Cosmetic Procedures
Chemical Peeling

This procedure peels away many visible signs of aging on the face, hands, neck, and chest. After the skin heals, fewer wrinkles, less discoloration, and improved texture may be seen.

Also Called

  • Chemexfoliation

  • Dermapeeling

  • Refreshing peel

Signs of Aging Treated

  • Age spots

  • Discoloration (blotchy complexion, uneven skin tone)

  • Dull complexion

  • Fine lines (especially under the eyes and around the mouth)

  • Freckles

  • Rough-feeling skin

Woman's skin before chemical peel

2 months after a chemical peel

This 32-year-old woman was bothered by age spots, blotchy skin, and fine lines and wrinkles.

Two months after a chemical peel, she has fewer fine lines, more even skin tone, and no visible dark patches.

(Photos used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides)

Other Uses: A chemical peel may be applied after a laser treatment to diminish lines that show where the laser treatment stopped.

Chemical peeling also is popular with younger people. Some people in their 20s and 30s opt for a mild chemical peel to prevent signs of aging from appearing too early. Acne sufferers may find that chemical peeling helps keep their skin clear.

What Happens During a Chemical Peel?
If you are considering a chemical peel and want to know what would
happen if you underwent this procedure, visit Chemical Peeling: What
to Expect Before, During, and After

When See Results from a Chemical Peel
Once the skin heals, the effects of the peel will be seen. This ranges from 1 day of healing for a superficial peel to 14 days or more for a deep peel.

Woman with melasma

After treating melasma with chemical peels

A 52-year old woman with melasma

The woman after 2 superficial chemical peels

(Photos used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides)

Chemical peels effectively remove damage in the top and middle layers of the skin. Depending on the depth of the peel, a peel can remove wrinkles, age spots, and freckles. Some can diminish mild scarring, improve skin tone, eliminate blotchiness, and clear acne. Most results are not permanent. When a superficial peel is recommended, about 3 to 5 peels are needed to see the desired results.

Possible Side Effects
Chemical peels have been used for more than 50 years and have an excellent safety record. Persistent redness that may last for months is possible. Some people with darker skin may see temporary darkening of the skin following a peel. The risk of scarring is low in the hands of a dermatologist who has performed numerous chemical peels.

Probably the greatest risk of side effects comes from not following your dermatologist’s instructions. Sun exposure, forgetting to care for the wound, scratching the treated skin, and using makeup before the skin heals can cause unwanted side effects ranging from infection to scarring. If you have any questions, be sure to ask.

How Long Results Last
The results are not permanent, as a chemical peel cannot stop the skin from continuing to age. Because sun exposure accelerates signs of aging, protecting the skin from sun exposure will lengthen the amount of time that the results are seen. Protecting the skin from the sun also can prevent some signs of aging from re-appearing such as blotchy skin and dark patches.

Related Links
10 Questions to Ask Before a Cosmetic Procedure
Chemical Peeling (AAD pamphlet)
The Lunchtime Peel: What It Can Do for You

Bernstein EF. “Chemical Peels.” In: Kaminer MS, Dover JS, Arndt KA, editors. Atlas of Cosmetic Surgery. United States of America, W. B. Saunders Company; 2002. p. 311-27.

Hirsch RJ. “Chemical Peels.” In: Sadick N, Lawrence N, Moy R, et al. Concise Manual of Dermatologic Surgery. China, McGraw-Hill Companies; 2008. p. 31-6.

Monheit GD and Chastain MA. “Chemical and Mechanical Skin Resurfacing.” In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Rapini RP et al, editors. Dermatology. 2nd edition. Spain, Mosby Elsevier; 2008. p. 2313-27.

Tanzi EL and Alster TS. “Skin Resurfacing: Ablative Lasers, Chemical Peels, and Dermabrasion.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, Katz SI et al, editors. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. 7th edition. United States of America, McGraw Hill Medical; 2008. p. 2369-70.

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

Ancient Egyptians applied chemicals to their skin to improve its health and appearance.





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Page last updated 10/8/08

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