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Phenol Peel in Virginia Beach

Chemical peels are a popular skin treatment that can help rejuvenate and refresh the face. While all peels can help encourage cell turnover for brighter, more radiant skin, not all peels can make much of a difference in treating signs of aging. Over time, our skin begins to wrinkle, sag, droop, and discolor as age-related changes in the skin, sun damage, and other factors affect the skin’s health and beauty. For patients who want to significantly reduce these signs of aging or acne scarring, a deep phenol peel performed by board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Kyle S. Choe at The Choe Center in Virginia Beach, VA, may be the best solution.

What is a Phenol Peel?

Many different chemicals can be used to perform chemical peel treatments. Light and medium peels using gentler chemicals are the most popular options for chemical peel therapy, but they are not appropriate for every patient. For some patients, a light to deep phenol peel suits their needs instead. Phenol peels use phenol (carbolic acid), glycerin, and a few other components to deeply exfoliate the skin, affecting many different layers of skin and promoting skin renewal.

Application of the phenol peel will destroy damaged skin cells so the body can create new, healthy skin to replace them. Phenol peels can be performed with light, medium, or high concentration of phenol, which will affect the overall results of the peel. Some patients might be able to get the results they want with the lightest phenol peel. The lighter the peel, the better, since deeper peels involve a longer recovery time and greater risk. Phenol peels are in-depth medical procedures that should only be performed by an experienced plastic surgeon, and only on certain patients.

Benefits of a Phenol Peel

The main reason patients choose phenol peels is for their ability to significantly improve the appearance of aging or acne-scarred skin. Since the procedure causes old skin cells to be destroyed, patients can expect that during the recovery period, the skin will scab over and peel, eventually revealing new, smoother skin underneath.

Phenol peels not only resurface the skin to provide dramatic results, they also help to improve the skin’s collagen and elastin production, for significantly younger-looking skin long term. Most patients will notice the anti-aging results of a phenol peel for up to 7 years or more. Phenol peels can also be used in non-cosmetic applications, in some cases. Some patients with pre-cancerous lesions can benefit from the treatment.

Candidates for Phenol Peels

Because the phenol peel procedure and recovery is so demanding, patients must meet a number of qualifications to be considered for the procedure. In addition to being in general good health, there are many common medical and skin conditions (including heart disease, diabetes, and psoriasis), as well as several medications that can compromise the safety and results of the procedure. Only you and your plastic surgeon can determine whether or not you are healthy enough to undergo a phenol peel.

Beyond overall health, good candidates for phenol peels are people over the age of 18 with light skin and significant signs of aging, sun damage, or acne scarring. Phenol peels can cause hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin), which can cause unwanted pigmentation issues in dark skin. Patients who are good candidates for a phenol peel must have realistic expectations and understand the risks and benefits of the procedure before proceeding. It is important that candidates are either non-smokers or willing to quit prior to the surgery, as smoking can interfere with anesthesia and normal healing.

Your Peel Consultation

An initial consultation with Dr. Choe is an important part of any cosmetic procedure, but it is particularly important for the phenol peel. During this consultation, Dr. Choe will go over your medical history and prior treatments to ensure there are no contraindications for your candidacy. It is extremely important to be honest about all of your medications and past medical concerns, to ensure your safety and prevent complications. Dr. Choe will also examine your skin and make recommendations about which procedures might suit your needs.

If he determines that a phenol peel is the best option for your needs, he will show you examples of the kinds of results other patients have gotten with the same treatment. He will explain the procedure and the associated risks, and discuss the skin preparation measures you will need to take in the weeks prior to the treatment. You should come prepared to ask any questions you may have and address your concerns so that you feel comfortable making a decision about your treatment.

The Phenol Peel Procedure

Because phenol peels are the most intensive type of chemical peel, patients are given anesthesia prior to the procedure. Patients getting lighter peels may be given local anesthesia with or without sedation, while deep peels may even require general anesthesia. Patients will have their heart activity monitored throughout the procedure.

Once the patient is anesthetized and comfortable, Dr. Choe cleanses the facial skin and applies the phenol solution to the face. The acid is applied in a very precise way to ensure even peeling of the skin. Dr. Choe will leave the solution on for a predetermined amount of time before neutralizing it. Once the solution has been neutralized and removed, a thick ointment will be applied to the treated skin to help keep it moisturized while it heals. The process takes on average 40-120 minutes to complete.

Recovery and Downtime

Following treatment, patients typically experience mild burning, light skin crusting and oozing of the skin. Special ointments are typically prescribed, as well as medications to control any discomfort. During the first day following the treatment, patients will need to ensure that their facial skin does not come into contact with water, as this can cause deeper peel penetration not controlled by a surgeon.

As the skin heals and regenerates, it will crust, dry out, and eventually peel or flake off. Patients will be given skincare instructions and must protect their skin from the sun diligently for at least the first year. Most patients go back to their normal activities in about 2 weeks after the procedure, but redness can persist for several weeks.


Depending on the depth of the peel, most patients experience redness for anywhere from 2-6 weeks after the procedure. Makeup can be used to cover some of this up about 2 weeks after the peel. After the redness is resolved, the skin will look refreshed.
Phenol poses some risks that patients will need to understand prior to the treatment. The solution causes stress to the liver and cardiovascular systems, which is why patients must be in excellent health before the treatment. Unfavorable pigmentation, scarring, and other aesthetic complications can also be a concern, which is why it is so important to seek the help of an expert plastic surgeon.
The type and depth of peel you need is an individual question that you will need to discuss directly with your surgeon. Every patient has different needs.
Phenol peels can lighten the skin. While this is less noticeable in patients with fair skin, it can be disastrous in patients with dark skin. Ethical surgeons will not perform phenol peels on patients with dark skin for this reason.
It is extremely important to follow all your surgeon’s pre- and post-operative instructions to the letter. Protecting your skin from the sun is key, as is ensuring you get enough rest and eat a healthy diet following treatment. It is also very important to avoid picking at or rubbing your facial skin during recovery. You must let the skin peel off on its own.
Typically, phenol peels are only safe for treating acne scars. Other facial scarring may benefit from scar revision, but treatment with a phenol peel for scars is too unpredictable, and can’t treat deep scars.
No, due to the changes in the skin that occur following a phenol peel, it is important to have the full face treated.
You and Dr. Choe will discuss your options and come up with a customized treatment plan that suits your specific needs.
Since phenol peels can remove unwanted pigmentation, they also often remove freckles, whether wanted or unwanted. This is something to consider when deciding whether or not to undergo a phenol peel.
During the procedure, anesthesia will control the pain. Afterward, prescribed medication, ointments, and other measures suggested by your surgeon will help keep you comfortable throughout recovery.

Phenol Peels at The Choe Center

If you think a phenol peel might be the right treatment for you, then now is a great time to discuss your goals with Dr. Choe. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Kyle Choe at The Choe Center in Virginia Beach, VA, call 757.389.5850 today.