Chemical Peels

A chemical peel is a procedure that can improve wrinkled, scarred, or sun damaged skin - for example, skin with mild acne scarring, freckles, age spots, melasma, or other irregular pigmentation and skin wrinkled by age or the sun.

Thick, rough, red, pre-cancerous growths called solar keratoses can also be removed with a chemical peel.

How do chemical peels work?

During a chemical peel procedure, we apply chemical agents to your skin that remove the damaged outer layer. Thin scabs form over the treated areas within two to three days and fall off a few days later revealing smoother, younger-looking skin. Mild acne scarring, fine lines, some types of irregular pigmentation, and other minor skin blemishes will be minimised, and the skin will be smooth and fresh looking.

Three types of chemical peel are available: a light peel, which is used to lighten superficial age spots and fine wrinkles; a medium peel, for more advanced sun-damaged skin and age lines; and a deep peel, which is more risky and is used for more severe conditions. Your doctor will determine which technique will be more effective for you.

Can a chemical peel help me?

If you have lines, scarred or sun damaged skin, then a chemical peel can help to give your complexion at more even appearance. The depth of peel we recommend will depend on your individual case.

Why come to the Cosmetic Dermatology Clinic for chemical peels?

The Cosmetic Dermatology Clinic has been providing professional consultant dermatologist appointments and treatments at the Royal Free Hospital in London since 1995. During this time, our team have collectively treated tens of thousands of patients and this wealth of experience will help us give you the best possible outcome.

Chemical Peel Treatment - Frequently Asked Questions

What results can I expect?

The chemical peel is effective in reducing fine wrinkles, superficial scars, age spots, some pigmentation problems, and other minor skin irregularities. The new skin exposed by the peel is tight and smooth, which gives you a younger and fresher appearance.

Most patients who undergo this procedure are pleased with the results, and many patients experience a significant improvement in their skin’s appearance. Depending upon the extent and the depth of the skin condition to be treated, some patients may require more than one treatment to achieve maximum results. This approach (multiple lighter chemical peels, repeated every one to two months) is safer and sometimes more effective than performing a single deep chemical peel.

What happens during the peel?

The chemical peel takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Anaesthesia is not needed but very occasionally a light sedative can be given orally to relax you prior to the procedure. After your skin is cleaned with an antibacterial cleanser and your eyes and hair are protected, the chemical is applied to a small area of your face with a gauze or a cotton-tipped applicator. This process is repeated on the other areas of your face.

Few side effects are associated with the lighter chemical peels. You may experience a mild to moderate burning sensation, which may last a few minutes, when your doctor applies the solution. Immediately after the procedure, your skin may feel as if it has been slightly sunburned.

After the peel, your skin becomes red and some swelling may occur the first one or two days. The skin feels tight and thin scabs begin to appear during the next two to five days. You may experience some tingling and slight itching as these scabs form and your skin heals. You can help speed the healing process by using the special cleansers and ointments your doctor will recommend. Your skin will have a pink cast, which will fade within four to six weeks. For several months following the procedure, you should wear a sunscreen whenever you are outdoors and avoid exposing yourself to direct sunlight.

How should I prepare for a peel?

  • Follow the skin conditioning programme as prescribed by your doctor. This involves the use of retinoic acid (Retin A) and other creams for one to three months and prepares your skin for the chemical peel. This maximises the beneficial effects, shortens the healing process, and minimises the risk of side effects.

  • Take all medications as prescribed before the treatment. These may include an antibiotic, an antiviral if you have a history of cold sores, and a sedative.

  • Wash your face thoroughly on the morning of the procedure and do not apply any moisturisers or other cosmetics.

  • Do not wear makeup to the clinic and be sure your eyelashes are free of mascara. Wash your hair the night before, or on the morning of surgery.

  • You may eat a light breakfast or lunch on the day of surgery. Do not have alcohol. Contact lenses must be removed before surgery.

  • Wear loose clothes that either zip or button and do not have to be pulled over your head. Do not wear any jewellery to the clinic on the day of surgery.

  • Arrange for someone to accompany you to and from the clinic. You will not be allowed to drive as your face may be swollen.

  • You may apply a topical anaesthetic gel to the area to be treated one hour prior to your visit. This then needs to be covered with cling film to stop it drying out. This product will be prescribed by your doctor if needed, and may be purchased at your local pharmacy.

  • Obtain Aqueous Cream from your local pharmacy for use at home after the peel.

  • Be sure to discuss with the doctor any history of herpes infection (cold sores) or allergies to medications and review all medicines being taken or used.

Is there special post-treatment care I need to follow?

Do not be alarmed if swelling appears around your eyes and mouth, it subsides gradually within one to two days. To help reduce this natural swelling, sit up as much as possible and sleep in a head-elevated position by using two or three pillows the first few nights.

For pain relief you can take Paracetamol every three to four hours as needed, but not aspirin or ibuprofen. The burning sensation may last for several hours but eases gradually. Continue any other medications as prescribed.

Your new skin will appear red. This is normal and should be expected. Any excessive redness, tenderness, swelling, pus or bleeding should be reported to the clinic during office hours on 020 7435 7521.

Wash your hands before touching your face. Apply Aqueous cream, or any other moisturiser recommended by your doctor, liberally to keep the skin moist throughout the day. The skin should not be allowed to dry out. At bedtime, reapply Aqueous cream liberally.

You may shower daily, but avoid wetting the treated areas for three days. After three days, the face may be rinsed lightly with water but the skin should not be rubbed. Do not use soap or any other product, including makeup, on treated areas until skin is completely healed. If stinging occurs when you resume using makeup, remove it and try again in five to seven days. You may shampoo your hair after the third postoperative day but avoid water or shampoo running onto treated areas. For men, no shaving for five to seven days. Do not use Retin-A and glycolic acid products until your skin has completely healed.

Avoid any unnecessary touching or rubbing of the face. Scratching and peeling at scabs may cause scars or hyperpigmentation. You may trim any loose scabs with scissors if they annoy you.

Avoid physical exertion for one to two weeks so as not to perspire. Also avoid exposure to strong wind and extreme cold for two weeks. The developing new skin is delicate.

After the skin is healed up, a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher must be applied daily when outdoors. Direct sun exposure must be avoided completely for at least three months because of the increased photosensitivity and risk of pigmentation of the chemically peeled areas. This is very important.

Your first postoperative visit should be between seven and 14 days following the procedure. You should be seen again in the clinic six weeks after your peel for a further check.

Chemical Peel Costs

  • Light: £350
  • Medium: £450
  • Deep: £600
  • Consultation only: £200

If you would like to arrange a consultation, please call 020 7435 7521 or fill out the form at the top of this page.