Chemical Peel: Cost, Risks, Recovery


A chemical peel is a cosmetic treatment used to improve the appearance or feel of the skin. It can be applied to the face, hands, and neck. During the surgery, a chemical solution is applied to the skin to remove the damaged top layers. The skin that grows back after a chemical peel is smoother and looks younger.

Chemical peels can treat wrinkles, skin discoloration, scars and uneven skin tone or redness, typically on the face. If you are fair-skinned and light-haired, you may be a better candidate for chemical peels. If you have darker skin, you may also have good results, depending upon the type of problems being treated. But you also may be more likely to have an uneven skin tone after the procedure.


A good candidate should have the following conditions:

  • Fair skinned and light-haired patients
  • You’d better have no skin sags, bulges and more severe wrinkles


Chemical peels can be done at different depths: light, medium or deep, depending on your condition and desired results:

  • Light (superficial) chemical peel

A light (superficial) chemical peel removes the outer layer of skin. It can be used to treat fine wrinkles, acne, uneven skin tone and dryness. You might have a light chemical peel as often as every two to five weeks — depending on your desired results.

  • Medium chemical peel

This type of chemical peel can reach the middle and outer layer of skin. A medium chemical peel can treat wrinkles, acne scars and uneven skin tone. You might repeat a medium chemical peel after three to nine months to maintain results.

  • Deep chemical peel

A deep chemical peel can fully penetrate the middle layer of the skin to remove damaged skin cells. Your doctor might recommend a deep chemical peel if you have deeper wrinkles, scars or precancerous growths. A deep chemical peel can only be performed once.


According to 2018 statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of a chemical peel is $669. Cost varies widely based on the type of chemical peel, the time the procedure takes, the treatment area, your location, and the surgeon’s experience.

For lighter peels, many surgeons will offer a package of several peels at a discount. As peel strength increases, price typically increases.

Except for the surgeon’s fee, the total cost of a chemical peel also includes the anesthesia fee, prescription for medications and facility costs.


You should understand that all chemical peels carry some possible risks and side effects. These risks and complications include:

  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Bruising
  • Redness
  • Temporary or permanent color change in the skin
  • Heart, liver, or kidney damage in rare cases of deep chemical peels


Before you have a medical history, your doctor will review your medical history, perform a physical exam and discuss with you about your desired results. In this way, he will determine if you are a good candidate and what type of chemical peel you might benefit from most. Your surgeon will also tell you to:

  • Get some lab tests, such as facial X-rays
  • Avoid unprotected sun exposure
  • Avoid certain cosmetic treatments and certain types of hair removal about one week before the surgery
  • Stop taking certain drugs and prepare your skin by using other medications, such as Retin-A, Renova, or glycolic acid

Moreover, since most of the chemical peel procedures are performed on an outpatient basis, you should arrange someone to drive you home after the surgery.

Surgical Steps

For a light chemical peel, you typically don’t need pain relief. If you’re having a medium chemical peel, you can take a sedative and a painkiller. In terms of a deep chemical peel, your doctor will likely numb your skin with a local anesthetic and give you a sedative. Then he or she may apply different solutions in different types of the procedure:

  • Light chemical peel

Your doctor will use a brush, cotton ball, gauze or sponge to apply a chemical solution typically containing glycolic acid or salicylic acid. The treated skin will begin to whiten. You might feel mild stinging while the chemical solution is on your skin. After that, he or she will apply a neutralizing solution or wash to remove the chemical solution from the treated skin.

  • Medium chemical peel

In this type of chemical peel, your surgeon will use a cotton-tipped applicator or gauze to apply a chemical solution containing trichloroacetic acid, sometimes in combination with glycolic acid. The treated skin will begin to whiten. After a few minutes, your doctor will apply cool compresses to soothe treated skin. No neutralizing solution is needed, however. You might feel stinging and burning for up to 20 minutes.

  • Deep chemical peel

During a deep chemical peel, you’ll be given intravenous fluids, and your heart rate will be closely monitored. Then, your doctor will use a cotton-tipped applicator to apply carbolic acid (phenol) to your skin. Treated skin will begin to turn white or gray. To limit your exposure to phenol, your doctor will do the procedure in portions at about 15-minute intervals. A full-facial procedure might take about 90 minutes.


Recovery time may vary depending on which chemical peel you received and your personal condition. For light chemical peels, recovery time is about four to seven days. Your skin may temporarily be lighter or darker. If you have received a medium chemical peel, your skin will recover about five to seven days. However, you may have redness that persists for months.

After a deep chemical peel, you’ll experience severe redness and swelling. You’ll also feel burning and throbbing, and your eyelids might swell shut. Your doctor will provide painkillers to keep you comfortable. Although the swelling is likely to disappear in about two weeks, your skin may remain red for up to three months. Typically, patients can return to work and some of your normal activities two weeks after treatment.

Keyword: chemical peel.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.