Chemical peels are acids that cause the outer layer of your skin to peel off, stimulating collagen formation and revealing healthier looking skin. This approach is safe and useful for fine skin of the eyelid, deep lines around the mouth, and pigment from the sun and pregnancy. Depending on your needs, there are several different chemicals available, which offer a range of comfort and recovery options. These may be used by an aesthetician or a plastic surgeon in the treatment room without anesthesia, or by your plastic surgeon in the operating room under IV sedation.

Types of procedures

  • Glycolic acid: This approach offers full face refresher, by the Aesthetician, no anesthetic required.
  • TCA (trichloracetic acid): This option is available in several strengths, more effective for lines and sunspots, performed by your plastic surgeon in the treatment room without anesthesia or operating room under IV sedation.
  • Phenol: This approach is the deepest line remover, requires operating room sedation, may lighten facial skin.

Procedure details

  • The type of peel will dictate whether you will be awake or sedated
  • Your skin is cleaned before application of the chemical
  • The chemical is applied with a gauze or a cotton tip applicator (Q-tip)
  • Multiple coats of the peel may be applied, and a cooling fan may be comforting in between each layer if you are awake
  • A moisturizer will be applied after the treatment

Risks & Benefits

Glycolic peels are rapid treatments with rapid recovery and short term skin improvements. TCA peels can produce bigger results, but carry some risk of temporary pigmentation in patients with darker skin tones. Pretreatment with hydroquinone and retin-A can reduce this risk, allow a deeper peel, and speed recovery. Phenol peels have the most power for deep line removal, but can lighten skin, which means that they should be used for full face, not regional, treatments. Those peels also require cardiac monitoring.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have heard that I can get a chemical peel in a salon or Medi-Spa. Why should I go to a plastic surgeon?

Chemical peels are acids that produce skin improvements by burning the skin to different degrees. It is safest to have these treatments done by an experienced plastic surgeon who can monitor the healing and respond to any concerns about pigmentation or delayed wound healing.

Do I need to have my skin pretreated before a chemical peel?

Use of a skin care regimen is not required before light glycolic peels or phenol peels. However, it is very useful before TCA peels. The particular skin care regimen will be recommended by our aesthetician. Regardless of which chemical is chosen, a long term skin care regimen is always beneficial after a chemical peel to maintain the results.