Deep Chemical Peels

When people speak of deep chemical peels, they are usually referring to phenol peels. Phenol peels offer some striking advantages, but also impose some striking disadvantages.


A phenol chemical peel provides an overwhelming improvement in wrinkles. Results are unquestionably superior to those following other peels, laser, or dermabrasion. Just one treatment is required and results last decades. No special preparation is necessary prior to a deep chemical peel, and no special care is required to maintain your results afterward.
Phenol peels may improve superficial acne scars and nearly all dark discoloration.


The main disadvantage of phenol is permanent skin pallor. After your redness has faded, your face will gradually turn ghostly white, which is irreversible, unnatural, and serves as a telltale sign that you have had this procedure performed. There is no way to smoothly transition from peeled to non-peeled skin, so a clear line of demarcation will exist. You may attempt to camouflage your appearance with make-up, but even heavy foundation may be inadequate. Because of the significant alteration in skin color, deep phenol peels are suited best to those with fair skin. They are not appropriate for women with olive, brown, or black skin, as they will cause permanent disfigurement. Other disadvantages include that your skin will never tan after a deep chemical peel. If you choose to tan the remainder of your body, an even greater discrepancy will exist between your previously peeled and non-peeled skin. Also, if you are heavily freckled and have a full-face deep peel all facial freckles will be removed, creating unnatural disharmony with your freckled neck and chest. Deep peels are therefore not recommended for those who are heavily freckled.

What to Expect if You Have a Phenol Peel

Anesthesia: General or heavy sedation.

Location of operation: Office or hospital.

Length of procedure: 15-60 minutes.

Length of stay: Outpatient (home same day).

Discomfort: Mild to severe. Anticipate 0-5 days of prescription pain medication.

Swelling: Moderate to severe and may temporarily interfere with eye opening. It will improve over 7-10 days.

The peeling process: Your face will be swollen, red, oozing, and crusted. Over several days, your face will become stiff, dark, and begin to flake. Within seven to ten days peeling and flaking will be complete, and you will be left with healthy, smooth, bright red skin. This sunburned appearance will take two to three months to improve. Thereafter, your skin will appear extremely pale.

Presentable in public: You will be presentable in 2 weeks with makeup.

Sun protection: SPF 15 or higher should be worn indefinitely.

Final result: Will be seen after your redness fades. Expect 2-3 months.


The fee for a full face phenol peel is about $4,000. A phenol peel around the mouth only costs about $2,000. (The
above listed fees do not reflect those of Dr. Loftus. For a complete listing, visit Fees at The Loftus Plastic Surgery Center.)

Conclusions on Deep (Phenol) Peels

Phenol peels have the most profound effect on wrinkles and are used successfully in properly chosen patients. Women with pale skin who have profound sun damage gain dramatic improvement with phenol peels and are commonly pleased with their results. Because their change in appearance is overwhelming and because bleaching of their skin is not obvious against their pale complexion, these women are satisfied. Women with less sun damage and those with medium or dark  complexions are likely to be highly dissatisfied with the results of a phenol peel due to permanent pallor. Because of lengthy recovery and permanent pallor, phenol chemical peels are one of the least commonly employed treatments for wrinkled and sun damaged skin.