A chemical peel is a cosmetic treatment that is performed on the face, hands, and neck to remove the top layers. They are helpful in improving the appearance of the skin. During this treatment, a chemical solution will be applied topically to the region being treated, which makes the skin exfoliate and eventually peel off. Post chemical procedure, the new skin that grows back appears suppler, less wrinkled, and prone to minimal damage. With a light or medium peel, you may need to undertake the procedure more than once to get the best results.


Chemical peels are used to treat wrinkles, discoloured skin, and scars, mainly on the face. This can be done alone or combined with other cosmetic treatments. They may be done at different depths – light to deep, where deeper chemical peels confer more impressive results, but also take an extended duration to recover.

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There are several reasons why people get a chemical peel. Usually, people opt for this cosmetic procedure to treat the following problems:

  • Wrinkles and fine lines
  • Sun damage
  • Acne scars
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Melasma
  • Uneven skin tone
  • Redness

Type Of Chemical Peels

There are mainly three different types of chemical peels that you can get. These include:

Superficial Peels: This type uses mild acids such as alpha-hydroxy acid to gently exfoliate and it only diffuses the outermost layer of skin.

Medium Peels: Glycolic acid or trichloroacetic acid is used to penetrate the middle and outer layers of skin cells. A medium peel is more effective for eliminating damaged skin cells.

Deep Peels: Phenolic acid or trichloroacetic acid is used to completely diffuse into the middle layer of the skin to clear damaged skin cells.

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How Is It Done?

Chemical peels are done as an outpatient procedure in the dermatologist's clinic. Before the procedure, your hair will be tied back, and face will be cleaned and eye protection like goggles or gauze may be provided. The doctor will numb the region with topical anaesthesia and is likely to do this if you’re having your face and neck treated. For deep chemical peels, you will be given an IV and your heart rate will be closely monitored.

Light Peel

A cotton gauze or brush is used to apply a chemical solution like salicylic acid to the region being treated. When the skin whiten you may experience a slight stinging sensation. Once the procedure is done, the chemical solution will be cleaned, or a neutralizing solution will be applied to remove the chemical.

Medium Peel

During a medium peel, a gauze, special sponge, or cotton-tipped applicator is used to smear chemical solution to the area being treated. The chemical may contain glycolic acid or trichloroacetic acid, while a blue colour may be added to trichloroacetic acid, commonly known as the blue peel. When the skin starts to whiten, the doctor will apply a cool compress to the skin. You may experience a burning sensation for 20 minutes. No neutralizing solution is needed, but they may give you a hand fan to soothe your skin. If you have done the blue peel, then you will have a blue colouring of your skin that may last for several days after the procedure.

Deep Peel

During deep peel you will be sedated, the doctor will use a cotton-tipped applicator to apply phenol acids to the skin. This will turn the skin white or grey. The procedure will be done in 15-minute gaps to limit the skin exposure to the acid.

How Do You Prepare For A Chemical Peel?

Before the procedure, you will have a consultation with a dermatologist, who will help you to determine the best treatment option. The skincare specialist will inform you in detail about the specific peel, and its side effects.

Before A Chemical Peel:

  • You should not use any kind of retinol topical cream for at least 48 hours
  • Not have been on Accutane for at least six months

Further, your skincare specialist may also suggest that you:

  • Take an antiviral medication if you have any history of fever blisters, or cold sores to avert breakout around the mouth
  • Use special lotion to improve treatment outcomes
  • Use a retinoid cream to avert skin darkening
  • Stop waxing, epilating, or using hair removal products a week before the peel
  • Avoid hair bleaching
  • Avoid using facial scrubs or exfoliants a week before the peel
  • Also, your doctor may prescribe a painkiller or sedative that you may have to take before coming to the clinic

Side Effects

Side effects are temporary, and include redness, dryness, stinging, and mild swelling. With a deep peel, one may permanently lose the ability to tan. Sometimes chemical peels can have severe risks and side effects that can be permanent which include:

Darkening or lightening of the skin colour, which is common in darker skin people.

Scarring that can be permanent.

People with herpes simplex may have flares post-treatment. In rare cases, some people may have infections like fungal or bacterial.

The phenol used in deep peels is potential to damage the heart muscle, kidneys, and liver and cause irregular heartbeats.

What To Expect After Procedure?

Generally, recovery time varies depending on which chemical peel you have opted for.

Light Chemical Peels: The recovery time is 4 to 7 days, and your skin may be temporarily lighter or darker.

Medium Chemical Peels: The skin will heal within 5 to 7 days after a medium peel, but you may have redness for months. Also, the skin will initially swell and form crusts and brown marks before exposing new skin.

Deep Chemical Peels: This chemical peel will result in severe swelling and redness, with an intense burning sensation. It will take at least two weeks for the new skin cells to develop, though white spots or cysts and redness may last for several weeks.


During the recovery period, it is vital that you strictly follow the doctor’s instructions such as how often to wash your face and moisturize. Specific skincare products to be used will be suggested. Avoid sunlight until the skin has healed and avoid using makeup or cosmetics until the doctor recommends it. Massage with ice packs for 20 minutes at a time or use a cool fan to ease discomfort.