There are three categories of chemical peels, according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery: superficial, moderate and deep. All three can be performed by doctors, but estheticians are only allowed by state regulations to perform superficial and sometimes moderate chemical peels.
The chemical solution for superficial peels — also known as light peels or lunchtime peels — is typically alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta hydroxy acid. AHAs are naturally occurring compounds found in papayas, milk, sugar cane and other foods. Healing time for a superficial chemical peel is often between 1 and 7 days. Superficial peels are the most affordable and may range from under $100 to over $300, depending on the provider.
Moderate peels require longer healing time, 7 to 14 days, due to more intensive blistering and peeling. Moderate peels are usually done with glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid, or a combination of acids that reach both the outer and middle layers of your skin. Moderate peels may cost anywhere from under $200 to over $700, depending on the provider.
Deep peels must be performed by a medical doctor and can take 14 to 21 days to heal. Deep peels require special aftercare including antiviral medication, ointments and follow-up visits, according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. The chemical solution used for deep peels may be phenol or trichloroacetic acid, which both reach far into the middle layer of your skin and remove damaged skin cells. Phenol chemical peels may require sedation and should only be done on the face, as the skin on the hands and neck is too thin. The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery explains this procedure may only be performed one time on a patient and is not recommended for people with darker skin or freckles, as it can cause hypopigmentation. Deep peels may cost anywhere from $3,500-$5,500—not including the doctor's fees.
Chemical Peels 101 Video:
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