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What is a chemical peel?

The wrinkled skin of the face is painted with a Phenol solution. The skin becomes pink and swollen. Over the next few days there is weeping and crusting. The crusts fall off in 7 to 14 days and the skin appears pink and smoother.

What chemical is used?

A Phenol solution with a detergent and some oil is used.

How does it work?

It produces a second-degree burn of the skin and removes wrinkles.

How long does the benefit last?

The benefits last for years. The skin may never again be as wrinkled as it would have been if it had not been treated. We have some fifteen year follow-ups that look better now, with fewer wrinkles than the patients had fifteen years ago before the peel was done.

Is it very painful?

Yes. There is usually some stinging and burning the first day. After the first day there is itching. If a large area is done, such as the whole face, it is very painful. As with any burn, the smaller the area, the less the pain.

Does it always work?

No. Sometimes it is very effective and sometimes it is not.

Can it be done again?

Yes, very frequently additional benefit can be obtained by a touch-up or repeat peeling months or years later.

What is the difference in the effect of a face-lift operation and a chemical peel?

The face-lift operation eliminates loose sagging skin and leaves fine wrinkles. The chemical peel removes fine wrinkles and does nothing for sagging skin.

Can the face-lift surgery and chemical peel be done together?

The wrinkles around the eyes and mouth can be peeled at the same time the face-lift is done. Because the face is numb with surgery, some of the burning and stinging of the peel is alleviated when done along with face surgery. A complete peeling of the face cannot be done at the same time as a face-lift.

How long before a person is presentable after a chemical peel?

After the crusts have come off in 7 to 14 days, the areas peeled are pink for several months. The pink color gradually fades and can be covered by make-up (such as Physicians Formula) that contains sunscreen.

What problems occur with the chemical peel?

The healed skin is usually lighter in color after several months. There may be light and dark areas. The skin is more sensitive to the sun. Rarely is there scarring. Some redness may persist.

What can be done to avoid these problems?

Stay out of the sun and wind. Avoid scratching. Follow instructions and keep appointments. Plan to use make-up that contains a sunscreen such as Physicians Formula for several months.


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 William Roy Morgan, M.D., F.A.C.S  Last modified: January 22, 2015