What is a Chemical Peel?

A chemical peel is a minimally invasive procedure whereby a formula of chemicals (typically a combination of phenol, trichloroacetic acid, and alphahydroxy acids) is carefully applied to your face, neck, or hands to rejuvenate your appearance by removing the damaged, outer layers of your skin.

What concerns can a Chemical Peel address?

The cumulative effects of the sun, age, and smoking make the skin appear wrinkled and thin. In addition, abnormal cells may grow and multiply, creating unsightly spots or in some cases, skin cancers. Luckily for us, the skin is unique in its ability to regenerate itself. The normal pace of regeneration, however, is slow and does not prevent the accumulation of abnormal skin cells. A more efficient way of ridding the body of those abnormal cells and replacing them with 'new' skin is to 'peel' off the top layers of skin. The body then replaces these layers with new skin that is healthier and younger looking.

A chemical peel can help address:

  • sun damage
  • freckles
  • age or liver spots
  • fine lines, wrinkles, or scars
  • rough skin
  • uneven skin tone

A chemical peel can NOT address:

  • deep lines, wrinkles, or scars
  • loose skin
  • broken capillaries

How are Chemical Peels performed?

There are different types of chemical peels. Mechanical peels work by 'rubbing off' the top layers of skin. Older methods used a pumic stone and dermabrasion also enjoyed popularity. More recently, even salons have started using systems that 'sandblast' the skin. How well these methods work is highly dependent on the skill of the technician.

Chemical peels, however, work by putting a chemical (or combination of chemicals) on the skin that reacts with and breaks up the top layers of skin (epidermis). Examples of this are the 'fruit acid' peels, 'TCA' peel, 'Obagi blue peel', etc. Depending on the nature and concentration of the chemicals used, these peels can strip off only very superficial layers of skin or they can go deep into the skin.

Which chemical peels are better?

There is no one peel that is better than the other. Choosing a peel often depends on the amount of recovery time you are willing to invest. Peels can be classified as 'superficial' or 'deep' depending on how many layers of skin are eliminated.

The more superficial peels have very little downtime, thus the popularity of the 'lunchtime peels.' The deeper peels require medically supervised care during the healing phase for optimal results, and patients may need to be homebound for several days. The visible effects of the superficial peels are subtle, whereas the effects of deeper peels are dramatic.

How do chemical peels differ from laser surgery?

Laser Resurfacing works by vaporizing layers of skin and can penetrate deeper into the skin. Depending on the type of laser, there can be heating of the tissues underneath the top layers of skin that will also affect how the skin regenerates. Laser resurfacing can often yield a longer-lasting result than a chemical peel.

What are the pre-operative requirements?

It is VERY important that you first decide how much downtime you can tolerate. The deeper the peel the more dramatic an effect you can expect from the procedure, but the deeper the peel the longer the downtime. Special post-treatment instructions will be provided after your initial consultation.

What is recovery like following a chemical peel?

Recovery will depend on what type of chemical peel you opt for. A superficial peel will have you back to work that afternoon while a medium peel will have a couple days of redness and minor dry peeling of the skin. A deep peel will have about a week downtime, and redness (which can be covered with special cosmetics) may persist for weeks.

What are the risks and possible complications?

Chemical peels are generally safe and  well tolerated. Be sure to discuss your medical history and concerns during your consultation. While fairly uncommon, possible complications can include, but are not limited to:

  • infection
  • scarring
  • change in skin pigmentation

How much does a chemical peel cost?

The type of chemical peel you opt to have will determine the cost. 

Before and After Chemical Peel Photos*

We're putting together a gallery of chemical peel patients' before and after photos to give you a good idea of the kinds of results you might expect from a chemical peel. Please note that all of the patients who will be featured will ge giving written consent for us to use their photos on our website. We are really grateful for their participation in patient education!

Finding Your Perfect Peel

Contact UsIf you want just a 'freshening' of the skin with little downtime, a 'lunchtime peel' or 'paris peel' will be adequate. If you have very fine wrinkles and are willing to tolerate several days of redness and minor dry peeling of the skin over a couple of days, a medium depth peel may be of help. For deep wrinkles, the best solution is a deep peel, but you will have about a week downtime, and redness may persist for weeks.

Give us a call at +1-410-494-8100 or Contact Us online to set up a consult. We're happy to schedule a time for you to visit our offices or participate in a virtual consultation. We are located only 30 miles from BWI airport and we are only 20 minutes from the downtown Amtrak train station.

doctor's signatureUpdated October 21, 2015
Ricardo L Rodriguez M.D.
Board Certified Plastic Surgery

*Patients depicted in photos and videos have provided written consent to display their photos online. Every patient is unique, and surgical results may vary. Please contact us if you have any questions.

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