Womens Health

Chemical Peel

The chemical peel (also known as chem-exfoliation and derma-peeling) is a non-surgical procedure in which chemicals are applied to the face which cause the outer layer of skin to blister and eventually peel off. It may sound pretty gruesome, but it leaves the skin looking younger and healthier, which is why so many women who want to improve their looks give the chemical peel a try.

What Does A Peel Treat?

Chemical peels can be used on the face, neck and even hands to reduce signs of aging (wrinkles, brown spots), uneven skin tone, acne, and even scarring. Chemical peels come in different strengths. The mildest peels treat the mildest problems (for example, fine lines in the skin) and the strongest peels are used to treat the most serious skin problems. There are a whole range of chemical peel strengths in between, and you should discuss them with your dermatologist or plastic surgeon to find out which is the most appropriate peel for you.

A Mild Chemical Peel

The mildest chemical peel on the market is the alpha-hydroxy-acid peel. This treatment is generally used to combat fine wrinkles, dry skin, uneven skin tone, patches of sun-damage, rough skin and even acne. It's a relatively painless procedure that can be performed in a dermatologist's or plastic surgeon's office. If you do want to take a pain killer, a pill such as tylenol or codeine will probably be offered to you. Several treatment sessions may be required to produce optimum results. Mild peels can usually be repeated at one to four-week intervals, depending on how fast you heal. Side effects of a mild chemical peel may include stinging, redness and mild skin irritation.

A Strong Chemical Peel

The phenol peel is the strongest, deepest skin peel available. It produces long lasting effects (some patients have even reported improvements lasting up to 20 years). The phenol peel is used to remove blotches caused by aging or sun exposure, deep wrinkles and pre-cancerous growths; often with dramatic results. The procedure is not without its disadvantages, however. It is extremely painful and is therefore usually performed under general anesthetic or very heavy sedation. You will need more time to recover than you would after a mild peel, perhaps even several months. Reported side effects include the permanent removal of facial freckles, permanent skin lightening, and permanent sensitivity to sunlight. Phenol is also known to have potential risks for patients who suffer from heart problems. A deep peel such as the phenol treatment may (depending on your recovery) be repeated at six to 12-month intervals.

The Procedure

The chemical peel procedure itself will vary depending on the strength of peel you choose, the area to be treated and whether or not you need to have an anesthetic. The treatment itself will include cleansing the face to remove excess oils and covering the eyes and hair to protect them. The chemicals will then be applied. If you are awake, you may feel a warm sensation for five to ten minutes followed by a stinging sensation. Cold compresses may be applied to relieve any discomfort during the procedure. If you are having a deep peel, you will, of course, be given pain medication.


After a chemical peel, your skin is likely to show symptoms similar to sunburn. After a mild treatment, your will experience peeling of the skin and redness, followed by the skin scaling off for three to seven days. You may want to arrange for some time off work so you can recover in private at home. After a medium or deep peel, you will experience the same symptoms only more severe. You may have swelling and blisters which will burst, form scabs and eventually peel off. This is likely to last for seven to 14 days. You may need to cover the treated area with bandages. After any chemical peel, you will have to avoid over-exposure to the sun.


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