Aesthetic Surgical Images
M. Kirk Moore, MD
Thomas E. Geraghty

Home > Chemical Peel> Chemical Peels Information

Chemical Peel Information

There are three main types of peels. Light peels are most commonly performed using alpha hydroxyacids. These are naturally occurring acids found in fruits and other foods. Alpha hydroxyacids have proven to be effective in treating dry skin, acne, liver or sun spots, diminishing fine facial wrinkles, decreasing pore size, and improving skin texture. Light peels are usually performed in a series of six to eight peels, each peel two or three weeks apart. This type of peel leaves the skin with a red glow that only lasts for a day or so.

Medium peels are usually performed with trichloroacetic acid. These peels are only performed once every couple of years. Medium peels have the same benefits as light peels and in addition remove larger wrinkles and precancerous skin lesions because of deeper penetration. The draw back is that a medium peel makes the skin on the face look like severe sunburn for one week. If one has multiple precancerous skin lesions this is better than using Efudex, which makes the face look sore for six to eight weeks. A person having a medium peel must stay in for one week to recover from the procedure. This type of peel is also better than liquid nitrogen because it treats small precancers that are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Like a medium peel, liquid nitrogen also takes one week of recovery time but is only good for treating larger precancerous skin lesions.

Deep peels with stronger chemicals get rid of large wrinkles and can have results as dramatic as a face-lift. This type of peel has a recovery time of 1-2 months. This peel is being done less since the introduction of laser resurfacing.

All chemical peels carry some uncertainty and risk Chemical peel is normally a safe procedure when it is performed by a qualified, experienced plastic surgeon. However, some unpredictability and risks such as infection and scarring, while infrequent, are possible.

Chemical peel formulas at a glance

Alphahydroxy acids (AHAs)


  • Smooths rough, dry skin
  • Improves texture of sun-damaged skin. Aids in control of acne
  • Can be mixed with bleaching agent to correct pigment problems
  • Can be used as TCA pre-treatment


  • A series of peels may be needed
  • As with most peel treatments, sunblock use is recommended

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA)


  • Smooths out fine surface wrinkles
  • Removes superficial blemishes
  • Corrects pigment problems


  • Can be used on neck or other body areas
  • May require pre-treatment with Retin-A or AHA creams
  • Takes only 10-15 minutes
  • Preferred for darker-skinned patients
  • Peel depth can be adjusted
  • Repeat treatment may be needed to maintain results
  • Sunblock must be used for several months
  • Healing is usually quick, much quicker than with a phenol peel



  • Corrects blotches caused by: sun exposure, birth-control pills, aging
  • Smoothes out coarse wrinkles
  • Removes pre-cancerous growths


  • Used on the face only
  • Not recommended for dark-skinned individuals
  • Procedure may pose risk for patients with heart problems
  • Full-face treatment may take one hour or more
  • Recovery may be slow — complete healing may take several months
  • May permanently remove facial freckles
  • Sun protection, including sunblock, must always be used
  • Results are dramatic and long-lasting
  • Permanent skin lightening and lines of demarcation may occur

Find a Cosmetic Surgeon

Go Back


Home > Chemical Peel> Chemical Peel Information

Buckhead Plastic Surgery
Specialists in Plastic Surgery North Carolina
Tom Haas, M.D.