Exfoliating Treatments

Your Complete guide to Deep Phenol Peel

Are you grappling with wrinkles, sun-damaged skin, or scars,

Then, a phenol peel could be the transformative treatment you’ve been seeking.

Often regarded as the godfather of peels, they penetrate deep into the skin.

However, due to their potency, they must be approached with caution.

So join us as we delve into the intricacies of phenol peels.

Understanding chemical peels

Chemical peels work by applying a solution to the skin. This solution loosens the bonds between dead cells, prompting cellular renewal and revealing fresh, undamaged skin underneath.

While mild peels like AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) and BHA (beta hydroxy acid) can be performed at home and encourage gentle exfoliation, deeper chemical peels are different.

These peels penetrate beyond your skin’s superficial layer, reaching the dermis where blood vessels and nerve endings reside.

These are considered the most aggressive chemical peels in the industry. They induce shedding of the outer layers of skin and deep into the dermis, your skin’s second layer.

Given their depth and potential for complications, deep peels like phenol peels should never be attempted as at-home treatments; seek professional guidance from a dermatologist to ensure safe and effective results.

If you’d like more information, we have written extensively about chemical peels in this article.

What is a phenol peel?

A phenol peel, also known as carbolic acid or phenolic acid peel, is one of the strongest chemical peels available in dermatology.

It is a potent organic molecule penetrating deep into the skin, making it a highly effective treatment for various skin concerns.

Due to their potency, phenol peels are often administered under IV sedation to manage the intense discomfort caused by their corrosive nature. Recovery from a phenol peel can take several weeks.

Phenol peel benefits

By inducing a controlled injury to the skin, these peels stimulate cellular renewal and promote skin resurfacing.

Because of their intensity, they can treat severe sun damage, discolouration, acne scars, blemishes, and precancerous growths.

They are an excellent treatment for reversing signs of premature ageing, helping to diminish deep wrinkles and lines by boosting collagen and elastin fibres.

This type of peel triggers renewal and rejuvenation effects, resulting in a smoother, clearer, and younger-looking complexion.

Even just a single deep peel treatment can be long-lasting, with improvements lasting up to 10 years.

Phenol peel risks

The deep penetration and potent nature of phenol require careful monitoring and management to minimise risks and optimise outcomes.

Some of the key risks to consider include the following:


There is a risk of scarring following such a deep peel, mainly if the procedure is not performed correctly or if the patient has a history of keloid scarring.


Due to the intensity of the treatment, sedation is often used to manage pain and discomfort during the procedure. However, sedation carries its own set of risks and should be administered by a qualified medical professional.


Deep chemical peels can increase the risk of hypopigmentation, leading to uneven skin tone or lightening of the treated area. This risk is higher for individuals with darker skin tones.


Phenol peels may show a noticeable contrast between the treated and untreated areas, particularly along the jawline or between the face and neck.

Post-inflammatory pigmentation

The chemical used in these peels is phenol which can lead to post-inflammatory pigmentation, causing darkening of the skin in the treated area.

Altered tanning ability

Following a phenol peel, the treated skin may lose its ability to tan normally, leading to increased sensitivity to sunlight and a higher risk of sunburn.

When to avoid a phenol peel

Understanding contraindications that prevent a phenol peel from proceeding is crucial, and this will happen during the consultation process:

Very dark skin

If you have a dark skin tone, you may be at a higher risk of developing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation following a phenol peel.

The treatment can potentially lead to uneven skin tone or discolouration, making it less suitable for individuals with darker complexions.

Inflammatory rashes

If you currently have inflammatory rashes or skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, undergoing a phenol peel can exacerbate these conditions and lead to further irritation or inflammation.

Insulin dependent diabetes

If you are insulin-dependent or have diabetes, you may have impaired wound healing and are at a higher risk of developing complications following skin procedures.

The intense nature of a phenol peel can pose additional risks for individuals with diabetes, making it necessary to consult with a healthcare provider before undergoing treatment.

Heart conditions

If you have underlying heart conditions, such as impaired cardiac, hepatic, or renal function, you must exercise caution when considering a phenol peel.

The absorption of phenol through your skin can potentially lead to nerve damage and changes in heart rhythms.

During the consultation, your healthcare provider will thoroughly assess your medical history to identify any contraindications or potential risks associated with the treatment.

This article gives a great breakdown of a thorough consultation.

To conclude. The naked truth

Deep phenol peels offer a spectrum of options for skin rejuvenation.

While superficial peels like AHA and BHA are suitable for home use and target surface-level concerns, phenol peels penetrate deep into your skin, addressing conditions such as severe sun damage, wrinkles, and discolourations.

However, they come with significant risks, including scarring, hypopigmentation, and changes in skin tanning ability.

Given these potential risks, entrusting the procedure to an experienced dermatologist, doctor, or plastic surgeon with expertise in performing phenol peels is essential.

The penetration depth used during your phenol peel will be determined by the level of frosting observed on your skin’s surface, emphasising the importance of correct administration to minimise adverse effects.

Understanding the benefits, risks, and contraindications associated with phenol peels will empower you to make informed decisions about your skincare journey while prioritising safety and efficacy.

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