American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Chemical Peels (Facial Peels)

Chemical peeling is an effective treatment option for a wide range of skin colors and types. Ideal candidates for chemical peels generally have fair skin and light hair. However, darker skin types have been found to have great results as well.

It's important to understand that the type of skin condition being treated will greatly affect the results experienced.

You should discuss with your doctor what you are looking to achieve during your initial consultation at UPMC Hamot Plastic Surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chemical Peels

Click on the questions below to reveal the answers about chemical peels.

How do I prepare for a chemical peel?

In preparing for a chemical peel, it's important to discuss with your doctor all medications you're taking. Your doctor may recommend that you discontinue certain types of medicines.

Some people, prior to their procedure, may need to use topical preconditioning medication such as:

  • Retin-A ™
  • Renova ®
  • Glycolic acid

The prevention of infection is a concern when receiving a chemical peel, especially for those receiving a deeper peel. Your doctor may recommend oral antibiotics or antiviral medications prior to treatment.

If you have a history of keloids or excessive scar tissue overgrowth at an injury or surgical site, report this to your doctor before receiving a chemical peel.

It's important to follow your doctor's advice so you receive all the benefits of your chemical peel without any complications.

What are the risks of a chemical peel?

In general, the risks associated with chemical peeling are low.

Like many cosmetic procedures, chemical peels include a slight risk of infection. In some cases, patients reported temporary or permanent skin color alteration.

There is also a small risk of:

  • Reactivating cold sores in people with a medical history of herpes outbreaks.
  • Scarring, especially in patients who scar easily. If this should occur, scarring can generally be treated effectively.

What happens after a chemical peel?

Many people describe varying experiences following a chemical peel. How you feel after treatment depends on the type and depth of the peel you receive.

Patients receiving a:

  • Mild peel report a skin reaction resembling sunburn — initial redness, followed by scaling — all of which should clear up within one week.
  • Medium or deep peel generally report swelling and possible formation of water blisters. The blistering generally breaks, crusts, turns brown, and eventually peels off.

How many chemical peel treatments will I need?

The number of treatments will vary depending on your skin condition and they type of chemical peel treatment.

  • Mild chemical peel: You can repeat treatments in 1- to 4-week intervals until you reach the desired effect.
  • Medium or deep chemical peels: If the optimal result is not reached through one treatment, you can receive another treatment in approximately six to twelve months.

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Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

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