Skin Care Cosmetic Procedures Chemical Peel

Similar to microdermabrasion, a chemical peel is a skin care procedure that removes the outermost layers of skin via a chemical compound. Unlike other skin care products, chemical peels aren’t substances that you can apply to yourself. Instead, a trained professional, usually a plastic surgeon, administers these chemical solutions. Although chemical peels are often performed in conjunction with facelift surgery, you can get them on their own.

Keep in mind, however, that chemical peels aren’t adequate substitutes for facelift surgery. While facelift surgery can eliminate deep-set wrinkles, chemical peels are more effective at treating:

  • acne scars
  • blemishes
  • fine lines
  • pre-cancerous moles or growths
  • unevenly colored skin.

If you want to even out your complexion, a chemical peel can be the perfect solution.

Types of Chemical Peels

Depending on your needs and the severity of the conditions that you want to treat, you can choose between three different types of chemical peels. The following table outlines the pros and cons of each type of chemical peel for the face. (The chemical peels are listed are in order of mildest to strongest):

Type of Chemical Peel



Side Effects

Alphahydroxy Acids (AHAs)

Smoothes out uneven skin texture

Treats sun damage


Helps control acne

Neutralizes uneven skin tones

Multiple peels are essential for effective treatment.

You will need to wear sunscreen whenever you are in the sun.

Sensitivity to the sun




Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA)

Smoothes out fine lines on the skin

Treats facial blemishes

Evens out skin tones

TCA can be performed on various parts of the body.

Retin-A or AHA is usually required before getting TCA.

TCA is effective for those with darker skin.

Multiple peels are essential for effective treatment.

You will need to wear sunscreen whenever you are in the sun.

Enhanced sensitivity to the sun (In fact, doctors recommend avoiding the sun for several months to prevent sun damage to new layers of skin.)

Patches of uneven skin tone and color


Repairs discolored skin blotches

Treats sun damage

Repairs coarse, deep wrinkles

Removes potentially malignant skin cancer growths

This chemical peel can only be used on the face.

Phenol isn’t effective for those with darker skin, nor is it recommended for those with heart disease.

You will need to wear sunscreen whenever you are in the sun.

Enhanced sensitivity to the sun

Inability to tan

Skin Lightening

While AHA is generally used for mild skin problems, TCA and phenol chemical peels are primarily geared toward treating more severe skin problems. As you are deciding between TCA and phenol, your doctor can help you evaluate which type of chemical peel is best for you. Along with factoring in what skin problems you need treated, you should also consider how many treatments you are willing to undergo, as well as the amount of healing time you can endure.

For example, although TCA chemical peels treat fewer types of skin conditions than phenol chemical peels, the TCA variety takes no more than 15 minutes per session and has a relatively quick recovery time. As a result, if your skin problems are mild, you may want to opt for TCA rather than phenol so that your skin will recover and you can resume normal activities without embarrassment.

However, if you need to treat more serious skin issues, opting for the phenol might be your best decision. As with all medical procedures, be sure you understand all aspects of the procedure, including possible side effects and recovery time, before undergoing any chemical peel.

How to Find a Chemical Peel Specialist

Once you have decided that a chemical peel is right for you, the first thing you will have to do is find an experienced professional to administer the peel. Because not all states require that people be certified to apply chemical peels, be sure to talk to your specialist to see whether or not he is certified, as well as how much experience he has.

If possible, ask to talk to other patients he has treated to see how satisfied they were with their results. Any confident, skilled professional should be more than willing to provide you with some positive references.

Once you have found a professional whom you trust to perform the chemical peel, be sure you understand:

  • how long the recovery time will be
  • how many visits you will need to get results
  • what side effects you are likely to develop
  • what steps you will have to take before the chemical peel to prepare your skin for it
  • what the procedure entails
  • whether or not the cost of the chemical peel is covered by your insurance company.


American Society of Plastic Surgeons (n.d.). Chemical Peel. Retrieved November 3, 2007 from the ASPS Web site: