What Happens to Your Skin During a Chemical Peel?

March 29, 2018
By: Dermatology Consultants of Frisco

A chemical peel is a procedure in which a chemical solution is applied to the skin to remove the top layers. 

This resurfacing procedure allows new skin to grow back smoother and younger-looking. It is typically used to reduce wrinkles, lessen scars, and remove or lighten skin discoloration.

There are 3 levels or depths of chemical peels. The depth that you choose will depend on your needs and results you expect. The deeper the peel, the longer the recovery time will be.

  • Light chemical peel: A light chemical peel removes the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. Doctors recommend treating acne scars with a chemical peel as well as fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and dryness. You may choose to do this treatment once a week for up to 6 weeks, depending on your expected results.
  • Medium chemical peel: A medium chemical peel removes the epidermis plus parts of the middle layer of the skin, the dermis. Doctors advise that wrinkle removal with a chemical peel works wonders. This treatment is also great for acne, uneven skin tone, and texture. This procedure’s results can last for one year, and can be repeated every 12 months, as desired.
  • Deep chemical peel: A deep chemical peel removes the epidermis, plus layers of the mid and lower dermis. This procedure is recommended for deep wrinkles, scars, or even precancerous growths. Recovery time is a lot longer, but the results are more dramatic and longer-lasting.

What Can I Expect?

First, the skin is prepped for the chemical solution. The skin is cleaned and scrubbed, removing any oils from the skin. Next, the chemical solution is applied to the face. From there, it will depend on which type of peel you are having done.

  • Superficial chemical peel: The doctor applies glycolic or salicylic acid solution to the skin and the skin begins to whiten. It may sting temporarily. After a few minutes, the doctor will apply a neutralizing solution or wash to remove it from the skin.
  • Medium chemical peel: The doctor applies a solution of trichloroacetic acid, sometimes in combination with glycolic acid to the skin and it starts to turn white. After a few minutes, you may apply a cool compress to the area. No neutralizing solution is needed. It could burn or sting for up to 20 minutes.
  • Deep chemical peel: The doctor will use numbing cream, pain medicine, or anesthetic before the procedure. The doctor then applies the phenol to the skin, and it will begin to turn white or gray. Your doctor may break up the procedure into intervals to avoid long exposure to phenol.

What's the Recovery Like?

Recovery times will depend on which chemical peel procedure you choose. Your skin will be tight, red, and sensitive. You may be puffy and swollen with a deeper peel, and it may burn or throb. After a day or 2, it should start to peel, which should last anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks, depending on the depth of the peel. You can encourage the healing process by using mild cleansers, moisturizers, ointments, and sunscreen. The amount of peeling afterward depends on the procedure and the condition of the skin before the treatment, but it is not indicative of better results. You should never pick or pull on the peeling skin. It should be allowed to slough off naturally so that the skin doesn’t become dry, cracked, or injured. It can take weeks to months to achieve full results.

Dermatology Consultants of Frisco, your Frisco dermatologists, offers comprehensive cosmetic services to all of our patients. To discuss your skin needs or if you are interested in a chemical peel, call our office for a consultation today.