There are three main types of chemical peels: “light,” “medium,” and “deep.” Each one refers to the depth of skin that the peel penetrates. Deeper peels offer more drastic results, but use harsher peeling agents, which increase both recovery time and the potential risk involved.
- Light chemical peels are sometimes called “lunchtime procedures” as they require essentially no downtime. Simply avoiding direct sunlight and applying a moisturizer is usually all that is required following treatment.
- Medium peels also allow for an immediate return to daily activity. That said, the treated area often has a redness to it and forms a shallow crust, both of which typically fade within one week of treatment.
- Deep peels cause swelling and redness that can last for several days. The crust formed at the treated area fades within ten days of the procedure. Deep peels also leave the skin vulnerable to sun damage for extended periods of time.
1. Be gentle with your skin
Instead of using your usual washcloth for your face, try switching to something more gentle, like a baby washcloth or facial sponges. Your skin can feel easily irritated post-peel, and the rough texture of your normal washcloth might be too rough.
2. Keep your outdoor activities to a minimum during your recovery
As the top layer of skin flakes and peels off, the new, vulnerable and immature cells below will become exposed to dangerous UV rays. Limit your time in the sun as much as you can.
3. Make sure you wear sunscreen with a high SPF every day
Your skin will be hypersensitive to UV exposure because the tough, outer layer won’t be present to provide adequate protection. A high spectrum sunscreen protects new skin from damage as it heals, regardless of the weather.
4. Try using soothing products that contain chamomile, azulene, or sea whip
If your skin is red or sore, these ingredients can comfort the skin while reducing inflammation. If you’ve just had a light peel, that redness will be so mild that you’ll look more like you’re glowing, which is a good thing! In fact, some people love getting superficial peels just for this reason.
5. Don’t pick at flaking skin
The entire point of a chemical peel is to effectively “burn” off the dry and damaged surface layer of skin, revealing healthy, younger-looking cells beneath. To do this, that outer layer has to be shed. This is the most uncomfortable part of the process but it’s best to be patient and allow it to happen on its own.
Picking off dry and flaky skin when it’s not ready to be shed can lead to scarring, unnecessary redness, and even hyperpigmentation – a darkening of the skin.
6. Be careful with your moisturizer
It’s tempting to over-moisturize or apply a heavy moisturizer in an effort to compensate for post-peeling dryness, but too much can prevent the skin from peeling off.
The purpose of a chemical peel is to peel the skin, so let it peel off naturally. Over-moisturizing can lead to poor results and a longer recovery period.
7. Don’t exfoliate!
It’s important to just allow your skin to shed naturally through the recovery period. Using a facial scrub or acid will only irritate the new skin more, and can even lead to scarring.
8. Wash your face with a gentle soap or cleanser twice daily
This helps reduce oils on the skin, and removes bacteria and dead cells that build up over the course of the day. Don’t rub your skin too much while you wash.
9. While your skin is peeling, endeavor to minimize facial expressions
Moving the muscles in your face excessively can cause the skin to crack before it’s ready, leading to poor results. This isn’t the time to see a comedy or visit your dentist!
10. If problems arise, call the office of your provider right away
You’ll want to resolve an unexpected irritation or a possible infection as soon as possible. Don’t wait until your next appointment. This is especially important advice if you think you might be developing a cold sore on your lip.
Protip: While chemical peels are largely considered a low risk treatment, especially at the hands of a professional, it’s best to take all available precautions before underdgoing one. Read: Preparing For Chemical Peels: Top 10 Tips To Follow
- Soleymani, T., Lanoue, J., & Rahman, Z. (2018). A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels: A Review of Fundamentals and Step-by-step Algorithmic Protocol for Treatment. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 11(8), 21-28. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6122508