Is an Obagi Blue Peel Painful?

Doctor Answers 14

Blue Peel Discomfort

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The Obaji Blue Peel is a deeper layer peel (in comparison to most glycolic or ascorbic acid peels).

The agents that work to destroy the outer layers of skin can cause discomfort.

In my practice we have employed a number of techniques to keep patients comfortable, including topical anesthesia, injected local anesthesia, oral sedation, narcotics and conscious sedation.

We would not recommend a patient attempt this level of peel without some sort of anesthesia.

I hope this helps.

Obagi Blue Peel and Anesthesia in Los Angeles

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Chemical peels are an important part of the cosmetic armamentarium. Chemical peels utilize acids (glycolic acid, salicylic acid, retinoic acid, trichloroacetic acid) to coagulate the epidermis and parts of the dermis. They effectuate an improvement in overall skin quality and resiliency.

Chemical peels are well tolerated in a clinic setting if they do not extend deep into the papillary dermis. Deeper peels often require local anesthetic, conscious sedation, or even general anesthesia. The basic theme is that the deeper the peel, the more anesthetic is required. There are ways to minimize pain. Raffy Karamanoukian, Los Angeles

If you are considering a chemical peel, do not compromise on anesthesia. Proper anesthesia is an important part of keeping these procedures safe and ultimately reduces the incidence of complications.

A blue peel is a deeper peel using TCA. Depending on the depth of treatment, a deep or medium-depth peel will require some form of anesthesia.

I usually prep my blue peel patients with topical Melarase before the peel.

Raffy Karamanoukian, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 95 reviews

Obagi Blue Peel and discomfort

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In a standard Obagi Blue Peel, a 20% titrated solution of TCA/Peel is utilized.  This has the desired effect of penetrating beyond the epidermis into the papillary dermis and even the junction to the deeper dermis.  Peeling occurs for around 7-9 days on average.  During the procedure 2 layers are typically utilized.  In my hands, I recommend patient's take a single valium 30 minutes before the procedure to help with relaxation.  During the actual treatment patient's are underneath a cooling fan as well.  Despite these two options, patient's will feel as if the room is heating up during the first layer of the peel.  Typically discomfort is only on the order of a 5/10 for just a minute or so.  During the second layer, typically patient's truly feel warm and uncomfortable stating it can raise to an 8/10 for a few minutes.  But it dissipates quickly and you walk out of the office completely pain free.  Some valium is provided for the first few days afterwards as needed.  The results are predictable, safe, and definitely worth it.  I only use one peel in my office because of these features and patient's are typically thrilled with their outcomes.

Shepherd G. Pryor, MD
Scottsdale Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 23 reviews

Retinoid creams and pretreatment prior to Blue peel

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Blue peel is painful if it reaches the papillary dermis.

However, it is well tolerated in experienced hands.

Pretreatment is absolutely key to successful Blue peel and I recommend Melarase creams as well as a retinoid regimen for 2-4 weeks prior to the procedure. Retinoid Repair RR Cream is the one I recommend to my patients (see link). 

H Karamanoukian MD FACS

Blue Peel Facts...and a few alternatives

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The Blue Peel is known as a type of medium chemical peel. Chemicals (TCA) used are those stronger than those used for micro peels. Due to this, they may be more effective in improving skin texture, vitality, and freshness. They also impose a recovery period that may require a few days off from work and other social activities. 

The advantage of a Blue Peel it that it can revitalize skin, brightening one's complexion while eliminating fine wrinkles, brown spots and other discolorations. Peeling agents may cause a burning sensation and there are risks involved, however the Blue Peels have built-in safety mechanism to prevent the provider from allowing the chemical agent to over penetrate.This is the reason for the blue dye, which is applied along with TCA. The blue color helps the provider who is applying your peel know how deep the chemical has penetrated and is therefore helpful in determining when to stop.

