Chemical Peel (Phenol and Trichloroacetic Acid [TCA])

Procedure Restore wrinkled, blemished, unevenly pigmented, or sun-damaged facial skin, using a chemical solution to peel away skin's top layers. Works best on fair, thin skin with superficial wrinkles.
Length One to two hours for full face.
Anesthesia None; sedation, and EKG monitoring may be used.
In/Outpatient Usually outpatient. Full-face phenol peel may require admission for one to two days.
Side Effects

Both: Temporary throbbing, tingling, swelling, redness; acute sensitivity to sun.
Phenol: Permanent lightening of treated skin; permanent loss of ability to tan.


Both: Tiny whiteheads (temporary), infection, scarring, flare-up of skin allergies, fever blisters, cold sores.
Phenol: Abnormal color changes (permanent); heart irregularities (rare).


Phenol: Formation of new skin: 7 to 21 days.
Normal Activities: 2 to 4 weeks.
Full healing and fading of redness: Three to six months.
TCA: New skin within five to ten days.

Duration of Results

Phenol: Permanent, although new wrinkles may form as skin ages.
TCA: Variable (temporary).                 


Preoperative appearance
Two days postoperative healing
Five days postoperative
7-10 days postoperative appearance