Chemical Peels

Chemical PeelsSun exposure, acne or just getting older can leave your skin tone uneven, wrinkled, spotted or scarred.  If you want your skin to look smoother and younger, consider a chemical peel.  A chemical peel is one of the least invasive ways to improve the appearance of your skin.   In this treatment, a chemical solution is applied to the skin, which makes it “blister” and eventually peel off removing the damaged outer layers. The new skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin. Although chemical peels are used mostly on the face, they can also be used to improve the skin on your neck and hands.

Chemical peels can be done on the face, neck, or hands. They can be used to reduce fine lines under the eyes and around the mouth, treat wrinkles caused by sun damage and aging, improve the appearance of mild scars, treat certain types of acne, reduce age spots, freckles, and dark patches, improve the look and feel of skin even after sun damage.


In a chemical peel, a chemical solution is applied to the skin and allowed to soak in. Over the next 1 to 14 days, depending on how deeply the chemical penetrated the skin, the skin peels off. This procedure destroys parts of the skin in a controlled way so that new skin can grow in its place. The chemicals used are sometimes called exfoliating or wounding agents.

The types of chemical peels differ based on how deeply the chemical penetrates and what type of chemical solution is used. Factors that may affect the depth of a peel include the acid concentration in the peeling agent, the number of coats that are applied, and the amount of time allowed before the acid is neutralized. Deeper peels result in more dramatic effects as well as higher risks, increased pain, and longer healing time.

At Essence Medical Spa, we provide superficial and deep peels.  Superficial peels are the mildest type of chemical peel and can be used on all skin types. Superficial peels usually use liquid containing a mild (dilute) glycolic acid. Deep peels penetrate several layers of skin and cause a second-degree burn of the skin. They are used only on the face. We use a chemical called Salicylic acid for a deep peel. Deep peels may not be used on darker skin types because they tend to bleach the skin (hypopigmentation). Even in lighter-skinned people, deep resurfacing-may bleach the skin. A deep peel can be done only once in most cases.

Before the peel

Your doctor can help you decide what depth of peel and what type of chemical solution is most appropriate, based on your skin type, which areas you want peeled, what kind of results you want, how much risk you are willing to take, and other issues. A small “test spot” may be peeled to get a better idea of the results, especially for people with darker skin.

Two to three weeks before the peel, you will need to begin preparing your skin by cleansing it twice a day, applying a special moisturizer or cream once or twice a day, and using sunscreen every day. In some cases, daily use of tretinoin (Retin-A), a topical medicine usually used to treat acne, is also recommended and may speed healing. This skin care regimen will help the skin peel more evenly, speed healing after the peel, and may reduce the chance of infection and other complications, especially uneven color changes in the skin.

For the deep peels of the face, you may be given a short course of medicine (such as acyclovir) to prevent viral infection. This is especially likely if you have had cold sores before, and the peel will be in the areas near the mouth or eyes.

Superficial Peel

Glycolic peel is a superficial peel that cause only slight discomfort afterwards and it is the most widely used peel for most skin types. Superficial peels are used to improve the appearance of pigment changes in the skin, acne scars, mild sun damage, or fine wrinkles in all skin types.   It removes dull, damages skin cells and stimulates collagen production and increase cell turnover, leaving you with a smooth, radiant skin texture and youthful looks. It rejuvenates and refreshes your.  Most people can return to their normal activities immediately. The skin heals quickly after a superficial peel. The skin may turn pink, and usually only minimal peeling occurs. You can use makeup to hide any redness until it fades.

How a superficial peel is done

Right before the peel, the skin is cleaned. The chemical (usually a liquid or paste) is then applied to the skin with a small brush, gauze, or cotton-tipped applicators. The chemical is left on the skin for several minutes, depending on the type of chemical used. Water or alcohol may be used to neutralize the acid and end the chemical reaction, then it is wiped off. You may feel a little burning while the chemical is on your skin. A handheld fan can help cool the skin and relieve any discomfort.

Deep peels

At Essence Medical Spa we use Salicylic acid, a mild form of chemical for our deep peel. Salicylic acid is good for oily and acneic skin because it decongests clogged pores, reduces blemishes and blackheads and reduces oil production.  The capacity of the acid for deep pore penetration makes it excellent for those prone to mild and moderate acne.  Dead skin and debris can plug delicate pores resulting in blackheads, whiteheads and acne eruptions.  Salicylic acid combination of antiseptic and exfoliating properties promotes a clear, healthy complexion.  The pore purification process promotes and improves acne conditions and provides a clear path to beautiful youthful skin.  Skin regrowth takes between 10 to 14 days after a deep peel. The skin may remain extremely red for a few days in most people, but up to 3 weeks for some people. Oral pain relievers may be given to reduce pain after the peel.

  • Some people have severe swelling, especially around the eye area. Elevating the head may reduce the swelling to some extent, and corticosteroids may be used for more severe swelling.
  • You may be given a short course of antiviral and antibiotic medicines to prevent infection after the peel. Proper wound care is extremely important after a deep peel to speed healing and prevent infection of the wound. You may be asked to shower several times a day to reduce crusting.

How a deep peel is done

Deep peels take the most time and are the most painful type of chemical peel. You may be given an oral sedative and pain relievers.

  • After the skin has been thoroughly cleaned, the chemical will be applied and allowed to penetrate. After one area of the face is treated, there will be a 15-minute break before the next area is treated to avoid getting too much of the chemical in your system.
  • Tape or ointment may be applied to the area after the peel to treat deeper problem areas. When tape is used, it is removed after 2 days. Ointment is washed off with water after 24 hours and then reapplied as needed.

Depending on how large an area is being treated, the entire procedure may take 60 to 90 minutes.

What to expect after chemical peel

Recovery time after a chemical peel depends on what kind of peel was done and how deep it was. With all types of peels, proper care of the skin after the peel is very important to speed healing, help results last longer, prevent infection, and avoid color changes in the treated area caused by sun exposure. Proper skin care after a peel involves: Cleansing the skin frequently with water or a special wash, changing the dressing or ointment on the wound, moisturizing the skin daily and avoiding any sun exposure until peeling has stopped and sunscreen can be used. After peeling has stopped, sunscreen should be used every day. New skin is more susceptible to sun damage.


In general, the deeper the peel, the greater the risk of side effects and complications.1 Chemical peels can result in redness (erythema), color changes in the skin as treated areas may be darker or lighter than the surrounding skin, crusting and scaling, swelling (edema), especially around the eyes, scarring, allergic reaction to the chemical, increased sensitivity to sunlight and infection. People who have a history of herpes outbreaks are especially prone to infection after a chemical peel.

Sun Protection

During the early healing period after a chemical peel (before the skin has finished peeling), you will need to avoid sun exposure. After the early healing period has passed, you will need to wear sunscreen every day and limit sun exposure as much as possible. New skin is more susceptible to damage and discoloration from sunlight.

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