hello world!

Chemical Peel: Everything You Need to Know

Kristina Cadwell  
May 31, 2023  

Our skin is our first line of defense against harmful environmental factors, but it’s not invincible. The buildup of dirt, dead cells, and pollutants in the skin, combined with the harmful effects of sun exposure cause the first aging signs to appear as early as our 20s.

Fortunately, there is a solution. This article explains how chemical peels work to transform sun-damaged skin and leave you with a rejuvenated complexion.

Chemical peel treatment

What Is a Chemical Peel?

A chemical peel is a skin resurfacing treatment for the face, neck, and hands. The treatment involves the application of a chemical solution to the treated area, causing controlled damage to the skin. The damaged skin gradually peels off and is replaced by new, smoother, brighter skin.

Types of Chemical Peels

Chemical peel types differ based on the chemical solution used, how deeply it penetrates the skin, and what conditions it treats. Your chosen medical provider will help you choose a chemical peel for your specific skin issue and goals.

1. Light Chemical Peel

Light chemical peels typically use gentle exfoliating agents like alpha and beta hydroxy acids that penetrate the skin’s top layer. They treat:

  • Skin discoloration
  • Uneven skin texture
  • Dryness
  • Fine wrinkles
  • Acne

For full results with this type of chemical peel, patients usually need a series of treatments. There is little to no downtime after light peels.

2. Medium Chemical Peel

Medium chemical peels use trichloroacetic acid, glycolic acid, and Jessner’s solution that penetrate top and middle skin layers. They are effective for:

  • Dead skin cell removal
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Age spots
  • Skin discoloration
  • Acne scars

Patients need downtime after medium chemical peels and usually recover within one week.

Note: Find out what is the best chemical peel for acne scars.

3. Deep Chemical Peel

Deep chemical peels use trichloroacetic or carbolic acid (phenol) that deeply penetrates the middle skin layers. They are effective for:

  • Dead skin cell removal
  • Deeper wrinkles
  • Age spots
  • Skin discoloration
  • Scars
  • Precancerous growths (actinic keratosis)

The patient is given a sedative, local anesthetic, or in rare cases, general anesthesia. Deep chemical peels provide the most dramatic results with only one treatment, but they also require the longest recovery and two months of pre-treatment preparation.

Note: If you want to explore other options for dark spots as well, check out our article and find out how to remove age spots and what might work best for your skin type.

Who Is a Good Candidate for Chemical Peel?

The best candidates for chemical peels are people with fair skin because people with darker pigmentation often experience a condition called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. That’s when the newly grown skin differs in color from the rest of the patient’s skin.

Chemical peels are best used in people who wish to treat aging signs caused by too much sun exposure.

What Conditions Can Chemical Peel Treat?

Chemical solutions used in chemical peels stimulate the body’s natural healing processes to grow new, rejuvenated skin and treat numerous skin issues. Chemical peels eliminate or improve:

How to Prepare for a Chemical Peel?

Preparing for a chemical peel is an important step that determines the treatment’s safety and effectiveness. The preparation steps and duration are individual and depend on the patient’s skin issue and type of chemical peel.

Your medical provider will instruct you on what to do for the best results. Preparation may involve some of the following:

  • Taking antiviral medication for one week before the treatment
  • Avoid using a retinoid cream for 3-7 days prior to the treatment
  • Using hydroquinone for several days before the treatment
  • Avoiding the sun, tanning beds, and saunas for several weeks
  • Avoiding certain cosmetic treatments (hair removal, facial masks, laser resurfacing, etc.)

What to Expect During a Chemical Peel Treatment?

The chemical peel procedure

A chemical peel treatment starts with a consultation with your chosen medical provider, who determines the optimal type of peel depending on your skin issue, desired goals, and budget.

Deep chemical peels require sedation and local or general anesthesia before the treatment.

The medical provider cleans your face with rubbing alcohol and dabs a chemical solution onto the treatment area with gauze, a cotton ball, brush, or special applicator.

You may feel stinging and burning during the treatment. The solution is left on the skin for several minutes. The medical provider then washes and neutralizes the chemicals with water and a saline compress.

The treatment lasts between 30 and 90 minutes.

The Results of Chemical Peel

Chemical peels improve the skin’s tone and texture. After the top skin layer peels off, the newly grown skin is brighter and smoother. The treatment reduces the appearance of wrinkles around the mouth and eyes, scars, age spots, and other skin imperfections.

Light chemical peels provide subtle results and require repeated treatments. Medium chemical peels leave more visible results but also require a series of treatments. Deep chemical peels involve one treatment and provide dramatic results that may last for years.

Chemical Peel Risks and Side Effects

Some health conditions increase the chance of unwanted results after chemical peels. They include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Taking oral birth control
  • Taking certain acne medication
  • A history of scarring
  • A history of severe outbreaks of cold sores
  • A history of skin discoloration

Most of these risks can be reduced with the right pre-treatment regimen as instructed by your chosen medical provider.  

Depending on the type of chemical peel, you may experience the following side effects:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Stinging
  • Skin flaking
  • Skin irritation
  • Peeling
  • Blisters and crusting
  • Dryness
  • Discomfort

Light chemical peels cause minimal side effects, while redness from deep chemical peels may last for three months.

More severe risks of chemical peel treatments include:

  • Scarring
  • Infection
  • Reactivation of cold sores
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Heart, kidney, or liver damage from deep chemical peels

Chemical Peel Aftercare

Aftercare tips provided by your medical provider will help you speed up the recovery after a chemical peel. Different chemical peel types require different aftercare regimes. The following general tips apply to all chemical peels:

  • Avoid the sun
  • Apply cold compresses
  • Take pain relief medication (e.g., ibuprofen)
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+
  • Apply ointment prescribed by your medical provider
  • Avoid picking, rubbing, and scratching your skin

Note: For more chemical peel aftercare tips read our article to find out the 11 universal dos and don'ts.

Chemical Peel Price

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates the average chemical peel cost to be $673.

Vibrant Skin Bar skin experts offer light and medium chemical peels. Light peels cost $99 per session, and medium peels cost $125 per session. Deep peels may cost up to a few thousand dollars because they require anesthesia and carry more risk.


Chemical peels rank highly among cosmetic treatments. Patients love them, especially the less invasive light and medium peels, because they provide long-lasting results with low risk and without needles.

To enjoy a youthful, glowing skin and a smooth complexion once again, consider having a chemical peel. However, make sure you choose a licensed medical professional to ensure you get the desired results.

If you want to want to find out how effective are chemical peels compared to other cosmetic treatments, read our articles chemical peel vs. laser and microneedling vs. chemical peel and find out how to choose the treatment that best suits your needs.

Featured Product:
Come Vibe With Us!
We are a Phoenix-based full-service medical spa with a passion for enhancing our clients’ natural beauty from the inside out.
Latest Posts:Browse Topics:
Visit Our Shop!

Join our newsletter

Vibrant Skin Gift Cards
Contact Info

Get In Touch:

4325 E Indian School Rd, Suite 130
Phoenix, AZ 85018
United States

Monday - Friday: 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Sunday: Closed
About the Author:
Kristina Cadwell
PA Kristina Cadwell graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. She then completed the Physician Assistant program at A.T. Still University graduating with a Masters of Medical Science degree. Kristina has been working in the Aesthetic Medical field for over 10 years. She is certified in neurotoxin cosmetic injection, dermal fillers, Plasma Pen skin tightening, chemical peels, and laser therapy. She is known for producing natural results and has extensive knowledge in diet and exercise allowing her to help you achieve vibrant skin from the inside out.
All Rights Reserved Vibrant Skin 2023.
crossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram