Chemical peels are cosmetic treatments that can be applied to the face, hands, and neck. They’re used to improve the appearance or feel of the skin. During this procedure, chemical solutions will be applied to the area being treated, which causes the skin to exfoliate and eventually peel off. Once this happens, the new skin underneath is often smoother, appears less wrinkled, and may have less damage.
There are a number of reasons people may get chemical peels. They may be trying to treat a variety of things, including:
- wrinkles and fine lines
- sun damage
- uneven skin tone or redness
Types of Chemical Peel
- Superficial peels, which use mild acids like alpha-hydroxy acid to gently exfoliate. It only penetrates the outermost layer of skin.
- Medium peels, which use glycolic acid to reach the middle and outer layer of skills. This makes it more effective for removing damaged skin cells.
- Deep peels, which fully penetrate the middle layer of the skin to remove damaged skin cells; these peels often use phenol or tricholoracetic acid.
How is a chemical peel done?
During a light peel a cotton ball, gauze, or brush will be used to apply a chemical solution like salicylic acid to the area being treated. The skin will start to whiten, and may have a slight stinging sensation. Once complete, the chemical solution will be removed or a neutralizing solution will be added.
During a medium chemical peel, your doctor will use a gauze, special sponge, or a cotton-tipped applicator to apply the chemical solution to your face. This may contain glycolic acid. The skin will begin to whiten, and your doctor will apply a cool compress to the skin. You may feel stinging or burning for up to 20 minutes. No neutralizing solution is needed, though they may give you a hand-held fan to cool your skin.
During a deep chemical peel, you will be sedated. The doctor will use a cotton-tipped applicator to apply phenol to your skin. This will turn your skin white or gray. The procedure will be done in 15-minute portions, to limit the skin exposure to the acid.