What does a chemical peel do?

Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgery
Chemical peels act by removing the outer epidermal debris of the skin including age spots and sun damaged actinic keratosis. Superficial peels include Glycolic acids, moderate peels include TCA or Trichloroacetic Acid, and the deepest peels of the past include Phenol. Glycolic acid peels may increase skin tightness and firmness and reduce superficial age spots. The deeper peels will penetrate into the papillary level of the dermis promoting new collagen formation.
Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD

Most chemical peels work on a superficial level to exfoliate (by burning off) the top layers of skin. Peels can go down to the papillary dermis, which is the top part of the dermis. By doing so, a peel removes surface pigmentation (such as brown spots and melasma), smoothes the texture, decreases acne, and even helps firm the skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines. A strong peel, for example a 40% TCA peel, can go deeper into the dermis and cause enough inflammation to set up a wound healing response that can stimulate collagen formation.

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Continue Learning about Chemical Peels

What should I expect during a trichloroacetic (TCA) peel?
Arthur W. Perry, MDArthur W. Perry, MD
The trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peel hurts. I often prescribe a mild narcotic such as codeine, an...
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What are the risks of a chemical peel?
Chemical peels carry some risks. Your skin may remain stark white after some deeper peels, although ...
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How long will the effect of chemical peels remain?
Patricia Farris, MDPatricia Farris, MD
I really depends on what type of chemical peel you have. Deep or medium depth peels can last several...
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How Do Chemical Peels Work?
How Do Chemical Peels Work?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.