Best Chemical Peel for Sun Damage

I'm concerned about how to get rid of sun damage and dark brown spots on my face. I'm 37, caucasian and have medium skin pigment and tone.

Can you please advise which chemical peel (if any) would work best for these issues? What concentration is necessary for the chemical peel to be effective?

Doctor Answers 14

Sun damage and the treatments

At Home treatments for sundamage; 1- Zinc oxide sunblock - I like EltaMD for prevention. 2- Hydroquinone 4% lotion or creams as a bleaching agent for the skin. 3-Retin-a for dispersion of melanin granules, thus reduces the chance of further sunspot formation. Doctors office treatments; 1- Alpha Hydroxy acid peels - (lactic, glycolic, acetic, salicylic) are better light peels with minimal downtime (lunch hour peels) and modest melanin dispersion. 2- Jessner Peels - a great intermediary peel - 3-4 day downtime without a mess, just peeling. Better at bleaching the skin then AHA. 3- TCA Peels - different percentage peels have a different amount of bleaching effect. The stronger the concentration, the longer the downtime and the better the effect. 4- Phenol peels have big permanent bleaching effect with mazing wrinkle reduction. Patients are too white afterwards. Hope this helps.

New York Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Tca peel or IPL therapy

A proper skin analysis will help determine the best course of treatment. Based on your description, a TCA peel or a series of TCA peels should significantly reduce sun damage and brown spots. The Vi Peel is a TCA based medium depth peel which has proven to be very successful in sun damage reduction. You may want to consider and IPL laser treatment(s) as well.

Gregory Turowski, MD, PhD, FACS
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

Optimal Chemical Peel for Sun Damaged Skin

The optimal chemical peel depends on the type of skin damage you have and the pigment in your skin. Generally, a moderate strength TCA peel enhances your skin turnover and allows you then to get on medical grade skin care including Retinol or Retin-A.

Rod J. Rohrich, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 64 reviews

Multiple TCA peels work wonders !

For the average 37 yr old caucasian with medium complexion and with sun spots and sun damage, I recommend 1 or 2 chemical peels of the combination Jessner's solution plus 35% TCA given at 2-4 week intervals. The cost is roughly $1000-1,500 each and does wonders for the skin although you do look bad for about a week or so. Some patients prefer no down time and therefore will do 5-6 lighter Jessner's solution plus 10% TCA peels at 2 week intervals at a cost of roughly $350 each. Good after-care is very important with use of a steroid lotion such as desowen lotion twice a day for 2 weeks and a combination bleaching cream with retin A after 1-2 weeks at night and SPF sunscreen in the morning.

Once you get your skin looking great then don't forget to do a light one every 6 months as a refresher to keep your skin looking refreshed.


David Hansen,MD

David Hansen, MD
Beverly Hills Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

There is no generic answer to this question.

The most important decision for you is not which peel, but which doctor. There are so many great options to improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin, that it is impossible to recommend just one. It is important for the doctor to choose the right peel or laser for your individual needs, skin type and lifestyle. A really good pre- and post-treatment skin care regime must be given for optimal, long-lasting results. Lastly, sun damage means you are at risk for skin cancer. Can your doctor recognize a skin cancer? A board certified dermatologist can give you the best skin care advice, design a protocol for skin care, and check for skin cancers.

Mary P. Lupo, MD
New Orleans Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Best chemical peel for sun damage

You have many choices as how to address your sun damage especially given your lighter skin type. An evaluation would be necessary to determine which is best. You also would have to consider how much downtime you would be willing to tolerate. Having worked in both California and New York, I am aware that people tolerate more downtime on the West coast and that TCA peels are more popular. In New York, I would probably treat someone like you with a series of Jessner's peels which are great for sun damage but have less downtime per treatment. There are many choice other than chemical peels including lasers, IPL and products. Get evaluated by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon. Wear sunscreen daily and good luck!

Dina D. Strachan, MD
New York Dermatologist
3.3 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Chemical Peel Options


Thank you for your question. There are several peels that may help. One that is wonderful for pigmentation problems is the newest Skinceuticals peel. It is often called a photo-facial in a bottle. This is a very strong peel, most of your brown spots will get darker and then peel or fade off. There is also the Skin Medica peels, the vitalize is right in the middle. If you are looking for something more mild, this is a good introduction into peels. Ultimately it is very important to consult with a local physician before you do anything. You want to make sure that you are achieving the right goals, and not putting yourself at unnecessary risk.

Janet Allenby, DO
Delray Beach Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

Best Chemical Peel for Sun Damage

An in office consultation is the best way to assess which strength of chemical peel would be best for your skin.  Without a photo, from the description, it sounds like TCA peels would be best. I generally use a combination of topical bleaching agents, serums, and Retinols.  Please consult a cosmetic dermatologist with expertise with chemical peels and sun damage.

Michele S. Green, MD
New York Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 78 reviews

Best Chemical Peel for Sun Damage

In addtion to preventative measures - sunscreen, hydroquinone and Retinoids topically, a TCA peels can be used effectively to rejuvenate the sun damage facial skin..  It is important to pre-treat with some prescription creams first. This is to prevent brown spots following a TCA or any other peel, laser or deep dermabrasion procedure. This is  called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. The inflammation part is a normal part of the healing process but unfortunately you are sensitive to the sun which is what causes it. Ideally your doctor would have pre-treated your skin some weeks before your treatment with Retin A, 4% hydroquinone, and a strong SPF sunscreen and/or other agents to prevent this from happening. As soon as you are given permission you would again start these products plus perhaps Kogic acid and use them for some time. Once they are established it is more difficult to get rid of. The same treatment can be done again but this time use products recommended by your doctor before and after. If these were not suggested you might want to seek another plastic surgeon or dermatologist to treat you. We personally like the Obagi Blue peel due to its safety and predictably great results

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 157 reviews

You need an examination to figure this out


The pigment change you describe would probably be ideal for a TCA peel although lighter peels may also lighten it somewhat. Depending upon your skin type and preferences in length of recovery and desire for (or against) anesthesia, TCA would probably be your best bet.

John P. Di Saia, MD
Orange Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 27 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.