What Is a Jessner's Peel?

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on July 23, 2023
3 min read

Glowing skin is a beauty goal for millions of people. Skincare products and sun protection are excellent tools for helping skin look great. If you have stubborn concerns like acne, discoloration, or age-related skin changes, you may find that over-the-counter products aren't enough.

Noninvasive skin resurfacing procedures like chemical peels are an effective way to treat common skin issues. They're very popular, with almost a million Americans getting chemical peels every year. During a peel, your doctor places chemical solutions on your skin to dissolve the top layers and reveal fresher skin beneath the surface. The process can reduce the appearance of fine lines, dark spots, and acne scars.

There are several different degrees of chemical peel: superficial, medium, and deep. The difference between them has to do with how many layers of skin the peel penetrates. Superficial peels have modest results but very little downtime. Medium and deep peels are more dramatic, but the recovery is more complicated.

A Jessner's peel is a type of chemical peel to improve the appearance of your skin. Like other chemical peels, a Jessner's peel breaks down the surface layer of skin. The cells die off and slough away after the peel. Your body then begins a healing response, which brings new, fresher-looking skin to the surface.

On its own, Jessner's solution is a superficial peeling agent. Doctors often combine it with more intense ingredients to produce a medium peel. These peels are effective at reducing the appearance of dark spots, fine lines, and acne scars.

Jessner's solution was invented nearly 100 years ago. A doctor named Max Jessner developed the formula as a way of treating benign skin conditions. His original formula contained several acidic ingredients that effectively break down the skin's surface layers and encourage new brighter skin to take its place.

The ingredients in the original Jenner's solution were equal parts salicylic acid, resorcinol, and lactic acid, mixed with an ethanol base. More recently, doctors have created a modified version that contains higher concentrations of lactic acid and salicylic acid, with a smaller amount of citric acid. They replaced resorcinol because it can cause irritation and hyperpigmentation, especially for people with darker skin tones.

Jessner's solution alone can produce superficial skin peeling with mild effects. Dermatologists often combine Jessner's solution with trichloroacetic acid (TCA) or glycolic for a more intensive peel. Jessner's solution prepares the skin by removing top layers of the epidermis so the other ingredients can penetrate more deeply.

Peels using Jessner's solution can treat a number of skin concerns, including:

  • Acne or acne scars
  • Age spots or other discoloration, including melasma
  • Dull complexion
  • Fine lines
  • Freckles or sun damage
  • Rough-feeling skin

Your doctor will talk to you about how to care for your skin before and after a peel. To get the best results, you may need to use prescription skincare products such as tretinoin to get your skin ready for the peel ingredients. This ensures that the peel penetrates evenly all over your face, so you have consistent results.

You may need numbing cream on your skin before the peel to alleviate discomfort. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection while you're recovering. You will need to be very careful how you treat your skin for several days. Your doctor will let you know what products are safe to use while you're recovering. Your skin may be red and swollen for several days after your peel. The skin will then become dry and flaky or crusty before starting to shed. It takes about a week for a full recovery.

Some people need multiple peels to get the results they want. If you are going to have more than one peel, you will need to follow the preparation and recovery steps for each treatment.

You can purchase Jessner's solution to use at home. Both the original and modified versions of the solution are available. They do not have additional ingredients such as TCA or glycolic acid to increase the effectiveness of the peel.

It is possible to injure yourself using any kind of at-home peel. If you leave the product on your skin too long, it could leave burns or sores. If you don't prepare your skin properly, you might end up with uneven results afterward.

If you are interested in a chemical peel, you should speak with a doctor about the best options for your skincare goals.