A chemical peel is a treatment designed to improve the skin's appearance using specially formulated chemical solutions applied to the skin's surface to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, lines and scars so skin looks and feels smoother and skin tone is more consistent. The chemical solutions cause the upper layers of skin to slough off during the days and weeks following treatment, revealing smoother skin underneath.
Chemical peels have been used for more than 50 years to treat an array of cosmetic concerns, including:
Chemical peels can also be used to treat areas of the skin where precancerous lesions have appeared to help reduce the risk of future lesions. Deeper wrinkles and skin laxity generally cannot be treated with chemical peels but require other approaches to resolve.
Prior to a peel, some patients may be instructed to prepare their skin using a special topical agent so the peel is more effective. Peels are performed in the office on an outpatient basis. During treatment, the skin is cleansed to remove excess oil and surface debris and the eyes and hair are covered to keep them protected. The chemical solution is applied and allowed to remain on the skin for a specific period of time before being neutralized and washed off. Once the solution is removed, cool compresses can be applied to soothe skin. The type of chemical used and the length of treatment will determine the depth of the peel and the final results. Many peels can be performed in under a half hour.
Chemical peels can cause some mild redness similar to a mild sunburn. Mild peels result in redness and mild flaking that can last for up to a week. Medium and deep peels cause more redness accompanied by crusting and moderate swelling that can last for up to two weeks.