A chemical peel is a cosmetic treatment (typically not covered by insurance) in which an esthetician or doctor applies a chemical solution to your skin, most often the skin on your face. After several hours or days, the solution blisters your skin’s top layer, allowing the damaged skin to peel away, revealing smoother skin underneath. Chemical peels are designed to reduce fine lines around the eyes and mouth, improve the appearance of acne scars, treat sun damage and age wrinkles, reduce age spots and other dark skin patches, and improve the overall look and feel of the skin.
Type of chemical peel
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 $200, 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 $600, 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-$5,000—not including the doctor’s fees.
Superficial chemical peel costs
Superficial chemical peels performed by an esthetician will cost less than superficial, moderate or deep peels performed by a medical doctor. Average rates for estheticians’ services are lower than those of a doctor because of the education and licensing differences between the two. Chemical peel costs may also vary from esthetician to esthetician based on geographic location, experience, training and certifications. Here are some examples of cost:
- Facial peel: $75 from Little Morocco Skin & Body in Birmingham, Alabama.
- 30-minute treatment.
- Facial peels: $100-$110, depending on treatment, from Reflect and Restore Spa in Midvale, Utah.
- Facial peel: $139 from Maxine Nguyen, LMT in Halethorpe, Maryland.
- Includes a 30-minute massage.
- Body peel: $40 per body area from Maxine Nguyen, LMT.
- Areas can include arms, back, feet, spot treatment, etc.
Some professionals provide discounts when clients purchase multiple peels in one bundle. The peels occur over time, not in one visit. Here is one example of cost:
Some estheticians may offer group package deals or discounts for the person who organizes multiple body or facial peels at one time. As an example, Maxine Nguyen, LMT offers a free facial peel to the host who coordinates peel parties of four or more.