The answer to this question is not as easy as it may seem because there are many different types of chemical peels and laser peels. There are very superficial chemical and laser peels that will result in modest resurfacing of the skin (10 microns or 1/100th of an inch) and have no healing time associated with them.
There are also very deep chemical peels and laser resurfacing that can resurface up to 300 microns (or 3/10ths) of an inch and require several weeks of healing.
Generally speaking, the more healing time needed for the procedure, the more dramatic the results will be for conditions like wrinkles, sun damage and acne scars.
Some common light chemical peels include glycolic acid peels (less than 30% acid) and Jessner’s peels. A common light laser resurfacing is the Erbium laser. Deeper and more dramatic chemical peels include the phenol peel and a common deep laser resurfacing peel is the CO2 laser.
Laser Peel Before and After Pictures
Both chemical peels and laser peels can be effective, but it depends on your condition and lifestyle. For example, a 50 year old person that has been smoking for 35 year, has never been out of the sun and has wrinkles that are measured in 1/8ths of an inch deep is not a candidate for a light laser peel or chemical peel. This type of candidate would need a heavy (phenol) or laser resurfacing peel (CO2) because of the depth of wrinkles. On the other end of the spectrum, if a patient is looking for very mild improvement in the tone and texture of their skin then a light chemical peel or laser resurfacing can do just that, remove the very outermost layers of skin, making it appear fresher and softer.
The one significant and measurable difference between chemical peels and laser peels is that lasers (ex: Erbium YAG, Fractionated, CO2) have the ability to very precisely remove the sin tissue to an exact depth. This kind of depth control cannot be achieved with a chemical peel because the peel is manually applied by the practitioner and the depth of penetration of the peel depends on a number of factors including the type of skin and the time left on the face. These variables make chemical peels much harder to control compared to laser technology. Although both chemical peels and laser peels can be effective treatments, the more aggressive types (phenol and CO2) also carry a higher risk for adverse side effects. Certain skin types – those with darker pigmentation or those with sensitive skin – may not tolerate chemical peels well and may be higher risk for a poor outcome.
Deciding between a chemical peel vs. a laser peel will be dependent on one’s skin type, condition, goals, lifestyle, budget, and whether or not they are able and willing to have recovery time. Find a practitioner that knows the answers to the above questions and tailors the treatment plan your situation.