Chemical Peels

Another way to resurface the skin is to apply a chemical solution that causes the outer layers of skin to peel away.

This is what cosmetic surgeons call a chemical peel. Chemical peels are usually performed in a cosmetic surgeon’s office, either by the cosmetic surgeon or a specially trained aesthetician or nurse.

During treatment, a solution is brushed or swabbed onto your skin, where it will be left for a certain period of time. Over the days following treatment, the affected layers of skin will gradually peel away, revealing a smoother, younger-looking complexion.

How can a chemical peel help improve my skin?

  • Reduce or remove age spots, blotchiness, or discoloration
  • Smooth fine lines & wrinkles on the skin’s surface
  • Minimize or remove acne scars or milder scars from injury or surgery
  • Tighten & tone the skin and brighten the complexion
  • Remove keratoses or precancerous growths

Light vs. Deep Chemical Peels

Chemical peels

Depending on the treatment, a peel will often be classified as light, medium, or deep. This refers to how many layers of skin are removed. Light chemical peels will typically reach partially through the epidermis (the outermost layers of skin) and use a milder acid solution such as glycolic acid, alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), salicylic acid, fruit enzymes, or a low concentration of trichloroacetic acid (TCA). Light peels can be safely applied by a trained, experienced aesthetician under the supervision of a cosmetic surgeon, and typically involve little to no downtime.

Deeper peels will reach further into the epidermis or even into the next layer, the dermis, and are recommended to address more advanced signs of aging, such as deeper wrinkles and extensive sun damage, or severe acne scars.

Examples include phenol peels, stronger TCA peels, and croton oils. While medium to deep peels can produce more dramatic improvements, they are more involved treatments.

Anesthesia may be needed to keep a patient comfortable during treatment, and several days of downtime are required to allow the skin to heal optimally.

Your cosmetic surgeon will recommend a peel based on your skin type, the specific issues you want to address, and how deep the peel needs to work to achieve the desired results. 

After the initial healing period following a chemical peel, some improvements will be immediately noticeable: brighter, tighter-feeling skin and a more even skin tone.

However, the effects of a peel are cumulative, and many patients find repeating treatment periodically is needed for optimal results.