Chemical Peels

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’re 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: 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. 

Medium peel: 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.

Deep peel: 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 only can be performed once.  We do not perform deep peels in our office.

What conditions are chemical peels helpful for?

Chemical peels are helpful for the following conditions:

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 sun screen 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.

Peels are usually performed in a series of 3-4 spaced a month apart to get the best results.

Are chemical peels 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 chose Vujevich Dermatology Associates for your aesthetic treatment?

Chemical peels are a common cosmetic procedure but please remember there can be permanent side effects if not performed correctly.   At out office, 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 and 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!