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Most patients who seek chemical peels are experiencing the ravages of time, not to mention the self-inflicted abuses of sun exposure, smoking, and alcohol use. Telltale blotches and wrinkles are most commonly associated with the face and neck, but the observant critic will also look at the hands.

There are three main categories of chemical peel, which explains the great variation in the description and experience with peels from patient to patient. For simplicity’s sake, think of them as weak, moderate, and strong.

Weak Peel

Examples: Alphahydroxy Acid (AHA), Glycoloic Acid


• Good exfoliant that smoothes rough, dry skin

• Improves texture of sun-damaged skin

• May be used on skin of face and body

• Found in non-prescription strength in various cosmetics and salon facial treatments

• May be mixed with facial wash or cream in dilute concentrations as part of a daily skin care regimen

• Can be mixed with a bleaching agent to correct irregular pigmentation

• Aids in control of acne

• May be used as a pre-treatment before a stronger peel

What to expect:

• Multiple treatments (three to ten) are usually needed to achieve and maintain results

• Sessions usually spaced one to two weeks apart

• Treatment takes ten to fifteen minutes per session

• Use of sun-block recommended

Moderate Peel

Example: Trichloracetic Acid (TCA)


Good exfoliant that smoothes rough, dry skin

Improves texture of sun-damaged skin

Removes pre-cancerous growths; not to be considered a treatment for skin cancer

Can be used on skin of face and body

Smoothes out fine to moderate surface wrinkles

Lightens superficial pigmented blemishes

Improves color and contour of some scars

Useful in treating patients of all skin types, including African-Americans

Often performed as an adjunct to other plastic surgery procedures

What to expect:

Depth of peel can be tailored to individual’s skin

Preferred for patients with darker skin

Treatment takes thirty to forty-five minutes

Requires frequent application of moisturizing ointment for first week

Peeling completed by seven to ten days

Use of sun-block required

Strong Peel

Example: Phenol


Ο Treats coarse textural damage caused by sun, tobacco, and alcohol

Ο Improves deep, coarse wrinkles

Ο Removes pre-cancerous growths; not to be considered treatment for skin cancer

Ο Useful in treating lipstick bleed lines

Ο May permanently remove freckles

What to expect:

Ο A one-time procedure for most patients

Ο May only be used on face

Ο Requires heart monitoring during administration

Ο Not recommended for dark-skinned patients

Ο Full-face treatment will take one to two hours

Ο Requires sedation or general anesthetic

Ο Recovery involves ten-day period of crusting followed by several weeks of redness requiring camouflage

Ο Sun-block must always be used

Ο Family, and especially small children, need to be prepared for you post-peel appearance

Ο Results are dramatic

Patient experiences vary considerably depending on the type of peel administered. Weak peels produce little or no sensation other than a slight tingling. Moderate peels produce a heat sensation similar to that experienced with a strong sports cream or liniment. After three to five minutes, you will feel dryness similar to that felt after application of a facial mask. This sensation is relieved once the antibacterial ointment is applied. There is no subsequent discomfort although you look like you have a sunburn.

Strong peels hurt, and you may require prescription pain medication for the first few days. You should also expect several weeks to several months of skin redness that will require camouflage makeup to conceal.

Weak peels do not usually require any time away from work. After a TCA peel, you can return to work immediately, but you will look like you are sunburned for a t least a week. After a phenol peel, you will probably be able to return to work after ten days to two weeks.

Skin resurfacing by chemical peel offers a non-operative way to reverse the damage done by sun, alcohol, and tobacco. Healthy looking skin makes for a healthy looking you.

To learn more about another skin resurfacing technique, see the section on dermabrasion.

See also
> Botox� & Botox� Cosmetic
> Dermabrasion
> Fat Injection
> Injectable Fillers
> Scar revision

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For more information, or to schedule an appointment, phone 973 377 8950.
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