Chemical peels: Are they safe and effective?

Woman getting a facial chemical peel

A chemical peel or exfoliation is a procedure that helps improve the texture of your skin.

Generally, a chemical peel is applied to the face as a rejuvenation treatment, specifically meant to treat wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, and other skin conditions.

In order to decide if a facial chemical peel is the right option for you, it’s best to be as informed as possible.

The results you get after undergoing this chemical procedure greatly depend on the skill of the person who performs it. To protect your health and get the results you’re looking for, you should see a dermatologist or a dermatological surgeon.

What is a chemical peel?

A chemical exfoliation procedure consists of a substance that is applied to the skin that makes it peel and hence removes its outer “damaged” layers.

The American Academy of Dermatology advises that patients undergoing a chemical peel, should follow a skin care plan starting between two to four weeks before the procedure. This will help improve the results and reduce potential side effects.

The day of the chemical peel, the Academy recommends washing your face thoroughly. If you are about to undergo a deep peel, the procedure must take place in a surgical environment.

You’ll be put under general anesthesia and after the required prep, your dermatologist will evenly and quickly apply a substance in small patches. Afterward, it will be removed carefully and a surgical bandage will be applied to your face.

After undergoing a facial peel, some patients will have to use cold compresses and then apply a soothing cream or lotion.

What to expect after a facial chemical exfoliation

Recovery time and home care after a chemical peel vary depending on the type of exfoliation you have.

1.- Light peeling (Superficial)

  • Recovery time: From one to seven days. After this facial peel, your skin will be red, and after the redness fades a scaly crust will form that lasts three to seven days.
  • Home care: Apply cream or lotion until the skin heals. Use sunblock daily.  
  • When you can use makeup: In general immediately after a light facial exfoliation, but in some cases the day after.
  • Follow-up visit: None, although three to five peels might be necessary in order to get the desired results. The procedure may be repeated every two to five weeks.

2.- Medium peeling

  • Recovery time: Your skin will look worse for the first 48 hours after a medium chemical peel and it will remain swollen and red for seven to 14 days.
  • Your eyelids may swell and blisters that burst may form after a medium peel; the skin forms a crust that peels off over the next seven to 14 days.
  • Home care: Soak your skin in water daily for a specific period of time and apply ointment afterward.
  • Take medication to prevent infections for 10 to 14 days. Avoid the sun completely until your skin heals.
  • When you can use makeup: Five to seven days afterward you can use makeup for coverage.
  • Follow-up visit: Yes, a visit to the dermatologist is required after the procedure.

3.- Deep peeling

  • Recovery time: From 14 to 21 days. Initially, the area will be bandaged after a deep facial peel.
  • Home care: Soak your face in water four to six times daily while it’s healing.
  • For 14 days, apply thick moisturizer as directed. Take antiviral medication for 10 to 14 days.
  • When you can use makeup: Not until at least 14 days after a deep facial peel. You must avoid the sun for three to six months.
  • Follow-up visit: The dermatologist will want to see you the next day and several times during the first week.

After a medium or deep facial exfoliation, you’ll need to rest. If it’s a deep chemical peel you’ll need to rest at home for two to three weeks.

Infographic on chemical peeling
Click to enlarge. Infographic by saludmóvil™

Home care after a chemical exfoliation

Experts at the American Academy of Dermatology recommend patients follow a few tips to get the best results after a chemical peel:

  • Use moisturizing cream as directed in order to keep your skin hydrated and flexible. If it dries up and cracks, scars may form.
  • If your skin burns, itches or swells, contact your dermatologist. Rubbing or scratching it when it’s been treated with a chemical exfoliant may cause an infection.
  • Don’t go to a tanning salon and don’t try any other way to get an indoor tan. Doing so may result in your skin not healing properly.
  • After you recover, apply sunblock daily. This will help you maintain the results of the procedure.

How much is a chemical peel?

This is how much, in average, a chemical peel costs in the United States:

  • Superficial Peel: $140 – $280
  • Medium Peel: $1,000 – $1,800
  • Deep Peel: $2,200 – $4,800


Have you had a chemical peel? Would you repeat the procedure?
Share your experience in the comments below

Keep reading: Page 1 of 1