How to choose between a chemical peel and laser treatment

We know how wonderful it feels to bask in the sunshine. The warmth and the extra dose of Vitamin D are instant mood boosters, and the sun’s rays give your complexion a healthy glow. But accompanying those short-term benefits are long-term drawbacks, like brown spots and wrinkles. Luckily, the trained specialists at Coastal Dermatology Center can minimize sun damage with our range of lasers and peels. And while lasers and peels treat similar issues, you might choose one over the other based on your skin tone, specific dermatology concerns, preferred budget, recovery time, and long-term results.

Skin Tone

If you have darker skin, certain types of peels and lasers can cause hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, or scarring, especially if the procedure is not performed by a dermatologist who is experienced in all skin types.

Certain lasers don’t work as well on darker skin because laser energy is attracted to skin pigment. Some lasers are more suitable for darker skin, so make sure you consult an experienced dermatologist before booking an appointment. However, a peel will probably give you similar results with less risk.

Even so, we don’t recommend darker-skinned patients get a deep chemical peel; several rounds of a light chemical peel will give you better results with less risk of unwanted side effects like swelling, reddening, and pigmentation changes. We recommend our Obagi Blue Peel, a gentle but powerful medical-grade peel. Its blue base allows the dermatologist to control the depth of the peel, so they can tailor the treatment to each patient.


Generally, laser treatments are more expensive than chemical peels, although the price differs based on the kind of treatment and the specific issues being addressed. Schedule a free consultation to determine Coastal Dermatology’s pricing.

Issues addressed

A dermatologist can target specific areas more accurately with a laser than with a peel. During a chemical peel, the solution is applied to the entire face, neck or décolletage, whereas a laser can focus on a very small area without affecting the surrounding tissue. If, for example, you want to eliminate a single brown spot, a laser would be best. If you want to minimize the all-over appearance of fine lines, a peel might be a better option.

The appointment itself

Both peels and lasers are performed in-house and can take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours, depending on the issues being treated. Both treatments are also relatively pain-free, although specific discomforts have been associated with each; some laser treatment patients report feeling like a rubber band is snapping their skin, while peel patients feel a burning or tingling, similar to a sunburn.


After a chemical peel, you are free to resume regular activities immediately. However, depending on the depth of your peel, you’ll start peeling after a day or so and continue to peel for seven to ten days.

After a laser treatment, you’ll have some redness and swelling. Depending on the type of laser treatment, full recovery could take up to two weeks. During this time, you should use sunscreen that’s formulated for sensitive skin.

Long-term results

When you finish peeling, your skin will feel tighter, smoother and more even-toned. The results of a light or medium chemical peel will last months, but, if you choose a light peel, we recommend getting several treatments to see best results. The results of a deep chemical peel could last up to a year.

After your skin fully heals, you’ll notice an immediate difference in its quality and appearance. These results could last years.

If you want to minimize the effects of those long hours spent sunbathing, Coastal Dermatology & Surgery Center offers plenty of options. There are many factors to consider when choosing the best treatment for your dermatology concerns, and ultimately, you’ll get the best results by meeting with one of our trained dermatology experts. Contact us today to discuss your treatment plan.