Chemical peels have been around in one form or another for centuries.
They’ve maintained their popularity because they’re so effective, helping to reveal healthy, radiant, youthful-looking skin. But there still seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding how a chemical peel works and what the chemical peel process looks like day by day.
Here’s what you can expect before, during and after your chemical peel treatment.
What is a chemical peel, exactly?
Chemical peels are non-invasive cosmetic procedures that use a combination of powerful, skin-safe acids. These acids work together to break down the top few layers of the epidermis, exfoliating the skin and leaving behind the healthier layers underneath.
The chemical peel process takes anywhere from one to seven days, depending on how “heavy” of a peel you have performed. The chemical peel we offer at Skin Pharm is a medium-depth (or TCA) peel. This peel uses a mix of alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs, including lactic acid and salicylic acid), retinoic acid and trichloroacetic acid to achieve the final results.
While you’ll start to see results after a single chemical peel, the effects are cumulative, meaning maximum benefits are noticeable after a series of peels.
What should I do to prep for my chemical peel?
The prep for a chemical peel starts with timing. We recommend that you schedule your chemical peel at least two weeks before any major events, as the expected side effects are most noticeable during that period.
You want your skin to be as healthy as possible. A week before your appointment, you should avoid doing anything that irritates your skin. This includes tanning, laser procedures, waxing, using depilatory creams, tweezing and using skin care products with topical retinoids.
If you’re experiencing any rash or viral outbreaks on your face, you may need to reschedule your appointment. Doing a chemical peel with either of those factors can potentially worsen the issue.
How does the chemical peel application work?
Before your chemical peel day-to-day process starts, you’ll need to have your provider apply the treatment. People often have many concerns about what it will feel like to get a peel done and if it’ll hurt. We recommend scheduling a consultation before having a chemical peel to discuss what to expect and answer any questions you may have.
When you arrive at the clinic, the first step is to wash your face. Washing your face removes any layers of dead skin cells, makeup and other debris (like skin care products) that may still be sitting on your skin. The result is a clear surface, ready to accept the peel without any barriers in its way.
(Different skin care practices can perform different depths of chemical peels, and the “deeper” the peel, the more discomfort you are likely to feel.) Skin Pharm’s medium-depth chemical peel isn’t uncomfortable, though — most people describe the sensation as “tingling,” “warm” or “tight.” To help with any potential stinging during the treatment, we provide our patients with a handheld fan, too.
You’ll leave the clinic with the peel solution still on your face, and you’ll notice your complexion take on a yellow hue throughout the day. (Not to worry — this means it’s working!) After a few hours, you’ll apply the retinol crème your provider sent you home with.
You might notice some redness and sensitivity as the retinol gets to work. Many people describe the feeling as similar to having a sunburn. However, the telltale peeling that comes with a chemical peel won’t start for another day or so.
WHAT TO AVOID THE DAY OF YOUR CHEMICAL PEEL—
While your skin is still healing, keep a few factors in mind. Your skin is incredibly raw and sensitive, and it needs additional protection. To protect it and maximize your results, you should avoid any strenuous exercise or activities that lead to sweating.
In addition, try to stay out of the sun as much as possible and wear sunscreen (with at least an SPF of 30) if you can’t avoid it entirely.
You’ll also want to avoid letting your skin dry out. Although applying product to raw skin can feel uncomfortable, it needs moisture to heal. Allowing your skin to dry too much can lengthen the healing process and make it more likely that your skin will scab or even scar.
Day two post-chemical peel
Day two of the chemical peel process day to day is where you’ll likely start to see your skin peel. The top layers of your skin are beginning to dehydrate and slough off, and you’ll see this more often start between the eyes and in the corners of the nose and mouth.
Although it may be tempting, resist the urge to help your skin peel manually. Wash your skin gently and follow up with a stronger moisturizer, like Recovery Lotion.
For many people, the redness they experience in the first few days is enough to keep them home from work and social events. Expect that your skin will react this way, and don’t schedule anything significant in the few days directly after your chemical peel.
If you deal with breakouts, you may experience some “purging” of any blemishes present under the surface before your peel. While this isn’t common, it is possible to start with a new retinol skin care product.
Day three and four post-chemical peel
Day three and four are when you will likely experience the worst peeling and flaking. Your skin is most likely to feel uncomfortable these days — and it’s also at its most vulnerable. Follow your provider’s skin care recommendations carefully, as they are designed to help protect your skin and assist it with its natural healing process.
Now, more than ever, your skin needs to be protected. You may even want to wear a sun protective hat along with your sunscreen to make sure your skin stays safe and doesn’t burn. Doing that keeps your healing process moving forward.
Don’t be surprised if you notice more peeling in certain areas of your face than in others. This is normal and doesn’t indicate any problem with your skin’s healing process.
Day seven post-chemical peel
A week after your chemical peel is performed, you’ll finally be able to start seeing your results. This is where all of the flaking, peeling and redness starts to pay off. (Professionals consider the results of a chemical peel permanent, so enjoy that new skin you’re starting to see!)
Depending on how well or quickly your skin is healing, you can usually return to your normal skincare routine a week or so after your chemical peel.
Make sure that your skin is completely done peeling before using any harsher or more abrasive skin care products, as the skin may still be sensitive. When your skin stops feeling as tight and dry, you should be ok to switch back.
Our post-chemical peel skin care routine is excellent for helping your skin to heal, but it isn’t meant for long-term use for most of our patients. Unless you have dry, sensitive skin, prolonged use can lead to breakouts or oily-looking skin.
One week post-chemical peel (and beyond!)
Your skin is far less flaky and sensitive by this point in your chemical peel journey. However, because your skin has gone through a process meant to safely “damage” your skin so that it looks better than ever, there may still be some noticeable healing going on.
More sensitive areas of your skin may start to crust and scab or even have a noticeable color change. Usually, this process is complete around two weeks after your chemical peel. However, some redness may persist for months, especially in hotter weather or when you exercise.
How soon can I get another chemical peel?
Once you start to see results from your chemical peel, you’ll probably be ready to book your next appointment! However, you need to make sure to give your skin enough time to heal before you subject it to other chemical peels. If you have another peel too soon, you risk damaging your skin instead of helping it look its best.
We recommend waiting at least four to six weeks between treatments. On average, most of our patients need between four and six treatments total for optimal results.
To wrap things up...
Knowing the chemical peel process day to day can help you understand what to expect if you decide to perform this game-changing cosmetic treatment. While it may take slightly longer to heal than other cosmetic treatments, the results are permanent and often even more impressive than people expect!
Give us a call or book a skin care consultation online when you’re ready to take the next step with your skin!