A chemical peel can give you a younger, fresh look - and improve the texture of your skin - without the need for surgery. It works by removing the top layers of skin with a chemical preparation. The new skin that grows back is normally smoother than before and has fewer imperfections to give you softer, blemish-free skin.
You may be thinking about having a chemical peel because you’re unhappy with fine lines or wrinkles, acne scars, sunspots or freckles, or uneven or greasy skin.
A peel can help reduce the signs of ageing, treat scars and blemishes, and create healthier, firmer-looking skin without the need for surgery. Your face will be rejuvenated and you will have smoother, softer, blemish-free skin.
There are various types of chemical peel - superficial, medium and deep. They achieve different results depending on your needs and recovery times vary.
You can repeat light and medium peels to maintain results, but you can only ever have one deep peel. Talk to your dermatologist about what is best for you.
Superficial chemical peels are easy to apply and the time needed for healing is minimal, but they won't achieve long lasting or dramatic results. Superficial peels aim to smooth and brighten the skin. They are suitable for those who don't have time to recover from a deeper peel or don’t want any visible peeling.
Medium chemical peels can achieve more noticeable and long-lasting results for surface blemishes, fine lines and facial scarring, such as acne scarring.
A deep peel will help reduce more severe facial wrinkles, and is often used around the mouth and eyes. One deep peel may be enough to achieve the desired result, while a course of superficial peels may be needed to achieve the desired results.
The success of a chemical peel is largely down to skill of the dermatologist performing it. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you have your peel done by a dermatologist or dermatologic surgeon who has in-depth knowledge of the skin.
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It’s important to meet with your chosen consultant before treatment so that you are completely comfortable with them and they know what you want to achieve. It’s helpful to bring in some pictures and a friend or family member to your initial meeting to help articulate your thoughts. You should also ask to see some of the surgeon's recent before and after pictures of similar procedures they've performed.
This is an important decision and we're here to listen and help you achieve your goals.
If you decide to go ahead with the procedure, we'll give you at least two weeks between consultation and operation date. This is because we want you to be really happy and confident with your decision.
We've tried to make your experience with us as easy and relaxed as possible.
For more information on visiting hours, our food, what to pack if you're staying with us, parking and all those other important practicalities, please visit our patient information pages.
Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
Your experience with us will depend on the type of chemical peel you have. The procedure typically takes between 30 minutes and an hour.
Chemical peels cause trauma to the epidermis of the skin, leading the outer layers to peel away. When the skin begins to peel, increased cell growth produces newer, healthier layers.
Light - your skin is cleansed with an agent that removes excess oils and protects eyes and hair. One or more chemical solutions are then applied to small areas of your skin (formula will be based on characteristics of your skin and your desired result), usually alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic, lactic, salicylic or fruit acids. After the skin peel solution has been on for the prescribed amount of time it is washed off with water and a smoothing agent is then applied.
Medium - your skin is cleansed with an agent that removes excess oils and protects eyes and hair. One or more chemical solutions are then applied to small areas of your skin (formula will be based on characteristics of your skin and your desired result), often trichloroacetic acid (TCA). After the skin peel solution has been on for the prescribed amount of time it is washed off with water and a smoothing agent is then applied.
Deep - your skin is cleansed with an agent that removes excess oils and protects eyes and hair. One or more chemical solutions are then applied to small areas of your skin (formula will be based on characteristics of your skin and your desired result). The chemical is usually Phenol acid and takes one to two hours. A smoothing agent is then applied, often petroleum jelly for deep peels.
You will be able to return home straight away after a chemical peel.
A light or medium peel may lead to mild tingling or stinging during the procedures. Deep peels may require a mild sedative during the procedure to aid relaxation. Over the counter pain relief can be used to reduce any pain felt.
Depending on the type of chemical peel you have, your skin will begin to peel two to three days after the procedure, and the new, smoother skin will emerge.
Skin may appear red and tight for the first few hours after the peel. For light peels, patients can aid recovery by using moisturiser and suncream until the skin has healed. For medium peels, patients will need to soak their affected skin in a prescribed liquid every day for usually two weeks, and use moisturisers and suncream to protect the skin.
For deep peels, patients will need to soak their skin four to six times a day for usually two weeks. Thick moisturiser will need to be used to keep the skin hydrated and sun exposure must be completely avoided for the next three to six months.
Once your skin has healed you can start to see the results. For light peels, skin may be red and tight for up to a week and light scaling may appear up to a week after.
For medium peels, affected skin may be red, swollen or blistered for up to two weeks before the new skin starts to show.
Deep peels may take two to three weeks to heal fully and will have to be bandaged at the beginning.
Your consultant will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.
The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.