There are several types of chemical peels, each with their own healing process. Depending on the type of peel you get, it could be several weeks before you see results.

As the name suggests, chemical peels are chemical-based cosmetic treatments that cause the top layers of your skin to peel off. The chemical solution exfoliates the skin, eventually revealing smoother skin underneath.

People can get chemical peels on their faces, necks, or hands, and the peels can treat various health concerns, including:

There are three main types of chemical peels, each involving a different level of penetration:

  • Superficial or light peels: These are the least penetrative peels. They use milder acids, such as alpha hydroxy acids, to gently remove the top layer of skin. Light peels are great for addressing fine lines and mild wrinkles, enlarged pores, acne, mild hyperpigmentation, or mild skin texture concerns.
  • Medium peels: These penetrate a bit deeper into your skin than superficial ones. They typically use a lower potency trichloroacetic acid. Medium-strength peels can help to diminish the appearance of scars, correct moderate hyperpigmentation, and reduce signs of sun damage.
  • Deep peels: These penetrate the skin on a deeper level than superficial or medium peels. The acids used vary but might include phenol or a higher potency trichloroacetic acid. Deep peels can help address deeper wrinkles, scarring, and textural concerns.

Different types of chemical peels are better suited for certain skin types. If you have darker skin, for example, you may want to avoid deep peels, as these may result in hyperpigmentation or other unwanted effects. When considering a chemical peel, work with a dermatologist who has experience working with your skin type for the best results.

Learn about types of chemical peels and which type is right for you.

What your skin looks like right after your peel will depend on your skin type and the type of peel you get:

  • Light peels: Your skin will likely experience some flakiness and irritation for up to a week. Your skin may also have some redness or discoloration.
  • Medium peels: Your skin may look swollen, reddish, or discolored. Then, it will crust over and become blotchy until your body reveals the fresh skin underneath. Some people might experience some degree of discoloration for months afterward.
  • Deep peels: These tend to cause intense swelling and red or gray discoloration, coupled with burning, stinging, peeling, crustiness, and other irritation for several days to weeks. Some people experience small cysts called milia or splotches. Sometimes, your eyelids may become swollen, making it challenging to open them. Your skin will mostly heal within a couple weeks, though the discoloration may persist for several months.

Your skin will shed for several days after a superficial or medium peel. Typically, this will resolve in 5 to 10 days. Around this time, your skin may look red, discolored, or show other signs of irritation, but you’ll have a better idea of your results.

Following a deep peel, your skin will begin repairing itself 3 to 4 days after the treatment. This process lasts for about 2 weeks, after which you’ll start seeing results.

How long your skin takes to heal also depends on the type of peel you get. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association:

  • Light peels heal in about 1 to 7 days.
  • Medium peels heal in about 7 to 14 days. Once the swelling subsides, discoloration may stick around for a few months.
  • Deep peels heal in about 14 to 21 days. Your skin may still have discoloration for up to 3 months.

As your skin heals, be sure to follow any aftercare instructions your dermatologist provides, such as moisturizing your skin and applying sunscreen.

Deep peel results can last for 10 years or longer and typically don’t require any follow-up treatments.

The results of superficial and medium peels can vary, depending on your skin type, aftercare routine, and the type of acid used.

You can maintain medium peels by getting a follow-up peel every 6 to 12 months. You can get a superficial peel every 2 to 5 weeks.

Chemical peels involve applying a solution to the face, hands, or neck that causes your skin to peel off. After the treatment, your skin will show signs of irritation for up to 21 days. The stronger the peel, the longer the area will take to heal.

Light and medium peels require repeated treatments to maintain results. Since deep peels penetrate further into the dermis, they can last up to 10 years or longer.