A chemical peel improves and smoothes the texture of the facial skin or to lessen scars.


It uses a chemical solution that causes the skin to blister and eventually peel off. The regenerated skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin. Some types of chemical peels can be purchased and administered without a medical license, however people are advised to seek professional help from a plastic surgeon or dermatologist.


Alpha hydroxy acid peels

Alpha hydroxy acids are naturally occurring organic carboxylic acids such as glycolic acid, a natural constituent of sugar cane juice and lactic acid, found in sour milk and tomato juice. This is the mildest of the peel formulas and produces light peels for treatment of fine wrinkles, areas of dryness, uneven pigmentation and acne. Alpha hydroxy acids can also be mixed with a facial wash or cream in lesser concentrations as part of a daily skin-care regimen to improve the skins texture. It may take multiple treatments to get the desired results.

Side effects may include :

Beta hydroxy acid peels

Beta hydroxy acid peels are better than alpha hydroxy acids to control oil, acne and to remove dead skin cells. It is because beta hydroxy acids can get deeper into the pore than alpha hydroxy acids. Alpha hydroxy acids work only on the surface of the skin.

Jessners peel

This is a combination of salicylic acids, lactic acids and resorcinol. It is thought to break intracellular bridges between keratinocytes.

Retinoic acid peel


Trichloroacetic acid peels

Trichloroacetic acid is used as an intermediate to deep peeling agent. Depth of penetration is increased as concentration increases. Concentrations higher than 35% are not recommended because of the high risk of scarring. It takes several days to heal.

Trichloroacetic acid peels may require :

Phenol/Croton oil peels

Phenol/Croton oil peels are the strongest and produces a deep skin peel. Effects of a phenol chemical peel are long lasting and in some cases are still readily apparent up to 20 years following the procedure. Improvements in the patients skin can be quite dramatic. A single treatment usually achieves the desired result. It takes several months to heal.

Side effects :


Light chemical peels like alpha hydroxy acid and glycolic acid peels are usually done in the plastic surgeons offices. Because the patient feels only a slight stinging when the solution is applied, usually no anesthetic is given. If necessary, an oral pain pill like Tylenol with codeine would be appropriate.

Medium peels like trichloroacetic acid are also performed in the plastic surgeons offices or clinic as an outpatient procedure. Because they are a bit more painful, a combination of a tranquilizer like Valium and a pain pill usually suffice. Trichloroacetic acid peels often do not require anesthesia because the solution itself has a numbing effect on the skin. The patient usually feels a warm or burning sensation.

Deep chemical peels like Phenol are very painful and are performed under general anesthesia.


Even if these procedures are done correctly by a licensed physician, the appearance of the skin where the scar was may not improve. The area where the scar was removed can actually become darker or the pores in the skin (especially around the face) can get clogged and require further surgery or you may even experience a very painful infection.

A much better method is silicone scar sheets

This page has been updated on the 2017-12-18.