In a chemical peel, a chemical solution is applied to the skin and allowed to soak in. Over the next 1 to 14 days, depending on how deeply the chemical penetrated the skin, the skin peels off. This procedure destroys parts of the skin in a controlled way so that new skin can grow in its place. The chemicals used are sometimes called exfoliating agents.
The types of chemical peels differ based on how deeply the chemical penetrates and what type of chemical solution is used. Things that may affect the depth of a peel include the acid concentration in the peeling agent, the number of coats that are applied, and the amount of time allowed before the acid is neutralized. Deeper peels result in more dramatic effects as well as higher risks, increased pain, and longer healing time.
Why is it Done
- Superficial peels are used to improve the appearance of pigment changes in the skin, acne scars, mild sun damage, or fine wrinkles in all skin types. They can be done on the face and on other parts of the body. A superficial peel may also be used to prepare the skin for a deeper peel.
- Medium peels are used to treat mild to moderate wrinkles, long-term sun damage, pigment changes, acne, scarring and precancerous lesions of the skin (usually caused by sun exposure). Medium peels are used most often on the face.
- Deep peels are used to treat severe wrinkles, long-term sun damage, pronounced pigment changes, and lesions and growths on the skin. They are done only on the face. Deep peels are not done on darker skin types, because they bleach the skin.
How well it works
The results of a chemical peel depend in part on the depth of the peel.1
- A superficial peel may slightly reduce but does not eliminate sun damage and signs of aging. The results may not appear for some time, and when they do appear, they may be minimal. Repeated peels are often needed to produce the effect the person wants. These chemical peels usually will NOT peel but it does not mean they are not effective! Peeling is just a side effect.
- A medium peel can be very effective in evening out pigment differences and in reducing fine wrinkles and signs of sun damage. A series of 6 chemical peels are suggested to go through the whole skin regeneration period to receive better results.
- A single deep peel may eliminate fine lines and wrinkles and may tighten the skin. The effects are often dramatic but most patients do not need to go to the deepest peel. Many will see great results with our medium depth peels when they are customized to each patient.
During the early healing period after a chemical peel (before the skin has finished peeling), you will need to avoid sun exposure. After the early healing period has passed, you will need to wear sunscreen every day and limit sun exposure as much as possible. New skin is more susceptible to damage and discoloration from sunlight.