What to Expect from a Chemical Peel

How do I know which chemical peel type or depth to choose?

If you happen to be someone who doesn’t know exactly what a chemical peel is, there is nothing about the name that makes it sound good, unless, perhaps, you mistakenly believe it refers to something you do to make your driveway look new. Throwing in the fact that it is done by applying acid to the face is unlikely to make you feel better about it.  

Does this describe you? If so, you will be surprised to learn that there are around a million and a half chemical peels done every year in the U.S., and the popularity of this procedure is rapidly increasing. You might also be interested to know that the ancient Egyptians used combinations of animal fats, salt, alabaster and sour milk, which contains alpha-hydroxy acid, to smooth and lighten the skin. In Vienna in the mid-1800s, Ferdinand Hebra, known as the father of topical dermatology, pioneered the use of various types of acids for peeling the skin off the face for therapeutic benefits. 

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, during the last years of the 20th century, chemical peels topped the list of cosmetic procedures done in the United States. They were replaced with high-tech devices like lasers but have since made a dramatic comeback. Many believe that the chemical peel is not only considerably less expensive than laser treatment, they actually do a better job.  

A lot of the resurgence in popularity with chemical peels can be credited to improvements in acid formulas and techniques used in applying them. There is a wide range of types, combinations and strengths of chemicals, which have made them more successful, less painful and able to target specific issues with the most effective formula. 

How Is a Chemical Peel Done?

A chemical peel starts with a consultation between the patient and the doctor. Expectations are discussed and the patient is aware of the likely results, as well as the recovery details. 

The procedure is typically done on an outpatient basis and begins with a thorough cleaning of the skin followed by the application of chemicals. The purpose of the peel is to initiate a reaction with the skin that results in the outer layer dissolving, allowing the younger-looking and smoother skin underneath to become visible. 

Choosing the Type (Depth) of Peel

There are three basic types of chemical peel and they are classified based on the depth of the peel. Each one is done with different chemical mixtures. The types are:

  • Light – this one is also called a “lunchtime” peel because it is fairly superficial. It addresses acne, very fine wrinkles, dry skin and some skin tone unevenness. These can be repeated once or twice a month.
  • Medium – medium peels target not only the epidermal skin cells but also the dermis, which is the middle layer. With a medium peel, deeper wrinkles, uneven skin tone and scarring from acne can be treated. This level of peel can be redone after several months, if necessary.
  • Deep – a deep peel can penetrate to the lower layer of the dermis and achieve more dramatic results, such as removing or diminishing deeper scars, wrinkles and some types of precancerous growths. Deep chemical peels should only be done once and not repeated. 

Dr. Brian D. Cohen is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon with extensive training in cosmetic/reconstructive plastic surgery and has had years of experience performing a wide array of cosmetic surgery procedures, specializing in procedures of the face, eyes, nose, breast and body and is known for his exemplary and compassionate care by his patients. Knowing that Dr. Cohen has been selected by his peers in Super Doctors for 6 years in a row in 2018 gives you the confidence that he is highly respected for his performance in his specialty.

Information on locations and office hours for Cohen Plastic Surgery can be found by clicking here