A chemical peel is a dermatologic method for resurfacing the skin and is typically done on the face, neck, or hands. Generally, chemical peels can be used to:

  • Reduce fine lines near the eyes and around the mouth
  • Treat wrinkles caused by either sun damage and aging
  • Improve the appearance of mild scars
  • Treat certain types of acne
  • Lighten age spots, freckles, and dark patches (melasma)

What Acids Are Used In Chemical Peels?

Chemical peels can be composed of a variety of acids and can reach different depths.

  • Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA)

    Glycolic acid, lactic acid, and citric acid are examples of AHA. These acids are frequently used in home exfoliation treatments.

  • Salicylic acid

    This is one example of a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that is particularly good for acne-prone skin and enlarged pores.

  • Trichloroacetic acid

    This acid is commonly used by dermatologists for medium or deep chemical peels.

  • Phenol

    Phenol is a strong chemical agent that is useful for deep peels.

How To Prepare For A Chemical Peel Session

Based on your consultation with your dermatologist, you may be advised to undergo the following before your procedure:

  • Discontinue using any topical retinoids for at least 48 hours
  • Disclose any medications that you are taking
  • Have not been using Accutane for at least six months
  • Take an antiviral medication if you have a history of cold sores to prevent a breakout around the mouth
  • Use certain lotions to improve treatment, like glycolic acid lotion
  • Stop waxing or using any depilatory hair removal products the week before the peel
  • Avoid hair bleaching
  • Stop using facial scrubs and exfoliators the week before the peel
  • Arrange for a ride home, especially for deep chemical peels, which will require you to be sedated
  • If are prescribed a painkiller or sedative, take it according to their instructions; you’ll likely have to take it before you come to the clinic

Is Your Skin Condition Affecting Your Quality Of Life?

You may be eligible for a chemical peel. Consult our MOH-accredited dermatologist for a detailed evaluation of your skin condition and a personalised treatment plan.

What to Expect After A Chemical Peel

The amount of time it takes to recover depends on the type of chemical peel you had.

  • Light chemical peel: The recovery period from a light chemical peel ranges from 4 to 7 days. Your skin may appear lighter or darker for a short period of time after the peel.
  • Medium chemical peel: After a medium chemical peel, your skin will heal in around 5 to 7 days, though you may experience redness that lasts for months. Your skin will swell at first, then develop crusts and dark blotches before showing new smoother and healthier skin.
  • Deep chemical peel: Deep chemical peels can cause significant swelling and redness, as well as burning or throbbing sensations. The eyelids frequently swell shut. New skin will take about two weeks to regenerate, while white patches or cysts may linger for several weeks. Redness can last for several months.

Risks Of Chemical Peels

A chemical peel can cause several side effects ranging from mild to severe and may depend on the depth of your chemical peel.

  • Swelling, scabbing, and redness

    Normal chemical peel healing usually results in redness of the treated skin. Redness may continue for several months after a medium or deep chemical peel.

  • Scarring

    Scarring from a chemical peel is uncommon, and if it happens, usually occurs on the lower half of the face.

  • Skin color changes

    A chemical peel can cause treated skin to become darker or lighter in color After a shallow peel, hyperpigmentation is more common, but hypopigmentation is more common after a thorough peel.

  • Infection

    A chemical peel can cause a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection of your skin.

  • Damage to the heart, kidneys, or liver

    A deep chemical peel contains phenol which can damage the heart muscles and induce irregular heartbeats during prolonged exposure. Phenol can also cause renal and liver damage.

Dr Noor Hanif Said

Medical Director & Consultant Dermatologist

Over 20 years of experience
in medical, Surgical & aesthetic Dermatology

  • Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS, Singapore)
  • Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP, United Kingdom)
  • Fellow Of The Academy of Medicine, Singapore (FAMS, Dermatology)

Prior to starting his private practice at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, Dr Hanif was a dermatologist at the National Skin Centre and a Visiting Consultant with the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Dermatology Service.

Apart from his expertise in the management of general dermatological problems such as eczema, psoriasis, hair loss and acne, he has special interests in pigmentary disorders and aesthetic dermatology.

Post-Treatment Care

After your procedure, your dermatologist may advise the following to achieve optimal results.

  • Moisturize

    Use a moisturizer as directed to keep your skin moist and supple. If your skin dries and cracks, it can cause scarring.

  • Avoid touching your skin

    Rubbing or scratching skin after a chemical peel can cause an infection.

  • Avoid getting a tan

    Getting a tan may increase the chances of your skin not healing properly.

  • Apply sunscreen every day

    Once your skin heals, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF30. Avoiding sun damage may help you maintain results.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can a chemical peel be performed on all skin types?

    In general, light peels are suitable for all skin types. However, if you have a darker skin tone, you are more likely to have hyperpigmentation (skin darkening) after treatment. This is known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. If you have naturally darker skin, you should consult your dermatologist about alternative treatments to lessen the risk of hyperpigmentation.

    Is there downtime?

    There is downtime after a medium or deep peel. A deep chemical peel necessitates 2 to 3 weeks of recovery at home.

    How soon will I be able to see the results after the chemical peel treatment?

    You will usually see the results once your skin has healed. Healing time for a deep peel can take 2 weeks or more. For a light peel, you may need 3 to 5 sessions to achieve the desired effects.

    Are the results permanent?

    Because our skin ages and changes, most outcomes are not permanent. If you have a lot of sun-damaged skin or precancerous skin growths, you will most likely continue to notice new spots and growths on your skin.

    When can I undergo another chemical peel session?

    Repeat light and medium chemical peels are typically needed to achieve optimal results. You may consult your dermatologist on the most suitable treatment plan for your condition.