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Do chemical peels burn your skin?

Question posted by Andrea from Whitby, Ontario

I’ve been looking into getting a chemical peel for my face. There’s some discolouration to my face and a bit of sun damage and brown spots. I feel like the chemical peel will help with this, but the name scares me off a bit. Do chemical peels burn your skin? What are the side effects?

Doctor's Response

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One thought on “Do chemical peels burn your skin?

  • Dear Do Chemical Peels Burn Your

    Thank you for your clinical
    post.  There are many ways of
    rejuvenating your skin.  Fractional laser
    treatments, skin care products, intense pulsed light, focused lasers and
    chemical peels.  Chemical peels provide a
    chemical denaturation of some of the components of your skin particularly the
    dead cells on the outer layer of your skin called the stratum corneum and
    sometimes either the proteins of the upper layer of your skin.  It is not a thermal burn per se, but rather a
    chemical denaturation of these proteins and structures.  The chemical denaturization leads to a
    production and remodeling of the epidermis and upper levels of the papilar dermis
    resulting in fresh new skin.  There are
    many different chemicals.  Salicylic
    acid, Glycolic acid, Trichloroacetic acid and Phenol as well as Acetic acid.  These are some of the more common chemical
    elements used to providing non-thermal, but chemical dissolution of the older
    layers of skin.

    Very mild concentrations of these
    chemicals such as you would see in a day spa or you can buy over the counter in
    standard skin care products will result in a very mild exfoliation of thinning
    of the stratum corneum.  Medical peels
    delivered in a plastic surgeon’s or dermatologist’s office will provide a
    significant destruction using chemical denaturation of the outer layers of your
    skin and result in remodeling and new collagen and ground substances.  Strong medical chemical peels can require
    5-10 days of recovery and lead to several weeks of erythema.  Alternatively, there are many fractional
    radio frequency and laser devices that can be more selective and provide less
    downtime, but often a better result.  It
    is important to visit a plastic surgeon or certified dermatologist’s office
    with a significant amount of interest and experience in anti-aging techniques.

    I hope this information is of some
    assistance and best of luck.

    To find out more, please visit: and
    also visit the areas on chemical peels.

    R. Stephen Mulholland, M.D.

    Certified Plastic Surgeon

    Yorkville, Toronto

Additional Information

Chemical Peel (Light Chemical Peels and Deep Chemical Peels)

Read about the procedure

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