Phenol peels and glycolic acid peels are at opposite ends of the chemical peel spectrum. Glycolic acid peels are considered mild, and phenol peels are incredibly strong. Often referred to as deep peels, they tend to give the most dramatic results but also require the most recovery time. The end result, however, is believed to last for years to come.
The procedure can take less than half an hour to perform, but afterward patients often look like victims of severe sunburn. The skin will be red and crusty, followed by scabs and flaking. It might take one to two weeks before patients feel comfortable going out in public, and some practitioners say the sunburned look could last as long as three months [source: Loftus].
If you think you can handle waiting three months to see the final result, the effects of a phenol peel have been shown to be very satisfactory [source: ASAPS]. Your skin could look smoother, tighter and, if you're lucky, blemish-free. Unfortunately, the treatment doesn't come without risk, and it isn't necessarily right for everyone. A phenol peel will often leave skin looking permanently bleached, which makes it less than ideal for people without fair complexions.
If the phenol sounds like too strong of a treatment, read on to learn more about a middle-of-the-road chemical peel.