Because there are so many different kinds of chemical peels, it’s easy to get confused about how they actually work. Discover the truth about these six chemical peel myths.

1. You can go right back to work after a chemical peel.

This is only true of the most superficial chemical peels. A medium or deep chemical peel does require downtime for recovery. The amount of time you need to take off work may vary from a few days to two weeks. If you don’t mind looking red faced and scaly, you may return to work sooner. If you experience significant swelling and discomfort, you may need to stay home longer. Every patient is different.

2. It’s fine to get a chemical peel at a spa or at home.

Your risk of complications depends partly on the type of peel and the experience level of the staff performing your procedure. Medium or deep chemical peels should only be done after a thorough consultation with a medical professional. Your risk of complications is smallest with a superficial peel (which is slightly stronger than an at-home peel). Of course, it’s possible to damage your skin even with the peels you can do at home. There is no such thing as a completely safe chemical peel since they all work by stripping away layers of skin. Cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists are most likely to:

  • Have an in-depth understanding of the correct chemical peel for your skin type
  • Identify and explain any medical risk factors you may have
  • Use only chemical peel solutions that are safe and effective when applied properly
  • Maintain good quality control (chemical peel solutions can get stronger or weaker over time if stored incorrectly or past their expiration date)
  • Apply and remove the peel following best practices to reduce the chance of complications
  • Spot any complications such as poor wound healing before they get out of hand and produce scarring

3. I should see results right away after a chemical peel.

This is one of the biggest chemical peel myths. Your skin will always look worse before it looks better when you get a peel. Be prepared to go through a period of redness, peeling and other unsightly side effects for a few days to several weeks depending on the level of peel you choose. Don’t plan a peel for right before an important event or when you will be having your photo taken. Also, remember that with superficial chemical peels you will probably need several sessions to see significant improvement.

4. A chemical peel is like a mini-facelift.

Even a deep chemical peel only addresses surface wrinkles caused by factors like sun damage. The amount of actual skin tightening provided by a peel is minimal. Wrinkles and creases that are caused by drooping, sagging skin as a result of aging can’t be fixed with skin resurfacing. These problem areas need to be addressed with a brow lift, face lift, or blepharoplasty (eyelid lift), etc. Cosmetic surgeries of this type remove excess skin and tighten underlying muscles and connective tissue — something no chemical peel can do. Many older patients actually get both a facelift and a peel for maximum improvement.

5. A deep chemical peel will make me look 10 years younger.

If you are 50 when you get a deep chemical peel, you will still look like a 50 year old after the procedure — just one who has clear, radiant skin. In other words, you can expect to look “great for your age.” The good news is that a deep peel offers long lasting results. So, your skin might still look good when you are 60. This does not mean you will not see other signs of aging due to the loss of skin elasticity. But the texture and coloration of your skin can still be significantly smoother than average if you’ve practiced good sun protection habits.

6. Chemical peels are only for people who are starting to look old.

Don’t believe this chemical peel myth either! Actually, light chemical peels can be appropriate even for patients in their twenties. Your skin has already begun to accumulate sun damage at this stage. Also, some chemical peels can serve an important role in the treatment of mild-to-moderate acne (a condition that often lingers past adolescence). If you are dissatisf