Is it Worth it to Have a Chemical Peel?
When you’re considering any elective medical procedure, you need to know the risks, and weigh them against the benefits. The choice of whether or not to have an elective procedure is very personal, and every person will make their choice differently. Here, we’ll discuss the major risks and benefits of having a chemical peel.
A chemical peel is a procedure in which acids are applied to the face to remove the outer layers of skin. It can help to improve the appearance of the superficial layer of the skin, and can reduce the appearance of such skin problems as fine wrinkles, age spots, acne, scars, scaly or unevenly colored patches of skin, and other similar problems with the superficial skin layer. Chemical peels can be applied at different depths, depending on the type of skin problem being treated; these are generally referred to as light, medium, and deep chemical peels, although there are gradations of depth within each category. For more on what it’s like to have a chemical peel, please see Chemical Peel: the Procedure and Recovery.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential elective surgery with your own doctor(s), including your primary care physician and the provider who will perform your procedure if you decide to proceed.
All treatments carry some risk, and it’s important to be informed about these risks so that you can weigh them against the benefits. For all depths of chemical peels, there is a risk of infection of the skin, because the outer layer will be removed and will be temporarily unable to provide a barrier against microbes. If you get an infection, your aesthetic outcome may not be ideal, and you will need to take antibiotics. If the chemical peel acids are left on your face for too long, they can penetrate too deep and cause permanent scarring; this risk is reduced by choosing a provider who is very knowledgable and experienced at performing chemical peels.
Additionally, after a chemical peel, your skin will be red, swollen, and flaky for a period of time. While this occurs to some degree in everyone, there is a risk that the redness of the skin will last longer than a few months (it’s rarely permanent, but can be long-lasting). This risk is increased by having deeper chemical peels.
Another risk is that there will be changes in the pigmentation of the skin. With deep chemical peels, the facial skin may become hypopigmented, meaning that it loses part of its ability to make pigment and is permanently lighter than your other skin (in other words, your skin is bleached by the chemical peel). With light and medium chemical peels, there’s the risk of hyperpigmentation, meaning that the facial skin is darker than the rest of your skin. This may occur as a result of inflammation, or because your new skin is extremely sensitive to the sun and may tan easily. You will need adequate sun protection for the rest of your life after a chemical peel, particularly a deep chemical peel.
There is also the risk that you won’t be happy with your chemical peel outcome. A chemical peel cannot treat deep wrinkles or deep scars, and cannot treat problems under the skin, such as broken capillaries; if you have those types of skin problems, then you will probably need to choose a different type of treatment (such as dermal fillers). If the chemical is not left on long enough, it may fail to remove all of your superficial skin problems. This risk is reduced by choosing a provider who is very knowledgable and experienced in performing chemical peels. Light and medium chemical peels can be repeated after a few months to improve your results.
A chemical peel can remove superficial skin problems in a relatively non-invasive way. For reducing the appearance of fine wrinkles, a chemical peel carries less risk and recovery time than a facelift. For removing age spots, uneven pigmentation, scaly patches on the skin, and other similar problems, a chemical peel is the best choice. It is also capable of reducing acne; in fact, one of the treatments used for a light chemical peel, salicylic acid, is also used at lower dose as an acne treatment in over-the-counter face washes and topical solutions.
People who have superficial skin problems have often spent years trying to take care of them. They may have spent years buying various face creams, topical solutions, and possibly even medications to attempt to rid themselves of their facial skin problems, and also buying makeup trying to hide the problems with their skin. After all of these things have failed, people may feel extremely frustrated, and may suffer in their social and professional lives as they have to show their damaged face to the world. A chemical peel offers a potential way out of this situation, returning the skin to a smoother, more even appearance on a semi-permanent basis (in the case of a deep chemical peel, up to ten years).
Those with severe acne often suffer from a decrease in self-esteem, possibly even more so if the sufferer is an adult rather than a teen. Additionally, severe acne can cause scarring, and so reducing acne can help improve the later appearance of the skin throughout life.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost to have a chemical peel is $720. This cost varies according to several factors, including the depth and extent of the chemical peel, the region, and the particular clinic. You should check with the provider(s) you’re considering to determine the exact cost. Keep in mind that financing is often available. For more detail, visit our Chemical Peel Cost page.