Chemical Peels

For exfoliation that is slightly deeper than a customized facial or a topical cream, Chicago cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Cornell McCullom, may recommend a chemical peel. A peel can improve many skin irregularities, such as acne, scarring, sunspots, fine lines and sun damage. It is a nonsurgical, less invasive way to improve the appearance of the skin by applying a chemical solution to the top layers, which works to peel away and destroy damaged or dead cells. Through this peeling process, a rejuvenated layer of skin is left behind. There are varying strengths of peels depending on the condition of your skin and your aesthetic goals. Following a chemical peel, you will find your skin feels smoother and firmer and looks calmer and more refreshed, with better tone and balance.



A superficial peel exfoliates the top, most outer layer of the skin in order to remove overlying dead skin cells. These peels consist of Alpha Hydroxy or Beta Hydroxy acid and generally take 3-4 days to complete the peeling process. It is the mildest peel available with the fastest recovery time and the lowest average cost. The results, while effective, are a bit limited compared to a more aggressive peel, and do not last as long.


A medium depth peel consists of Trichloroacetic acid (known as a TCA peel). It penetrates the skin more deeply than the superficial peel, with stronger effects. The trade-off, however, is a less comfortable procedure with a longer recovery time. This procedure also costs more than a superficial peel. Recovery can take a full week or longer.


A deep peel is the harshest of all chemical peels. It is also the most expensive and has the longest recovery. However, this peel, containing Phenol, does have a much stronger effect and can combat more persistent problems, like skin lesions and deep wrinkles. Deep chemical peels tend to bleach the top layer of the skin. Therefore, it is not recommended for darker skin tones. These are reserved for individuals with skin wrinkling around the lips, deep wrinkles from sun exposure and deeper scars.


The process for applying a chemical peel is generally the same for each type, but will vary slightly depending on the level of solution being applied. Anesthesia is not used during this procedure. However, it may be considered for Phenol peels. First, the face is thoroughly cleaned. Then, the chemical agent is then brushed on to the skin. Patients will experience some mild stinging at this time. The face is then washed and a cool saline compress is applied to act as a neutralizer. Patients will need to wear sunscreen and limit sun exposure as much as possible.


The cost for a chemical peel will vary based depending on the type of treatment performed and the time and care provided during the treatment process. Patients can expect to pay about $250 for a superficial chemical peel. Keep in mind, it is recommended that these be repeated monthly in order to maintain the results. A medium chemical peel will run between $450-$650. This process can be repeated every six months. Deep chemical peels are the most invasive and often require physician skill and pre-op and post-op medications. They run between $1,000-$2,500, but are long-lasting.


  • Average Cost
  • Recovery Time
  • Average Procedure Time
  • Post-op Follow-up
  • Procedure Recovery Location
  • $250 – $500
  • 1-3 Days
  • 20 Minutes
  • 4 Weeks
  • Office Visit



A chemical peel does not hurt. However, it may cause some discomfort. Most patients will feel tingling and a slight burning sensation, which will subside shortly after the procedure has been completed. Phenol peels result in a greater degree of discomfort, but the practitioner should plan for this before the procedure begins.


It is very common to combine a chemical peel with another procedure. Micro needling is one such procedure that provide effective results when combined with a peel. This will be considered a combination program that can be repeated every six weeks.


There are many alternatives to consider. Individuals looking to reduce fine lines, blotchiness and other mild skin conditions may benefit from a chemical peel, which removes dead skin cells and accelerates the generation of new skin. If deep wrinkles are the issue, patients may also want to consider another treatment such as BOTOX or a filler.


Most patients will experience some mild to moderate redness that may last for a day or two, or possibly for several days after, depending on the type of acid that has been used in your peel and your individual skin type.  Your skin may feel more sensitive for a few days, but this can be relieved with the application of soothing hydrating serums and moisturizers and by avoiding excessive exercise or exposure to heat, as heat may make your skin sting and feel uncomfortable.  You may experience some acne breakouts in the days following your treatment, as the skin cells begin to turn over and congestion is purged from your skin.  It very important that you do not pick at your skin and use only plain, gentle cleansers and moisturizers for a few days after your treatment so that your skin can heal properly.  Most of these after affects resolve within a few days, but please contact our office if they do not.  Broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher is required immediately after and daily between appointments to protect your skin, as treated areas will be more sensitive to the sun.  Any peeling you experience will depend primarily on the type of peel that was used, as well as your individual skin type.  Some chemical peels result in very little visible peeling, while others may have peeling that lasts for several days.


As your skin may be more sensitive to anti-aging or acne products after any type of exfoliating treatment, we recommend that you wait a minimum of 3 days after treatment to resume use of them, but you may need to wait longer.  A gentle cleanser and hydrating serum or mild moisturizer are recommended to ensure that you don’t cause additional dryness or irritation as your skin is healing and repairing itself.  Any issues such as scabbing or blistering after your treatment should be reported to our office immediately.  It is extremely important to not try to pick at or peel off any skin that is starting to flake or peel, as tempting as that is.  If the skin underneath is not entirely healed, you can risk causing a raw area that could take longer to heal, become infected, or leave a dark spot that can take time to resolve.  Facial brushes and scrubs to remove peeling skin are a no-no as well, as they can cause irritation and interfere with the healing process.  Peels that do cause profuse peeling can give you dramatic results, but you must have patience as the skin heals and be prepared for some social downtime, which can sometimes last up to a week.  Even once all the peeling is resolved, your skin will still feel more sensitive, so keep that in mind as you resume your regular skin care routine.  And remember, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher must be worn daily, and excessive sun exposure is discouraged during your series of treatments.  This will ensure you are protecting the investment you are making in your skin, and to help discourage the formation of more sun damage and discoloration in your skin.