A chemical peel is a method of resurfacing the skin. It is performed by using a chemical solution to strip away the uppermost layers, which results in smoother skin after the healing process. The peels are also used to treat scars, discoloration and wrinkles and are done at varying depths. It may be done as a single event or in combination with other procedures.

Why a Chemical Peel is Done
Chemical peels are done to treat different skin problems. Depending the results desired, the peel can be performed at the following depths:

  • A light peel will address dryness, acne, wrinkles and uneven skin tone. It is performed on the topmost layer of skin and may need to be done once per week for six weeks.
  • A medium peel will treat deeper acne scars and wrinkles, with repeat procedures every six to 12 months. This peel will remove the upper and top middle layers of skin.
  • A deep peel removes the skin down to the middle or lowest layers of dermis. This is recommended for scars or when precancerous growths are present.

A chemical peel will not remove very deep scars or make pores appear smaller.

Recovery from a Chemical Peel
Depending on the depth, recovery time can range from a few weeks to several months. Aside from redness, there can be irritation, swelling and pain. It is crucial to follow the doctor’s instructions for aftercare, including keeping the area clean and using protective ointments. Checkups are done at 24 and 72 hours after the procedure to ensure the healing process is going as expected. Using ice packs, pain killers and sleeping in a semi-reclined position can ease the discomfort.

Risks of a Chemical Peel
While a chemical peel can improve the appearance of skin, it does present side effects and health risks. The most common side effect is redness, which can last up to several months, depending on the depth of the peel. Other possible reactions include acne, infection and scarring. In very rare cases, the heart, kidneys and liver are damaged by the carbolic acid used in the procedure. Those who are taking certain acne medications, have pale, freckled or dark complexions or are prone to scar tissue should not have a chemical peel.

While chemical peels are not for everyone, they are an effective method of improving skin appearance.