Phenol Peel

With fair skin, I am a good candidate for a phenol peel. I am 53, and my doctor has recommended around he eyes and mouth for my concerns. At first in the consultation, he suggested we do the whole face, but as we talked more and he examined my face, he revised his opinion. Still, it is up to me, and I am now confused as to the demarcation lines referred to, should I do the entire face? Also, he uses am Anesthesiologist, and I have read that Phenol is it's own anesthetic?

Doctor Answers 4

Phenol peels -- a great resurfacing tool!

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  There really is no right or wrong answer here and it is ok for a physician to change his mind during the consultation as he or she considers what is in the patient's best interests.  If only a part of the face is treated, there is increased risk of demarcation lines but experienced physicians work hard to avoid them.  This is a part of the art of doing these procedures.  There certainly is nothing wrong with a full face treatment either.  And while it is true that phenol based peels may have anesthetic properties, it also is true that many physicians prefer having the patient monitored by an anesthesiologist to avoid potential complications.  It sounds like your doctor is trying to do the right thing for you.

Saint Petersburg Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 140 reviews


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With fair skin, YOU ARE A GREAT candidate for a phenol peel.

you may treat the initial areas that were bothering you, eyes & mouth. If there are other areas that are now beginning to bother you since your consultation, you may treat them as well with the phenol peel.

  ASK your doctor that suggested to do the whole face, WHY he has revised his opinion. he will be more than happy to explain himself.

it is up to you as to what you would like done, but again, TALK to your doctor for clarification.


you are CORRECT in that Phenol is its' own anesthetic. unfortunately not until it has terminated acting.

it is PAINFUL for about 5-15 minutes, should no anesthetic be used.

an anesthesiologist for large surface area treatments is not a bad idea, but it is not mandatory.


the fact that your doctor will be aided by an anesthetist is for :

  • adequate pain control and
  • additional monitoring.

as previously stated by my colleague, there are many ways to resurface the skin.

the risks that have been mentioned exist for ALL of the following:

  • all peels
  • dermabrasion, &
  • lasers

when done too deeply. the same outcomes / complications may be had by any of them.

the ONLY item that is specific to phenol peels are the POTENTIAL for heart rhythm disturbances.

if your doctor is carrying out peels with preparations or formulas that where developed in the 1960's, i agree, i would not get a phenol peel using older formulas as i have witnessed these heart disturbances.

over the past 12 years i have not witnessed a single cardiac disturbance, obviously using different formulations than our predecessors - those that invented the technique..

hopefully others will attest  to this , so that you can be reassured.

ASK your doctor if he has had any cardiac disturbances in patients treated with phenol peels.


SHOULD YOU STILL BE CONFUSED GET A SECOND OPINION, with a physician who is experienced in doing peels.


hope this helps.

Dr. Carlos Cordoba
Plastic & Esthetic Surgeon
4055 Ste-Catherine O. Suite 100
Montreal, QC. Canada H3Z 3J8


Carlos Cordoba, MD
Montreal Plastic Surgeon

Phenol peels do not usually require general anesthesia.

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Phenol peels do not usually require general anesthesia. This was common practice years ago but is not needed for most people nowadays. Any partial face peel has the risk of leaving a line of demarcation. In the modern era, combination TCA peels have largely replaced phenol peels and are safer. Anyone contemplating a peel should see an experienced expert such as a dermatologist who has performed thousands of peels on all skin types.

William P. Coleman III, MD
Metairie Dermatologic Surgeon

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Phenol Peel belongs in Medical History Books

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In my opinion, with so many better ways to resurface skin there is no reason except for economics to be using phenol peels. While this technique and its derivatives had a great run (mid 1960's to 2000) it is really hard to have to justify heart rhythm disturbances, sharp lines of permanent depigmentation and prolonged healing with other much more specific laser resurfacing methods.

Dr. Peter A Aldea

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic 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.