Chemical Peel Treatments
Chemical peels, also known as chemexfoliation or
derma-peeling, are a technique used to improve the appearance of
the skin. In this treatment, a chemical solution is applied to
the skin, which causes it to "blister" and eventually peel off.
The new, regenerated skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled
than the old skin. The new skin also is temporarily more
sensitive to the sun.
What Conditions Do a Chemical Peel
Chemical peels are performed on the face, neck or hands. They
can be used to:
Areas of sun damage, which may contain pre-cancerous keratoses
that appear as scaly spots, may improve after chemical peeling.
Following treatment, new pre-cancerous lesions are less likely
- Reduce fine lines under the eyes and around the mouth
wrinkles caused by sun damage, aging and hereditary
- Improve the appearance of mild scarring
- Treat certain types of
- Reduce age spots,
freckles and dark patches due to
pregnancy or taking
birth control pills (melasma)
- Improve the look and feel of skin that is dull in
texture and color
However, sags, bulges and more severe wrinkles do not respond
well to chemical peels. They may require other kinds of cosmetic
surgical procedures, such as carbon dioxide laser resurfacing ,
a facelift , brow lift , eyelid lift or soft tissue filler
(collagen or fat). A dermatologic surgeon can help determine the
most appropriate type of treatment for each individual case.
Who Is a Good Candidate For a Chemical
Generally, fair-skinned and light-haired patients are ideal
candidates for chemical peels. Darker skin types may also have
good results, depending upon the type of problem being treated.
How Are Chemical Peels Performed?
A chemical peel can be performed in a doctor's office or in a
surgery center as an outpatient procedure.
The skin is thoroughly cleansed with an agent that removes
excess oils and the eyes and hair are protected. One or more
chemical solutions, such as glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid,
salicylic acid, lactic acid or carbolic acid (phenol), are
applied to small areas on the skin. These applications produce a
controlled wound, enabling new, regenerated skin to appear.
Preparing for a Chemical Peel
Prior to the chemical peel, your doctor may ask you to stop
taking certain drugs and prepare your skin with topical
preconditioning medications such as Retin-A, Renova, or glycolic
acid. After the chemical peel, it's important to use a
broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.
If you have been prescribed oral antibiotics or an oral
antiviral medicine, you should begin taking those as directed.
Typically, the oral antibiotics are prescribed depending on the
depth of the chemical peel.
Remember to ask your doctor if you need to have someone drive
What to Expect During The Procedure
During the procedure, most patients experience a warm to
somewhat hot sensation that lasts about five to ten minutes,
followed by a stinging sensation. Cool compresses may be applied
to help alleviate this stinging. A deeper peel may require pain
medication during or after the procedure.
What To Expect After the Chemical Peel
Depending upon the type of chemical peel, a reaction similar
to sunburn occurs following the procedure. Peeling usually
involves redness, followed by scaling that ends within three to
seven days. Mild peels may be repeated at one to four-week
intervals until the desired clinical effect is achieved.
Medium-depth and deep peeling may result in swelling, as well
as the presence of water blisters that may break, crust, turn
brown and peel off over a period of seven to 14 days.
Medium-depth peels may be repeated in six to twelve months, if
You will work with your dermatologist to determine the depth
of your peel. This joint decision can vary, depending upon the
condition of your skin and the objectives of treatment.
After treatment, some peels may require bandages to be placed
on part or all of the skin that is treated. Bandages are usually
removed in several days and may improve the effectiveness of the
It is important to avoid over-exposure to the sun after a
chemical peel since the new skin is fragile and more susceptible
to complications. The dermatologic surgeon will prescribe the
proper follow-up care to reduce the tendency to develop abnormal
skin color after peeling.
What Are the Possible Complications of
In certain skin types, there is a risk of developing a
temporary or permanent color change in the skin. Taking birth
control pills, subsequent pregnancy or family history of
brownish discoloration on the face may increase the possibility
of developing abnormal pigmentation.
Although low, there is a risk of scarring in certain areas of
the face, and certain individuals may be more prone to scarring.
If scarring does occur, it can usually be treated with good
There is a small risk of reactivation of cold sores in
patients with a history of herpes outbreaks. This problem is
treated with medication as prescribed by the dermatologic
surgeon. Your doctor may also choose to give you medication
before or immediately after the peel in order to prevent a
Prior to treatment, it is important for a patient to inform
the physician of any past history of keloids (scar tissue
overgrowth created at the site of a skin injury) or unusual
scarring tendencies, as well as listing of x-rays treatments to
the face or recurring cold sores.