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How Can a Chemical Peel Help My Skin?

By Dylan Alston MD

Mar 28, 2019

How a Chemical Peel Can Help My Skin

It’s difficult to feel confident in yourself when you feel like your skin isn’t picture-perfect. Most of us have some worries about the way our skin looks. Which also means that many of us could benefit from a chemical peel. A chemical peel is a procedure that uses a chemical solution to smooth the texture of your skin. You might use a chemical peel to treat skin discoloration, scars, and wrinkles. The solution removes the outer layers of your skin, so skin left after your peel should look smoother.

So what does a chemical peel involve –– and how could it help you?

Types of chemical peels

When you visit your dermatologist, you’ll have the option to get a light, medium, or deep chemical peel. A deep chemical peel will help you get the most dramatic results, but it can involve a longer recovery than a light or medium chemical peel and has a greater risk for adverse outcomes.

  • Light chemical peels use a superficial chemical peel to remove the outer layer of your skin. This is the gentlest of all chemical peels. You can repeat it every 2-5 weeks to help improve the appearance of wrinkles, acne, and uneven skin tone.
  • Medium chemical peels remove more of your skin and tend to have better results than a light chemical peel. You can repeat a medium chemical peel every 3-9 months.
  • Deep chemical peels are recommended when you have scars, deep wrinkles, or even precancerous growths. A deep chemical peel removes your skin cells from your epidermis all the way down to the mid/lower layer of your skin. Recovery from a deep chemical peel takes longer.

What can you expect from a chemical peel?

A chemical peel is a simple outpatient procedure. It’s common to have a chemical peel at your dermatologist’s office. Here’s what to expect:

  1. You’ll be asked to lay down.
  2. Your skin will be cleaned thoroughly.
  3. Chemical solutions, such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid, a solution called Jessner’s acid, will be applied to your skin in small areas. You may feel a burning sensation that can last up to 10 minutes. Afterwards, your skin might sting.
  4. A cool compress may be applied to your skin for a few minutes to help minimize the stinging. Those who get a deeper chemical peel may need medication to help with the pain.

After your chemical peel

Your skin after a chemical peel will be tender. If you’ve had a light chemical peel, it might feel as if you have a sunburn. Your skin might be red and peel after a few days. After a deeper chemical peel, you might have blisters or swelling that crust or turn brown after a week or two. You might need to wear bandages on parts of your skin until it heals. Your dermatologist may prescribe an ointment or cream to apply to your skin as needed. Whether you get a light or deeper chemical peel, you should avoid the sun for several weeks after a chemical peel to protect your skin and always wear sunscreen. This will help protect your new investment.

Are there risks associated with getting a chemical peel?

Can getting a chemical peel damage your skin? In some cases. When you get a chemical peel there’s the possibility of having permanent discoloration or color change, redness, infection, or scarring. Deep chemical peels use carbolic acid (phenol), which can damage your heart, kidneys, and liver. If you’re prone to cold sores, a chemical peel can reactivate a cold sore. Discuss any concerns you have about getting a chemical peel with your dermatologist.

A chemical peel is a good way to help reverse the effects of aging and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, or scarring. A chemical peel doesn’t have to be deep to be effective. You’ll have several days of peeling and tenderness, but your skin will look new and fresh.