Blue peels will turn skin blue for a few days. Flaking and peeling begin 4-5 days after your peel and finish within 7-9 days. You may engage in your normal activities immediately following your peel, but, if you have an important event planned, you will not want to have a peel within 2-3 weeks of that event.

In my practice, we do not to offer the Blue Peel because patients are not willing to have blue skin for a number of days.  Instead we offer:

  Vi Peel, Which improve the tone, texture and clarity of skin  •  Reduce or eliminate age spots, freckles, and hyper-pigmentation, including melasma  •  Soften lines and wrinkles  •  Clear acne skin conditions, reduce or eliminate acne scars •  Stimulate the production of collagen, for firmer, more youthful skin

Apeele. Which differs from other peels for these reasons: Indicated for all skin types with photodamage, hyperpigmentation and acne • Ideal for skin rejuvenation of face, neck and hands • Balanced combination of ingredients provide a uniform, consistent and predictable peel • Allows depth control and customization for each individual patient • Hydroquinone addresses pigmentary disorders and supresses PIH • Built-in topical anesthetics designed to provide a comfortable and pain-free procedure • Skin permeation enhancers provide deeper and even penetration of active ingredients




      •Improve the tone, texture and clarity of your ski                                                                                            •Reduce or eliminate age spots, freckles, and hyper-pigmentation, including melasma
•Soften lines and wrinkles
•Clear acne skin conditions, reduce or eliminate acne scars
•Stimulate the production of collagen, for firmer, more youthful skin



  Apeele to patients seeking similar results without the blue tint.  In addition, if pain is a factor for you- the Apeele contains a topical numbing agent that makes the application pain free.

Ross A. Clevens, MD
Melbourne Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 124 reviews

A few simple tricks make it easy to tolerate!

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Blue peels are traditional TCA (trichloroacetic acid) peels with a blue additive to both buffer and make the depth of the peel easier to predict. This in turn increases the safety to the patient.

  • The blue peel is great for improving skin texture and shrinking pore size.
  • Good for fine wrinkles around the eyes and mouth.
  • Offers a quick recovery and little downtime.

There is some discomfort involved, but we have been able to significantly decrease this by use of the following:

  • Pretreatment with topical anesthetics to help minimize the sting.
  • Use of a chilled air fan to decrease heat buildup.
  • Post procedure use of a "chill mask" to chase away any residual stinging sensation.

If the depth of peel is moderate there should be less than 2-3 minutes of a mild to moderate stinging sensation!

This is a great procedure to improve your appearance for a special event! Allow about 2 weeks for a full return to normal!

Best Regards,


Kirk A. Churukian, MD
Los Gatos Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Blue peel discomfort

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There is some discomfort associated with any TCA peel as a burning sensation. In my experience,we use a topical anesthetic.

Roger Amar, MD
London Plastic Surgeon

Obagi Blue Peel is not painful

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The blue peel is a great way to make your skin fresh & bright with a quick recovery.

It helps with pigmentation, pore size, fine lines, and even can help clear up acne.

Melanie L. Petro, MD
Birmingham Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 31 reviews

The Obagi Blue Peel may be uncomfortable, but is done quickly with good results

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The Obagi Blue Peel is a very powerful procedure to improve texture and pigmentation of the skin. In my practice, Blue Peels are only done after a patient has been pretreated with the Obagi NuDerm system for at least 8 weeks prior to the peel. This prepares the skin to heal quickly and well afterwards. The peel is done in the office, without anesthesia although some patients take an oral pain medication beforehand, but most do not need even that. The procedure is done within minutes and after application, an ice pack is used to immediately cool the skin.

I do many Blue Peels and while the patients do not love the actual procedure, every one has gotten through it and all have been really pleased with the results.

Elizabeth Slass Lee, MD
Bay Area Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 56 reviews

Blue Peels are TCA peels

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Blue peels are basically TCA peels and they do hurt. The pain is temporary and subsides with the frost. However, some people find TCA peels especially additive layer peels to be very uncomfortable while undergoing the peel.

Steven Hacker, MD
West Palm Beach Dermatologic Surgeon

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.