We perform chemical peels in our Pittsburgh and Washington offices to treat conditions such as acne scarring, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, melasma, and aging skin. A chemical peel is a safe procedure when done appropriately, but not everyone is a perfect candidate. Talk to our expert cosmetic dermatology team if you are considering whether a chemical peel is right for you.
What is a Chemical Peel?
A chemical peel is a procedure used to improve the appearance of the skin on the face. A chemical solution is applied to the skin that causes it to exfoliate and eventually peel off. The new, regenerated skin is usually smoother, with a better color and tone.* The new skin is also temporarily more sensitive to the sun. There are three basic types of chemical peels:
Superficial or lunchtime peel:
With a superficial chemical peel, an alpha-hydroxy-acid or another mild acid (we use a Jessner's solution) is used to penetrate only the outer layer of skin to gently exfoliate it. The treatment is used to improve the appearance of mild skin discoloration and rough skin as well as to treat acne.
For medium chemical peels, glycolic or trichloroacetic acid is applied to penetrate the outer and middle layers of skin to remove damaged skin cells. The treatment is used to improve age spots, fine lines and wrinkles, freckles and moderate skin discoloration. It also can be used to smooth rough skin and treat some precancerous skin growths, i.e. actinic keratosis.
With deep chemical peels, tricholoracetic acid or phenol is applied to deeply penetrate the middle layer of skin to remove damaged skin cells. The treatment removes moderate lines, age spots, freckles and shallow scars. Patients will see a dramatic improvement in skin appearance. The procedure is used on the face and can only be performed once. We do not perform deep peels in our office.
What are the benefits of a chemical peel?
There are many different chemical peel benefits. In general, chemical peels are used to improve skin color and texture and specifically treat conditions such as acne scarring, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, melasma, and aging skin. They can help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, scars, and mild discoloration. However, it’s important to know that they can’t solve all skin issues, and you should consult your dermatologist about the treatment that best fits your skin condition or concern.
Does a chemical peel remove acne scars?
Chemical peels can help to treat and improve the appearance of acne scars. If you have acne scarring and are considering this treatment, it’s best to consult with your dermatologist first.
What other conditions are chemical peels helpful for?
Chemical peels are helpful for the following conditions:
How long does a chemical peel last?
After the treatment, a light or superficial chemical peel generally takes anywhere from three to seven days to heal, whereas medium depth peels may take up to 14 days to heal. Chemical peels can help to stimulate new collagen production in the skin. Because of this, their results can be long lasting. Superficial chemical peels are often performed every six months as a maintenance treatment while medium depth peels are repeated less frequently.
How many chemical peels do I need to see results?
Peels are usually performed in a series of 3-4 treatments spaced a month apart to get the best results for our patients. Results depend on your skin type and the issue or skin condition you are treating with chemical peels and the depth or strength of the peel.
What should I expect during the procedure?
Prior to the procedure the skin is cleansed with a special astringent to help increase the penetration of the peel. The peel solution is them applied evenly over the face. This may cause a mild burning or stinging sensation that is alleviated with the use of a fan. Once the peeling solution has been allowed to sit for the desired amount of time, cold compresses are applied, the skin is cleansed, and sunscreen is applied. It is important to protect yourself from the sun after a chemical peel as the skin is more sensitive and this can lead to darkening of the skin, infection, or even scarring.
Prior to a chemical peel it is extremely important to be using a Retin-A type medicine to the face nightly. This helps to increase the penetration of the peel and without it, the peel may not have the desired effect. The Retin-A should be stopped 48 hours prior to the peel.
What should I expect after the procedure?
All peels require some follow-up care. Expectations depend on the type of peel performed:*
Superficial peels require one to seven days to heal. Treated skin will initially be red and may scale. Lotion or cream should be applied until the skin heals, followed by daily use of sunscreen. Makeup can usually be worn the next day.
Medium peels require seven to 14 days to heal. Treated skin will initially be red and swollen. Swelling worsens for the first 48 hours. Blisters may form and some crusting may occur which will resolve in seven to 14 days. Skin must be soaked daily for a specified period, followed by ointment application. Antiviral medication is taken for 10 to 14 days. Mild lotion or cream may be applied. Avoid all sun exposure until healing is complete. Camouflage makeup may be worn after five to seven days. A follow-up appointment will be necessary to monitor progress.
My face is burning after a chemical peel, is that normal?
Depending on your skin’s sensitivity and the type of chemical peel you had, you may experience some side effects as noted above. After a superficial peel, your skin may feel mildly irritated. After a medium peel, you will most likely experience a stinging sensation while your skin remains red and swollen. Although we do not perform deep chemical peels in our office, the worst “burning”, or stinging, sensation patients may feel is after a deep peel while the skin is still swollen, and the treated areas continue to develop new skin. If you have any concerns, you should speak with your dermatologist or provider.
Is a chemical peel safe?
Chemical peels are a safe procedure if done appropriately. There are, however, potential side effects. These include a temporary or permanent change in skin color, this is why we do not recommend chemical peels for those with darker skin types. Chemical peels can also re-activate the cold sore virus, for that reason we will prescribe an anti-viral medication for those with a history of cold sores.
Why choose Vujevich Dermatology Associates in Pittsburgh for your chemical peels and other cosmetic treatments?
Chemical peels are a common cosmetic procedure but please remember there can be permanent side effects if not performed correctly. At our Pittsburgh or Washington office, chemical peels and other cosmetic treatments are performed by one of our physicians or our highly trained nurse practitioners. We are committed to patient safety and continuing education to provide you with the most advanced techniques for the best results.
Aesthetic treatments should be customized to your individual needs and wants – there should never be a “cookie cutter” approach. We believe it’s important to perform a full cosmetic consultation before any aesthetic treatment. At this appointment one of our experienced providers will discuss your overall treatment goals and expectations as well as perform a full cosmetic examination of the face, neck, chest, and hands. We will also assess your skin for tone, color, wrinkles, and sun damage. Through this comprehensive evaluation, we will then develop an individualized aesthetic plan including our full range of in-office treatments and skin care products.
We always believe in natural aesthetic results. Our goal is to never make you look “done” but just a more youthful version of yourself! You can get in touch with our team below if we can provide more information, or if you'd like to schedule an appointment.