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What Is A Croton Oil Peel?

In 1962, an easily mixed formulation of phenol, water, croton oil, and septisol was published and became known as the Baker formula. For almost 40 years, Baker’s formula was mistakenly known as a “phenol” peel. In 2000, Gregory Hetter M.D. demonstrated that the peeling agent was the croton oil, not the phenol, within the Baker formula and that by varying the croton oil concentration, the surgeon could alter the strength of the peel for certain patients and facial areas.

For years, the peel was associated with hypopigmentation. However, the feared complications of the peel were generally associated with the original version of the formula, which had significantly stronger concentrations of phenol. We now recognize the key ingredient in peel is the croton oil and not the phenol, which has led to dramatic improvements in skin texture, tone, and obliteration of deep wrinkles with a shorter recovery period. The risks of complications from the modern version of this peel are low with an experienced peeler and the potential benefits are unparalleled.

What Are The Benefits Of A Croton Oil Peel?

One of the areas that the Croton Oil Peel really stands out from any other modality is the perioral area. You can get an outstanding rejuvenation in the fine lines around the mouth as well as deep wrinkles. Outcomes for the lower lid can also potentially replace surgery in the right candidate. However, the peel is most used to treat the entire face with significant change achieved.

In general, patients can expect:

  • Significantly improved complexion
  • Diminished sunspots and discoloration
  • Tighter facial skin: 20 to 25% skin tightening
  • Dramatic reduction of fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes, lips, forehead, and cheeks
  • Lifting and tightening of the upper and lower eyelids
Croton Oil Peel

How Is This Different From Typical Chemical Peels?

The peels you may receive at a spa can only treat the upper layers of skin, making them superficial.

The croton oil peel provides deep treatment and, because of this, may require IV sedation. However, for the results it offers, it is considered a far less invasive procedure than cosmetic surgery. Further, because of the depth of the peel, we pretreat patients for 4 weeks prior with topical tretinoin and hydroquinone cream to prepare their skin.


We usually explain to patients that none of the things we offer are like “Death Becomes Her” (great movie) – i.e., a painless topical potion that completely turns back time without recovery. Also explained as – there’s no free lunch. The more dramatic the regenerative outcome for a peel, the deeper that treatment must go into the skin in order to achieve that outcome. That means there is a recovery involved – and with a deep croton peel, that’s likely a couple of weeks. There are certainly other modalities with less of a recovery – but what is true for all of them is that the tradeoff will always be the depth of impact versus the degree of improvement/change achieved.

As with all things – training and experience matter, for a Croton oil peel – which can have significant complications if not appropriately applied – we recommend having this treatment only by a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon or Dermatologist like Dr. Craft.

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