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Chemical Peels or Laser Skin Treatments: Which Is Best?

Chemical Peels or Laser Skin Treatments: Which Is Best for You Skin Type

Patients often ask if they should opt for laser skin resurfacing or chemical peels at our Westchester County practice. That confusion is understandable since the treatments essentially share the same goal—to improve the skin’s overall appearance and minimize imperfections with a patient’s complexion. Which approach is best depends on a number of factors, not least of which is the reason that brought a patient to our practice in the first place.

So, even though the 2 types of treatments share the same goal, deciding which one is right for you involves a discussion with your provider. This conversation includes describing the amount of downtime you can expect, how soon you’d like to see results, your expectations, and your budget.

It’s also important to know that chemical peels generally work best for improving the skin’s complexion, whereas lasers are best for skin tightening and treating wrinkles and fine lines. Both, however, are versatile enough to treat both skin imperfections and sagging skin. The best place to start is to explain how each type of treatment works.

What Are Chemical Peels?

Chemical peels resurface the skin using different types of acidic formulations that are applied to the treatment area. We adjust the intensity of peels based on the patient’s needs, with treatments ranging from gentle, superficial exfoliations to aggressive peels that remove more layers of skin to reveal youthful-looking skin.

Chemical peels treat:

  • Fine lines under the eyes and around the mouth caused by sun damage
  • Skin discoloration, such as melasma, freckles, and age spots
  • Certain types of acne
  • Uneven texture
  • Enlarged pores

The depth of the peel is something you’ll discuss with a provider and will depend on your skin’s condition and the treatment’s objectives.


What Are Laser Skin Treatments?

Laser treatments deliver rapid, concentrated pulses of light beams to the treatment area, vaporizing layers of skin with precision. After removing the skin’s outer layer—the epidermis—laser beams heat the underlying layer, called the dermis. This controlled injury triggers the body’s natural healing response, stimulating the growth of new collagen fibers. The result is smoother, firmer skin.

Not all laser skin resurfacing technology is the same, of course. The development of fractional lasers—which create tiny channels in the skin without damaging surrounding tissue—has greatly minimized the downtime needed after laser skin treatments. Other types of treatments include non-ablative pulsed-dye lasers, such as the Vbeam® we offer at our Westchester County practice.

These lasers heat the skin and address pigmentation to reduce redness, hyperpigmentation, broken capillaries, and rosacea. They’re versatile enough to also stimulate collagen production to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on a wide variety of skin types and tones.

When Should You Get a Chemical Peel?

Even though sophisticated laser treatments tend to get more attention than low-tech chemical peels, a chemical peel has a number of benefits for the right patients.

Woman with melasma

Here are 3 times when a chemical peel is the best option:

  1. If you have a darker skin tone. It’s true that certain laser skin rejuvenation procedures can be used on all skin types, but superficial peels are typically better suited for darker skin. That’s because hyperpigmentation—discoloration—poses more of a risk for dark-skinned patients who get laser skin resurfacing procedures.
  2. When you’re treating melasma. Laser treatments can actually worsen melasma in some cases for the same reason that they aren’t the best option for patients with darker skin. Instead, a series of chemical peels at less than full strength is the best approach for melasma.
  3. When you’re watching your budget. In most cases, you can get a chemical peel for less than $500—much less for lighter peels—without sacrificing excellent results when a qualified provider performs the procedure. On the other hand, laser skin resurfacing typically costs more than $1,000 per treatment session.

When Should You Get Laser Skin Resurfacing?

Lasers have become popular skin treatments for a good reason: They produce dramatic results for tough-to-treat skin conditions such as extensive sun damage, deeper wrinkles and scars, rosacea, and age spots. Non-ablative laser skin resurfacing enables patients to get excellent outcomes without the week or 2 of downtime associated with more aggressive ablative treatments.

Woman getting a chemical peel

Some specific reasons to choose laser skin resurfacing instead of a chemical peel include:

  1. You’re concerned about loose skin. Laser skin tightening is the gold standard for addressing sagging skin, short of facial plastic surgery. The thermal energy delivered by lasers to the skin’s lower layers stimulates collagen and elastin production in a way that chemical peels can’t match.
  2. You have deeper wrinkles around the eyes. Fractional laser skin resurfacing with the Fraxel® laser platform is best for more significant signs of aging than what can be adequately addressed with chemical peels.
  3. When you want to minimize acne scars. If you’re self-conscious about acne scars, a series of laser skin resurfacing treatment sessions can produce excellent results. Chemical peels remain an option, as does microneedling combined with radiofrequency.

Choosing a Dermatologist

Whether you opt for chemical peels or laser skin resurfacing—or another skin rejuvenation treatment—the choice of provider is just as important as the procedure performed. Contact us using the online form to request a consultation or call us at (914) 241-3003 to schedule an appointment.

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The Center for Dermatology,
Cosmetic & Laser Surgery
359 East Main Street #4g
Mount Kisco, NY 10549

Phone: (914) 241-3003
Fax: (914) 241-1525

Monday–Thursday: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
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