Chemical Peel

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Chemical Peels for Acne Scars

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  • Chemical peels: Whether the superficial peels (like glycolic acid) performed by aestheticians or deeper ones performed in the doctor's office, chemical peels are of modest, supportive benefit only, and in general, they do not substitute for regular therapy.

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Chemical peel facts

  • A chemical peel damages the skin in a controlled manner, producing a superficial wound.
  • As the damage is repaired by the natural healing process, the skin's appearance is improved.
  • The depth at which the damage occurs is determined by the nature of the chemicals applied to the skin.
  • The type of chemical peel used depends on the nature of the skin problem to be treated.
  • Skin problems that respond best to chemical peels are due to chronic sun damage from ultraviolet light.
  • Since most skin peels damage the skin, there is a period of recuperation necessary.
  • As with any surgical procedure, there are risks, which include scarring, infection, and undesirable color changes.
  • Currently, chemical peels are often used in conjunction with other destructive techniques like laser to diminish the signs of sun damage or acne scarring.

What is a chemical peel?

A chemical peel involves the application of toxic chemical solutions to the skin in a controlled manner, producing controlled tissue death. The desired depth of the wound is dependent upon the the condition to be treated. After the peel, the skin regenerates. The damaged skin likely regenerates through the growth of cells from deeper layers of the epidermis or from undamaged hair follicles.

What are the different types of chemical peels?

Chemical peels are broadly defined by the depth of damage in the skin that they produce. They are categorized as superficial, medium, and deep. Superficial peels do not damage skin below the epidermis, the most superficial skin layer. Medium peels may reach to the superficial layer of the dermis, the deeper layer of the skin. Deep peels generally reach the deeper layers of the dermis. The depth of damage depends on the nature and concentration of the chemicals in the peeling solution and the length of time they are permitted to interact with the skin. Popular chemicals in peeling solutions include alpha-hydroxy acids, beta-hydroxy acids, trichloroacetic acid, and phenol.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/20/2015

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