a phenol peel, the face becomes significantly swollen. It is possible that the eyes will even temporarily swell shut. You should avoid talking if you can and it might be necessary to consume only liquids for a time. You will notice that new skin starts to form in about ten days, but your skin will be quite red and it might take many weeks for this to go away. You should not be in the sun without sun block, as you could experience irregular pigmentation and blotches. The skin should be healed well enough in about two weeks for you to return to your normal life, at which time you can wear makeup again.

    How Well do Chemical Peels Work?

    Phenol chemical peels have been found in clinical studies over the course of 30 years to be very effective. Wrinkles and fine lines are caused from the breakdown of collagen and elastin in your skin. A chemical peel encourages new tissue to grow where collagen and elastin are new and more plentiful. While it may take many months for your skin to completely recover from a deep chemical peel, the better skin tone and younger look is worth it for most people.

    How Much do Chemical Peels Cost?

    Chemical peels generally cost less than other alternatives such as lasers. Peeling chemicals are cheap compared to the equipment needed for lasers, but the price difference is less than you might think because you pay for more than one peel with a superficial or medium peel, while a deep peel requires more patient care and can be more costly.

    Chemical facial peels will cost more or less depending on what state you are in and what doctor you use. Currently, the price range for chemical peels is anywhere from $600 to $900 and it might be necessary to keep in mind that you could incur other expenses, especially for a deep chemical peel, include the use of a surgical facility, possible hospital stay and the cost of anesthesia. Your final cost will likely depend on what kind of peel you have and other individual factors. You might feel that a superficial chemical peel only costs about $150, but that a deep chemical peel can cost as much as $6000.

    Chemical Face Peel Benefits

    Chemical peels are most often used to help return your face to the young, refreshed look of your youth. Your blotchy, sun damaged and wrinkly skin can be transformed. The three main types of chemical peels include: light chemical peel to help improve the look of acne scars and offer smoother, more even skin texture while working to reduce sun damage. A medium chemical peel works to improve acne, while helping to smooth the fine wrinkles on the skin surface and help to correct problems with pigmentation including age spots. A deep chemical peel works to treat sun damage and eliminate the deeper wrinkles on the face and can also help to get rid of pre-cancerous growths. Your cosmetic dermatologist can help you to decide which peel will be best for you.

    Superficial Chemical Peel

    Your dermatologist will use the chemical peel formula that is right for you based on your skin characteristics and the results you with to achieve. In the case of Light chemical peels, you will likely be working to eliminate dry, uneven areas of the skin, acne and even fine lines and wrinkles. This solution will likely be made of AHAs, or alphahydroxyacids such as lactic, salicylic, glycolic or fruit acids. A light chemical peel is ideal for you if you want facial peel benefits but are not interested in recovering from a deep peel.

    Medium Chemical Peel

    In the case of medium facial peels, your doctor will likely use TCA, or trichloroacetic acid, for the procedure. This chemical is effective in treating the fine wrinkles at the surface of the skin, pigment problems and superficial blemishes. Much like a light chemical peel, a medium peel will take less time out of your schedule than a deep peel. For those who have darker skin, a TCA peel might be a good choice.

    Deep Chemical Peel

    A deep chemical peel, also often referred to as a phenol peel, is the strongest of the chemical peels available. It is used only on those who have deep wrinkling caused from sun damage or to treat wrinkling experienced around the chin or lips. This procedure works to reduce the uneven, coarse wrinkles and sun damaged skin by "peeling" away the top layers of the skin. A deep chemical peel does offer the longest lasting, most dramatic results, but the procedure takes longer to perform and takes the most time to heal up from. Phenol acid is most often only used in facial peels and since this type of peel can cause permanent lightening of the skin, you should talk to your cosmetic dermatologist before you consider this procedure.

    Chemical Peel to treat Acne

    There are some chemical peel solutions that are good at treating blemishes caused from acne and reducing scars from past acne. A light chemical peel that is given with an alphahydroxy acid can help to treat acne. You can also use an AHA solution that is mixed with face wash for your daily routine. SpaHub can offer you the details you need about acne chemical peels so you can determine if this is a good treatment for you.

    Potential Side Effects of Chemical Peel

    When a chemical peel is done by a plastic surgeon or cosmetic dermatologist who is experienced, it is considered to be safe. Light and medium peels will likely cause only mild side effects that include crusting, stinging and redness that might go away within a couple of days of the procedure.

    Deep chemical peel side effects are often much worse and it will take longer to recover. Serious side effects including infection or scarring are possible with deep and even medium chemical peels, however the serious side effects are quite rare when the procedure is done by a qualified physician.

    Chemical Peel Potential Risks

    In most cases, negative reactions are rare, but they can include infection, scarring and numbness. After a mild or medium chemical peel, you can expect patients can expect some chemical peel side effects that are fairly common and include peeling, mild irritation and redness. These effects generally last for only a few days. A stronger chemical peel will likely take more time to recover from and the crusting and peeling of the skin is more noticeable. As with all medical procedures, if you decide to have a chemical peel, you should very carefully follow your doctor's advice for care before and after the procedure so that you can reduce your potential for negative side effects.

    Most of the patients who have a chemical peel notice no negative or serious side effects from the procedure and most people report that they would happily do it again, but there is the potential for severe risks including permanent pigment change for those who have darker skin, permanent scarring and chemical burns. Since chemical peels can cause negative reactions, before you have any treatment, you should tell your doctor about your complete medical history and be sure to let your doctor know any of the following:
  • If you have heart disease
  • If you have recurring cold sores or fever blisters
  • If you have a tendency to scar

  • In certain types of skin, there is a risk that there will be permanent or temporary color change. If you are taking birth control pill, or have a family history of brownish discoloration on facial skin during pregnancy the potential for abnormal pigmentation can increase.

    Microdermabrasion vs. Chemical Peels

    Since there are so many different ways to refine the skin these days, consumers are often confused about which procedure will be the best for them. Many people wonder about which is better when it comes to chemical peels and microdermabrasion.

    The biggest difference in microdermabrasion and chemical peels is that microdermabrasion does not use chemicals to "Sand" down the skin's surface flaws. Microdermabrasion and mild chemical peels might be similar, the stronger chemical peels will only need one treatment. Deep chemical peels like the phenol peel also need a much longer time to recover than microdermabrasion and mild peels. Additionally unlike microdermabrasion, a deep chemical peel will actually change the coloring of the skin by bleaching it. It is due to this difference that those who are darker may want to consider microdermabrasion.

    Laser Skin Resurfacing or Chemical Peels?

    When considering the benefits and risks of laser skin resurfacing and. chemical peels, it is a little tougher to make a comparison, due to how new the laser procedure is. Many doctors claim that the overall improvement to the skin after a laser skin resurfacing procedure is essentially the same as those found with chemical peels or microdermabrasion. Lasers give doctors a more highly targeted way to treat imperfections and flaws with more intensity than chemical peels.