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  5. Chemical Peel Vs Laser Resurfacing: Which One Is Better?

Are you tired of your acne, wrinkles, or dark spot problems? If you’ve tried all creams and lotions with no remedies, then perhaps it's time to consider the options of chemical peel and laser resurfacing.

But how do you decide whether you should opt for chemical peel or laser resurfacing? This article will discuss everything you need to know about the two, so you can make an informed choice.

What Is Chemical Peel?

A chemical peel is an in-clinic cosmetic treatment carried out by a dermatologist to “peel” or exfoliate the damaged skin. In this process, a chemical solution is used that helps the skin to peel off. Once this is done, the new skin underneath emerges. This new skin is fresh, smooth, and appears less wrinkled and less damaged.

Chemical peels are usually done to smoothen the skin of the face, neck, and hands. The solution used for chemical peels contains chemicals like glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, or carbolic acid (phenol) [1].

A. Types Of Chemical Peels

Chemical peels can be divided into three types depending on the depth of action [2]. These are:

1. Superficial:

Superficial peels penetrate only the superficial layer of the skin, i.e., the epidermis. This method is used to treat conditions like acne and melasma.

2. Medium:

Medium depth peels penetrate to the papillary dermis. This is usually used to treat superficial scars, pigmentary disorders, dyschromia, multiple solar keratosis, etc.

3. Deep peels:

Deep peels penetrate the reticular dermis and can be used to treat deep wrinkles, scars, and severe photoaging.

Chemical peels are often coupled with other resurfacing techniques to optimize the outcome. It is important to note that the degree of clinical changes is directly related to the depth of penetration. However, healing time also increases with increase in depth of penetration of the peeling agent.

B. Is Chemical Peel Safe?

Chemical peel is a popular cosmetic procedure of the skin and is generally safe when performed by a licensed and trained dermatologist. However, you need to follow all the pre and post-operative procedures suggested by your physician. This will help your skin to heal quickly and avoid any complications.

What Is Laser Resurfacing?

Like chemical peels, laser resurfacing is a resurfacing technique that reduces acne marks, wrinkles, age spots, blemishes, etc. In this technique, light and heat are used to improve skin texture, tone, and coloration. Through laser resurfacing, an identified portion of the skin is exposed to light and heat in a controlled manner. This treated skin then evokes a healing mechanism, and new skin is produced.

All the currently available laser techniques can be divided into the categories of ablative or nonablative. [3] The non ablative form is gentler and hence heals quickly. It works by heating the top layer of the skin without damaging the skin. The ablative form damages the top layer of the skin hence takes more time to heal.

A. Laser Resurfacing Options

There are different laser options [4] to choose from, depending on your skin condition. These include:

1. CO2 laser:

CO2 laser is an ablative laser technology used to treat warts, skin scars, wrinkles, etc.

2. Pulsed Dye Laser:

This form of laser resurfacing is used to reduce redness, broken capillaries, hyperpigmentation, rosacea, etc.

3. Fractional Laser:

In this technique, the laser energy is broken down into thousands of small beams that work on a very tiny portion of the skin. This procedure is used to treat age-related blemishes.

4. Erbium Laser:

This technique promotes collagen remodeling and is extensively used for skin laxity, age spots, fine lines, wrinkles, etc.

B. Is Laser Resurfacing safe?

Laser resurfacing is usually a safe procedure when done by an experienced and licensed cosmetic surgeon. However, you should be aware that sometimes there can be abnormal healing or infection, although it is rare. You should also follow the post procedure care carefully for fast healing and optimized results.

Did You Know?

Autumn is considered the “laser season”. That’s because when you undergo laser treatment, your skin becomes hypersensitive to sunlight for up to a year. Hence, many cosmetic surgeons recommend undergoing laser resurfacing during fall or winter when the day time is shorter, and you spend most of your time indoors.

Woman after Laser Resurfacing

Key Differences Between Chemical Peels & Laser Resurfacing


Chemical Peels

Laser Resurfacing


Chemical peels help fix fine lines around the mouth or crows feet. It can make the skin smooth.

Smoothens the skin and evens out skin tone. Stimulates collagen production that tightens the skin and gives a glow in the long run


Chemical peel is not suitable to fix deep wrinkles. It can make the skin very dry and itchy.

There can be permanent lightening or darkening of the skin. May produce redness in the skin which can worsen with time.


Do not scratch, itch, or try to peel off the skin with your hand after undergoing a skin peeling. This can create scars. Use sunscreen and a mild moisturizer to keep the skin comfortable. Speak to your dermatologist in case you have any problem

Include vitamin C serum, sunscreen, and retinoids into your daily skincare regime after undergoing laser resurfacing. Avoid scratching or itching your skin after undergoing a treatment. Consult your cosmetic surgeon to understand your daily care for maximum results.

Recovery Time

For a medium peel, recovery can take 7-14 days. After a deep peel, you can expect to have new skin within 2 weeks, but redness can last for a couple of months.

Laser resurfacing can take between 1-3 weeks to heal, depending on the area of treatment and technique used.

Removal of imperfections

This can remove deeper imperfections.

This removes only the outermost layer of the skin.


Chemical peel is cheaper than laser resurfacing. While a basic peel can cost $100, it can go upto $4000 for a full peel.

Laser resurfacing is costlier than chemical peel. The cost depends on the type of laser technique you choose. While an ablative laser can cost $2000, non ablative treatments are cheaper, and can cost you around $1000.

cosmetic laser procedures beautician uses skin

Which Is Better: Chemical Peel Or Laser Resurfacing For My Skin Type?

Although chemical peel or laser resurfacing have the same end goal, it is important to decide which one is right for you. While making your decision, talk to your doctor about your expectations, how fast you want the result, and of course, your budget. Know that chemical peels work best for fixing superficial skin irregularities. On the other hand, laser resurfacing works well for collagen remodeling.

Talking about recovery time and downtime, some chemical peels that are done in-clinic have hardly any downtime. You may experience mild flaking and dryness, and you’re ready to get back to everyday life. For laser resurfacing, the downtime depends on the nature of the laser you choose. For example, ablative laser resurfacing can take a couple of months to recover completely.

Finally, you need to understand your skin type and tone to decide which treatment would work best for you. It is a hard decision, so always speak to your dermatologist to make an informed decision. For example, if you have a darker skin tone, not all chemical peel and laser resurfacing techniques will work for you. For hyperpigmentation, a chemical peel can work wonder. On the other hand, for indented scars, laser skin treatments are more suitable. Depending on your condition, your dermatologist may also suggest a combination of chemical peel and laser resurfacing technique to get the best result.

Wrapping Up

Both chemical peel and laser resurfacing have their pros and cons, although both procedures have the same end goal. Depending on your desired result, skin type, and budget, your cosmetic surgeon would recommend the best procedure for you.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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