First Time User? Enroll now.
COVID-19: Vaccine information and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers
Home > Health Library > Chemical Peel
A chemical peel is a treatment to improve the look of the skin. This process destroys the top layers of the skin in a controlled way so that new skin can grow in its place.
There are different types of chemical peels. Deeper peels give more noticeable results. But they also have higher risks and have a longer healing time than light or medium peels.
Your doctor can help you decide what depth of peel and what type of chemical is best for you. This decision is based on your skin type, which areas you want peeled, and what kind of results you want.
You will be given instructions on how to prepare your skin before the peel.
Depending on how large an area is being treated, the entire process may take 60 to 90 minutes.
The time it takes to heal after a chemical peel depends on what kind of peel was done and how deep it was. Proper care of the skin after the peel is very important. This care can speed healing, help results last longer, prevent infection, and avoid color changes in the treated area caused by sun exposure. Proper skin care after a peel is very similar to the care used to prepare for a peel. It most often involves:
Light peels often cause some stinging, redness, skin flaking, and irritation. Most people can go back to their normal activities right away. The skin heals quickly after a light peel. The skin may turn pink. In most cases, there is only a small amount of peeling.
A medium peel often causes redness, stinging, and skin flaking for about a week. The skin may turn reddish brown with symptoms like a deep sunburn. Keeping your skin well moisturized will help during the peeling process. Most people can go back to their normal activities in about a week.
A deep peel causes a deeper burn of the skin, with peeling, crusting, redness, and discomfort for several days or more. Skin grows back about 10 to 14 days after a deep peel. The skin stays very red for 3 weeks, and up to 2 months for some people. Most people take about 2 weeks off from work. Complete healing of the skin may take several months.
Chemical peels are sometimes done with dermabrasion or laser resurfacing for a more dramatic overall effect.
The results of a chemical peel depend in part on the depth of the peel.
Your skin type, your skin care before and after the peel, the doctor's level of experience, and your lifestyle after treatment can also affect the results. Some types of skin problems respond better to a chemical peel than others. People with lighter skin who limit their sun exposure after the treatment tend to have better results than those who have darker skin and those who keep spending lots of time in the sun.
Before you decide to have a chemical peel, talk to your doctor about the kind of results you can expect.
Changes in the color and texture of the skin caused by aging and sun exposure may still get worse after a chemical peel. Chemical peels are not a permanent solution for these problems.
In general, the deeper the peel, the greater the risk of side effects and problems. Chemical peels can cause:
In rare cases, deep peels using phenol can cause more severe problems during the treatment, including heart, liver, or kidney failure.
Current as of:
November 11, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineKeith A. Denkler MD - Plastic Surgery
Current as of: November 11, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Keith A. Denkler MD - Plastic Surgery
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.