Chemical Peels

Click for Chemical Peels before & after photos.

The benefits of chemical peels have been known since the women of ancient Egypt used sour milk and grape juice to reduce sun damage and the effects of aging. Modern science now offers women significant choices of chemical peels that are specially formulated for individual skin types. Today's peels are absolutely reliable and deliver highly predictable results. In some cases, chemical peels will also reduce or remove pre-cancerous skin growth. Formulas for chemical peels can be adjusted by your doctor to treat your specific needs and to create your desired results.

Click for a list of Kaiser Permanente locations offering chemical peels in Northern California.

About chemical peels

Chemical peel is the application of a chemical solution to remove the outer layers of skin, which can improve texture and reveal smoother, clearer, radiant skin. All peels can treat areas on the face, and most peels can also treat the neck and hands. Chemical peel is primarily used for cosmetic reasons, but in some cases, treatment is done on pre-cancerous skin growth and melasma (a skin condition characterized by irregularly shaped patches of brown skin commonly found on the face and neck). There are different degrees or levels of peel. Generally, light peels use Alphahydroxy acids (AHAs), varying levels of medium peels use trichloroaroacetic acid (TCA), and deep peels use phenol.

Is chemical peel the right procedure for you?

Chemical peel treatments can be customized for each patient. Chemical peels can treat fine, medium and course wrinkles and lines, various blemishes, freckles, certain sun damage, age spots, and pre-cancerous growth. In some cases, chemical peels may even control acne and soften scars caused by acne. Chemical peel is not permanent nor will it slow down the aging process. Though chemical peel may reduce the amount of visible wrinkles and fine lines, it should not be looked at as a substitution for facelift surgery. Because chemical peels are uniquely customized for each patient based on skin condition and desired result, consultation with a doctor will provide more detailed answers to your individual questions. People with a history of heart disease or people with a history of herpes should inform their doctor during consultation as these conditions pose specific risks to certain peel procedures.

Light peels

Alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) are the mildest acids, usually derived from glycolic, lactic or fruit acids, and produce the lightest peels. AHA peels take about 15 minutes per treatment and may require treatment on a weekly basis for a set time period. Certain alphahydroxy acids can be prescribed by your doctor in lower concentrations in creams and washes for daily use. Light peel treatments will help reduce rough, dry skin, dull complexion and sun damaged skin, AHAs can be used on all skin types. Skin irritations such as stinging, redness and crusting are the usual side effects caused by AHA peels. Over time, the skin will adapt to the treatment and the irritations will diminish.

Medium peels

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is generally used for medium-depth peels. TCA treatment takes approximately 15 - 20 minutes to apply. Recovery time takes anywhere from 4 to 10 days depending on the depth of the peel. Like an AHA peel, multiple TCA peels may be necessary for the desired result. Medium peels may reduce fine lines and wrinkles, superficial blemishes and some pigment problems. TCA can be used on the neck and other areas, and is recommended for darker skin tones. Medium peels will not permanently affect the pigment of your skin, but some initial color change may occur. To protect the new skin layers as they form, patients are advised to avoid sun exposure for many months after treatment.

The Obagi Blue Peel is a specific type of TCA treatment that combines a blue mixing base with the chemical TCA. The Obagi Blue Peel allows the doctor to determine the level of strength and depth of the treatment. The blue tint is an added safeguard for depth levels and even application for consistent results. The procedure takes approximately 20 minutes to an hour. The treated area will retain a bluish tint for up to 24 hours. Skin will begin to peel within 2 to 3 days, and recovery time is as long as 10 days. Obagi Blue Peels are recommended for treatment of large pores, blemishes, age spots, wrinkles and laxity. Obaji Blue Peel can treat areas of the face, neck, chest, hands and arms, and is available for use on all skin colors and textures. Protection from sun exposure is important. Your doctor will be able to specifically answer questions based on the uniqueness of your treatment.

Chemical peel risks

Chemical peel is generally a safe procedure but results can be uncertain and unpredictable. Infection and scarring are possible but rare. 

Preparing for treatment

Your doctor will discuss all treatment preparations in your consultation. Your doctor may prescribe a Retin-A pre-treatment to thin the surface layer of the skin. If your skin type cannot tolerate a Retin-A pre-treatment, an alphahydroxy acid (AHA) cream may be prescribed instead. If you have blotchy skin, Hydroquinone (a bleaching agent) can be used in conjunction with Retin-A or AHA pre-treatments. Pre-treatment phases can take up to a month.

After the treatment

For light peels, you should have minimal discomfort if any. You may experience some light flaking or scaling of the skin and some redness or dryness. No subsequent ointments or bandage dressing is required. You should not need help getting home.

For medium  you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home. You may need help for a day or two after a deep TCA peel as the area of treatment may swell considerably. If you have a phenol face peel, your eyes may swell shut for a day or two. Your doctor may prescribe mild pain medication for the first day or two as you may feel tingling, burning or throbbing in the effected area. Scabbing or a crust will form on the treated area, it is important to follow the doctor's instructions specifically after your procedure.

I'm interested! What's my next step?

Click the link below for nearest Kaiser Permanente Cosmetic Services center nearest you to schedule a consultation to determine if you're a good candidate and to learn more about the procedure.

Chemical Peels are available at these Northern California Kaiser Permanente Locations: