Understanding Chemical Peels

Understanding Chemical Peels: What You Should Know About This Common Skin Treatment

Kristin Freda Blog

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A chemical peel is a popular way to enhance the appearance of the skin. Chemical peels may be used on the hands, face, chest, or neck to deeply exfoliate and remove old layers of skin, allowing softer, smoother, less wrinkled new skin to emerge. Here is what you should know.

What Is a Chemical Peel?

As the name implies, chemicals are applied to the skin to encourage it to peel. There are three levels of chemical peels:

Superficial peel (Lunchtime peel): This peel uses mild acids such as alpha-hydroxy acid to gently exfoliate the outer layer of skin. It is a great choice for those with mild discoloration or rough skin, as well as those who just want to refresh their skin a bit.

Medium peel: A medium peel uses glycolic or trichloroacetic acid to penetrate the outer layer of skin down into the middle layer, removing damaged skin cells. This type of chemical peel can smooth rough skin; reduce the appearance of freckles, age spots, and moderate discoloration;, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. It is also used to treat certain types of precancerous skin growths.

Deep peel: A deep peel uses trichloroacetic acid or phenol to more deeply penetrate the middle layer of skin. It provides a dramatic improvement in skin appearance, removing moderate lines and wrinkles, freckles, age spots, and even shallow scars. It can only be applied to the face, and only once in a lifetime.

Am I a Candidate for a Chemical Peel?

Everyone’s skin is different, and what is right for one person may not be right for another. We will perform a careful evaluation of your skin type, sensitivity, and other factors, as well as the issues you want to correct, and make a professional recommendation.

Are There Side Effects?

All medical procedures carry a small risk of side effects. Possible side effects include:

  • Temporary or permanent change in skin color, particularly for women on birth control pills or who become pregnant, or who have a history of brownish, facial discoloration
  • Scarring
  • Reactivation of cold sores
  • Temporary sun sensitivity

What to Expect After a Chemical Peel?

All chemical peels take some time to heal. Exactly what to expect depends on the type of peel: 

Superficial peels typically heal in one to seven days, depending on skin type and sensitivity. Your skin will be red and somewhat scaly during healing. Use lotion or cream until fully healed, and then switch to a high SPF sunscreen. Minimize sun exposure during healing. Most people can apply makeup beginning the next day.

Medium peels generally heal in one to two weeks, after the skin crusts and peels off. Your skin will be red and swollen right after treatment, which may worsen over the next 48 hours. Your eyelids may swell shut, blisters may form and then break on your skin. You will receive a prescription for antiviral medication, which must be taken as instructed for 10 to 14 days. We will also provide directions for soaking your skin and applying a healing ointment.

You may wear camouflage makeup after 5 to 7 days, depending on healing, but be sure to avoid all exposure to the sun until your skin is fully healed. You will be scheduled for a follow-up appointment to monitor your progress.

Deep peels take two to three weeks for healing. We will bandage your skin after treatment and provide instructions for caring for the wounds at home. Skin soaking, followed by ointment application, must be performed four to six times every day for the first two weeks, according to instructions. You will then switch to a thick moisturizer for the next 14 days. You must take antiviral medication as directed for 10 to 14 days and avoid all exposure to the sun for three to six months. You may use camouflage makeup after 14 days. We will schedule several follow-up appointments to track your progress.

Regardless of the type of chemical peel you choose, it is very important to avoid both sun exposure and smoking. Both can cause side effects including infection and permanent scarring.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are ready for a new, fully integrated approach to health and wellness, contact CORE Medical & Wellness today at 888-521-0688 to learn more or schedule your appointment!

Kristin Freda is our medical aesthetician at CORE Medical & Wellness. Kristin has been in the skincare industry for 13+ years, and has worked at some of the most prestigious day spas and medical spas in New Jersey. Read her full bio here.