What is a chemical peel?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

A chemical peel is a means of erasing skin problems like acne scars, sun damage, wrinkles, and other problems caused by aging, sun exposure, and other issues. Chemicals are used to dissolve layers of skin cells to reveal newer, healthier layers below. Some may create more collagen. There are different types of peels depending on the chemicals used. A glycolic acid peel is mild; a carbolic acid (or phenol) peel is deeper. Retinoid acid peels fall between the two. The more harsh the peel, the longer the recovery and the higher the chance of undesired side effects. Follow-up appointments are usually required for all but the mildest treatments. Chemiclal peels may also be referred to as chemexfoliation or chemabrasion.

A chemical peel is a solution that is painted onto your face to literally "peel away" damaged top layers of skin. Solutions range from mild alpha hydroxy acids to stronger acids like trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and phenol. It takes from 15 minutes to two hours for a chemical peel, depending on the strength of the peel.

Chemical peels cost an average of $764; the specific cost depends on the strength. Even something as simple as a chemical peel carries potential risks, particularly when performed by someone not properly trained in the treatment. Aestheticians may perform mild peels. Plastic surgeons or dermatologists are your best bet for stronger peels.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

A chemical peel is a procedure performed by a doctor that may improve the appearance of your skin. Chemical peels are used to treat wrinkles, age spots, and other skin problems. To perform a chemical peel, a doctor applies certain chemicals to the skin. The chemicals used will depend on the type of skin problem you have. These chemicals remove the outer layers of skin. This process may help to make wrinkles, age spots, and other skin problems less prominent. Talk to a dermatologist for more information about chemical peels.

Dr. Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgeon

A chemical peel is helpful for rejuvenation of the facial skin as well as reversing sun damage. There are 3 types of peels that can be differentiated based on the degree of penetration into the skin. All peels do exfoliate the outer layer of skin called the epidermis. The collagen and elastin is increased in the papillary layer of the dermis by stimulation of fibroblastic activity. Chemical peels include glycolic acids, TCA, and phenol based liquids. The peels will tighten the skin, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and reverse the effects of sun damage.

Dr. Mohammad Khosravi
Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon

Chemical Peel is one of the minimally invasive ways to improve the skin appearance. The aging process leaves your skin spotted, wrinkled and with uneven tone.

Chemical peels can make your skin look smoother and younger by removing the damaged outer layers of skin and replaced by fresh regenerated skin layer.

Chemical peels can be used on other parts of body like neck.

Chemical peel can improve:

  • Acne or acne scars
  • Age and liver spots
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Freckles
  • Sun damaged skin
  • Scar
  • Irregular skin pigmentation

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...
More Answers
How strong are chemical peels?
Chemical peels are currently available in three strengths: Alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) peels are the ...
More Answers
What should I think about if I have a chemical peel?
Stuart A. Linder, MDStuart A. Linder, MD
The indications for chemical peels include: acne, pigmentation problems, aesthetic purposes, and epi...
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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.