What Are Chemical Peels And Are They Safe?

Chemical Peels

The first reaction of some people who hear the words ‘chemical peels’ is, “This must be dangerous!”. This reaction can be blamed primarily on the word ‘chemical’ followed by the word ‘peel’. 

The opposite is true, chemical peels are safe! 

In fact, these cosmetic treatments can help you look younger and more beautiful. So, what exactly are chemical peels? 

Let’s look at what chemical peels are, whether they are really safe, and what they help to treat. 

What are chemical peels?

Chemical peels are non-invasive cosmetic treatments of the face, neck, and hands to eliminate the skin irregularities. [1]

Chemical peels are primarily used to improve the feel and appearance of the skin. The procedure involves the application of a chemical solution to the skin, causing it to exfoliate and then, peel off. 

This allows the new skin cells underneath to take the place of the dead and damaged cells, leaving your skin smoother and softer. 

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Chemical peels can be used for the treatment of a variety of skin imperfections as given below: 

  • Wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots 
  • Uneven skin tone 
  • Sun damage
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Acne scars
  • Melasma

What are the different types of chemical peels?

There are three basic types of chemical peels: [2]

  • Superficial peels: These chemical peels use mild acids such as alpha-hydroxy acid that help to exfoliate the skin gently. These peels only penetrate the superficial layer of skin and do not affect the deeper layers. It may take about 1 to 7 days to heal. [3]
  • Medium peel: These peels use glycolic acid or trichloroacetic acid to reach the superficial and middle layers of the skin. This makes medium peels more effective at exfoliating and removing dead and damaged cells.
  • Deep peels: Deep peels can penetrate the middle layer of the skin fully and remove the damaged cells. These peels usually contain trichloroacetic acid or phenol.

Who is a good candidate for chemical peels?

According to the skincare experts at WebMD, “Generally, fair-skinned and light-haired patients are better candidates for chemical peels. If you have darker skin, you may also have good results, depending upon the type of problem being treated.” [4]

Chemical peels are also suitable for people who want to look younger and get rid of wrinkles and fine lines on their face. This therapy is also indicated for the management of conditions that cause dark spots and patches on the skin due to the excessive secretion of a skin pigment called melanin. 

What can I expect during a chemical peel treatment?

Chemical peels can be performed in the doctor’s office. Deep peels usually happen in an outpatient surgical facility. 

Before the procedure, your face will be cleaned and you will be provided with eye protection such as gauze or goggles.

Your doctor then numbs the area using a topical anesthetic agent, especially if you are receiving deep chemical peels. 

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Light peel

During light peels, a cotton ball will be used to apply the solution such as salicylic acid to the skin. The skin will then start to lighten. You may experience a mild stinging sensation during the session. 

After a few minutes, the solution will be removed and a neutralizing solution will be applied to the skin.

Medium peel

Treatment with medium chemical peels involves the application of a chemical solution to the face using a cotton-tipped applicator or special sponge. The skin would begin to lighten slowly. 

You may feel a mild stinging or burning sensation for about 10 to 20 minutes. 

The doctor will apply a cool saline compress to neutralize the chemicals. 

Deep peel

A deep chemical peel requires a patient to be sedated. The doctor applies phenol to the skin using a cotton-tipped applicator. This will make your skin look grayish and lighter in tone. The procedure is performed in 15-minute sessions to limit the skin’s exposure to the acid.

What can I expect after having a chemical peel?

According to the skincare experts at the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, “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.” [5]

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Medium peels require about 7 to 14 days to heal. The treated area may become slightly red and swollen. However, the symptoms resolve within a few hours.  

Deep peels may require about 14 to 20 days to heal. It is advisable to avoid sun exposure for a few weeks after the procedure. Avoiding the sun can help to improve the results and allow the skin to heal faster. [6]

Chemical peels are safe and cause no serious side effects. Being a non-invasive and non-surgical procedure, this treatment can help you get rid of skin imperfections without the side effects linked to surgical wounds or general anesthesia.


Chemical peels are not just safe but also highly effective for reducing wrinkles on your face. Peels can also fade pigmented patches and spots and make your skin even-toned. 

You can undergo the sessions of chemical peels at regular intervals to restore the natural glow on your face and rejuvenate your skin. The precise mechanism of action of chemical peels involves stimulating the body’s own processes making it safer and gentle treatment for your delicate skin. 


  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/chemical-peels
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547752/
  3. https://www.aad.org/public/cosmetic/younger-looking/chemical-peels-faqs
  4. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/cosmetic-procedures-chemical-peel-treatments#1
  5. https://www.asds.net/skin-experts/skin-treatments/chemical-peels
  6. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/cosmetic-procedures-chemical-peel-treatments#2

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