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What are Chemical Peels?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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Chemical peels are cosmetic procedures which are performed to improve the appearance of the face. Depending on regional laws, chemical peels may be performed by a doctor or by an aesthetic technician. When seeking out this procedure, people should definitely ask about the qualifications of the person performing the chemical peel, including years of experience and location of training, because it is possible to injure someone or cause permanent damage if a chemical peel is not performed properly.

In a chemical peel, a chemical solution is applied to the face and then removed. The solution removes the upper layers of the skin, and can be used to address age spots, discolorations, fine lines, precancerous cells, and freckles. Not all marks can be removed with a chemical peel, but the appearance of the face can become more smooth and even after chemical peels, and the effects may last for an extended period.

The mildest chemical peels use alphahydroxy acids, the same products which are available in some over the counter face masks. The most intense peels use phenol. Typically, after a chemical peel, the face looks red and irritated, and the patient is advised to avoid using makeup and to stay out of the sun, using sunscreen if he or she will be outdoors. As the skin heals after chemical peels, it may develop scabs or flakes which will eventually drop off. A slightly unsightly appearance can persist for several weeks, making a chemical peel inadvisable right before a major event such as a wedding.

This procedure is sometimes referred to as dermapeeling or chemexfoliation. Home chemical peel kits are available for people with mild skin problems who would like to treat themselves at home. However, people should be careful about home chemical peels because they could damage their skin if the product is not suitable for their skin type or it is not applied correctly. A dermatologist may have recommendations about products which can be used safely at home, including products which can be used for skin maintenance.

Chemical peels are not a substitute for surgical procedures, and the chemicals need to be carefully formulated for the skin of the patient. There are some risks, including permanent discoloration of the face after a chemical peel or an allergic reaction to a chemical used in the procedure. Using an experienced technician or doctor can reduce the risk of an adverse outcome, and patients should also make sure to fully disclose their medical history before receiving a peel.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a BeautyAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon59357 — On Jan 07, 2010

What are the qualifications for someone to perform chemical peels in Tennessee?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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