Chemical Peels: Everything you need to know

Updated: May 7, 2020

Chemical peels are one of my favourite treatments to do yet I find they are the most daunting to have amongst my clients. The truth is, most skin types can benefit from a peel and if you are curious about trying one for the first time, this is definitely the post for you.

What is a chemical peel?

A skin peel is a treatment that uses a chemical solution to speed up the cellular turnover in the skin. A healthy skin will transition through this turnover cycle during an average period of 30-40 days and so a peel treatment speeds this up to over a period of 5-7 days. There is a gigantic variety peels in the industry containing active ingredients and meticulous percentages to target specific concerns effectively. For example, a 30% salicylic peel would be good for moderate acne and a 20% glycolic peel would be beneficial for dull, dry skin conditions.

How strong is a skin peel?

You don’t have to peel exactly, following a skin peel. Some peels (sometimes referred to as resurfacers) work superficially on the surface meaning you may not experience any peeling at all. The majority of clinics & salons that provide chemical peels, usually separate the strength of peel into 3 levels: superficial, medium and deep. In most cases the more superficial (or lighter) the peel, the less peeling/flaking you will experience.

Chemical peels: everything you need to know

What results can I expect from a skin peel?

Expect your skin to have a smoother surface and tightened pores following a chemical peel treatment. The skin will also show an increased radiance as a result of skin regeneration and more hydration because your products will be able to penetrate deeper into the skin. With the right course of treatment, chemical peels can fix an array of concerns from acne and hyperpigmentation to fine lines and scarring.

How often should I have a peel?

Every brand I have worked with work all recommend similar treatment courses. When you are working with your aesthetician to improve a particular concern (i.e. acne, scarring, uneven skin tone, sun damage) a course of 6 treatments is usually advised, every 2 weeks before you start to notice a improvement. The results achieved from this set of treatments will be maintained as often as needed, and this all depends on the results from the initial first course.

If you have a normal skin, or no specific concern I usually recommend a skin treatment every 4-12 weeks, depending on when your skin needs it the most.

When should I have a skin peel

A skin peel is best to have when you want to work on resurfacing the skin’s texture and surface. Think dull, dry skin types with a great build up of dead skin cells. Those concerned with deep rooted congestion, pigmentation and excessive oil production will equally notice a great improvement following a chemical peel. The resurfacing effect a peel has on the skin has been known to improve the appearance of enlarged pores, the appearance of fine lines and general blemishes. Many injectors will advise a course of skin peels to enhance the results of filler treatment (contouring can have a positive effect but if the skin condition is poor the overall result will not be so great.)

What should I expect after a chemical peel?

After a superficial skin peel expect the skin to feel tight afterwards. It is rare to experience any degree of peeling after a resurfacer/superficial treatment, but some may experience 1-2 days of subtle flaking around areas like the chin and nose. Redness may appear straight after treatment but should disappear within an hour or two afterwards.

A medium peel tends to cause skin flaking 1-2 days after the treatment and the process can take anywhere between 2-5 days. During this time the skin will feel quite tight, dry and sensitive.

A deep peel will cause the skin to peel and in most cases, this time-frame of peeling will last 5-14 days following treatment. The skin will feel dry, sensitised and you may experience darkened pigmentation and an increase of redness during this time.

What should I do after a chemical peel treatment?

It it is important to not pick, rub or scratch the skin after the treatment and during the recovery stages. Focus on hydrating and moisturising products, a daily SPF and gentle cleansers in your routines. Avoid exfoliators, retinols, chemical make-up and hot environments during this time also.

Is a skin peel safe?

When the treatment and aftercare is followed precisely, there is minimum risk involved. Your aesthetician will be able to offer you safe recommendations based upon your lifestyle, concerns and skincare regime. The best thing you can do to reduce the risk of slow healing, sensitisation and development of hyperpigmentation or post-inflammatory pigment, is by wearing a SPF during your courses of treatments. Some peels offer starter kits to ‘prep’ the skin beforehand and to introduce the skin gently to exfoliation and active acids.

Still not sure about trying a skin peel? Then start off slowly and introduce an exfoliating cleanser in your routine like Skinceutical’s Blemish & Age cleansing gel. This will offer similar results to a mild peel. Another product you can try instead is a re-texturing mask like Dermaquest Mini Pumpkin mask or Teoxane’s radiant night peel which will give your skin a great exfoliation and boost in hydration and radiance.

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