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About Chemical Peels

Chemical peel, also known as light chemical peels and deep chemical peels.

A chemical peel is a treatment used to improve and smooth the texture of the skin, usually on the face. When getting a chemical peel, a solution of chemicals is put on the skin and left to soak into it. Over the following weeks, depending on the type of chemicals used, the skin will peel off. A chemical peel treatment is intended to destroy parts of the skin so that new skin will grow in its place.

There are different types of chemical peels available, determined by the strength of the chemicals used:

  • Light peels are the mildest chemical peel.
  • Medium peels penetrate the skin deeper than light peels, and have stronger results.
  • Deep peels penetrate further, reaching deeper layers of skin and can only be used on the facial skin. A deep peel is usually only done once and cannot be done on darker skin because the peels can sometimes bleach the skin.


How is it performed?

Most often a chemical peel treatment is performed by a licensed skincare professional in their medical spa or office. Chemical peels all involve the application of a chemical solution to skin, lightly or rubbed more vigorously into the skin using a swab, cotton pad, sponge, or brush (avoiding your brows, eyes and lips). During the application you will experience a slight tingling with light to medium peels or a burning sensation with deep peels, but these are usually minimal.

Your practitioner will carefully observe changes in the appearance of your skin to determine the length of time the solution is allowed to work. Different chemical peels have varying effects, depending on their specific ingredients and their strength.

There is no need for covering or after-peel ointment after a light or medium peel and you can expect little to no recovery time. Deep peels are more invasive and so after the procedure a thick coating of protective ointment, like petroleum jelly, will be layered on to the face covering the protective crust that develop rapidly over the scars. This should remain in place for one to two days. In some cases a tape dressing or bandages may be applied, particularly when dealing with severe wrinkling. Deep peels often require a much longer recuperation period.



  • No anaesthesia or sedation is needed.
  • Light and medium chemical peels have minimal after-care and recovery.
  • Deep chemical peels have long-lasting effects on treating deep wrinkles.


  • After the peel, there will be sun sensitivity and pores may appear larger.
  • Deep chemical peels may have a bleaching effect.
  • Can exacerbate skin disorders including allergic reactions or cold sores.


Following any chemical peel treatment, it is very important that you avoid sun exposure until all the redness of your skin has subsided. You should always protect your skin by regularly using sunscreen. If you have had a phenol peel treatment, this is particularly important, as phenol removes your skin’s natural ability to protect itself through tanning. You should wear good quality UV-proof sunglasses if you have had a peel on the area around your eyes. After some chemical peel treatments you may need to be careful about exposing your skin to chlorinated water, your surgeon can advise you on this.

Immediately after a chemical peel

For deeper peels, the treated area of skin may be covered with petroleum jelly or a similar protective ointment; sometimes dressings may also be applied. You will usually have some redness, swelling and pain after the treatment, particularly if you have had a deep peel. You should contact your surgeon if you are unsure the pain, redness and swelling you are experiencing is normal.

Recovery Time from Chemical Peels

Your recovery will depend on the technique, chemical solution used and depth of skin the treatment reaches.

Light Chemical Peels

For more superficial treatments, you can expect to have no down time and you can return to your normal activities almost immediately.

Medium to Deep Chemical Peels

For medium and deeper peels, you can expect a longer healing period. Your cosmetic surgeon will advise you on how best to cleanse your skin and which ointments you can use to soothe the skin and help healing. Men who have chemical resurfacing procedures must refrain from shaving for a while. It is essential that you follow all the patient care instructions given to you by your physician. These usually include information about which compression garments to wear, how to take care of your drains, taking an antibiotic if prescribed and the level of activity that is safe for you to undertake. Your surgeon should also provide detailed instructions about the normal symptoms and how to spot any signs of complications. It is important to realize that everyone’s body is different and so the amount of time it takes to recover varies between individuals.

Limits & Risks

Fortunately, there are very few significant complications from chemical peels. Your specific risks for chemical peels will be discussed during your consultation. All surgical procedures have some degree of risk. You can minimize the risk to you by carefully following the instructions and advice of your plastic surgeon before and after your cosmetic surgery procedure.

Some potential complications of all surgeries are:

  • Adverse reaction to anaesthesia
  • Hematoma or seroma (an accumulation of blood or fluid under the skin that may require removal)
  • Infection and bleeding
  • Changes in sensation
  • Scarring
  • Allergic reactions
  • Damage to underlying structures
  • Unsatisfactory results that may necessitate additional procedures
  • Blood clots in your legs or lungs

Other risks specific to chemical peels are outlined below:

  • Scarring
  • Abnormal healing
  • Unanticipated colour changes or skin blotchiness
  • Eruption of cold sore (herpes virus)
  • Tiny whiteheads

Questions on Chemical Peel (Light Chemical Peels and Deep Chemical Peels)

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