If you’ve followed the skincare world closely, you know that chemical peels are one key step in maintaining your skin healthy and flawless. Chemical peels use acids to encourage cell turnover, stimulate collagen and elastin production, helping increase skin thickness. This is why chemical peels are on the stage, whether it’s about tackling aging signs, hyperpigmentation, acne, scars, or uneven texture.
The most common acids used for chemical peels include alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic and lactic acids and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid. Chemical peels are serious business, and if you don’t know the how-to, you may have the recipe for a fail, aka a broken skin barrier, irritations, or a lack of the desired outcomes. But since you’re here, such a thing can’t happen because this post will teach you how to care for your skin before and after a chemical peel.
How to prepare your skin before a chemical peel
There aren’t many things to say about what you should do before a chemical peel. Either you are doing it at home or in-office, choosing the right peel for your skin type and tolerance is a priority.
For instance, if you’re a chemical peel virgin or have easily reactive skin, stick to superficial, light peelings that use smaller concentrations of acids and only penetrate the outermost skin layer. For OTC chemical peels, concentrations of up to 10% are generally considered safe, even for beginners. Anyway, if you’re planning to go for deep peels afterward, you’d better schedule an appointment with your beautician.
Back to our muttons, here’s what peeling agents you should use according to your skin type:
- For oily or acne-prone skin: You can use either glycolic or salicylic acids as those skin types are less likely to get irritated. Both acids have exfoliating effects that can reduce breakouts and acne inflammations as well as improving dull skin. However, salicylic acid may be more suitable for oily and acne-prone skins since it can remove excess oil and reduce sebum production.
- For dry skin: Since lactic acid has a large molecule and doesn’t penetrate the skin as deeply and is also moisturizing, it’s the one to use for dry skin.
- For sensitive skin: Azelaic and lactic acids are the chemical peels that most experts praise for sensitive skin. They are gentle, don’t dry out the skin, and don’t cause irritations.
- For combination/normal skin: These types of skin are not restricted to any chemical acid. Here, the peeling agent should be used based on your goal and what you want to tackle: dark spots, aging signs, breakouts, or acne scars.
Now that you know what chemical peel you need, here’s what you should do before it gets into your skin.
Have your skin cleansed
Some people would say that it isn’t necessarily better to use a cleanser before a chemical peel since the exfoliation itself will remove the debris and impurities from the skin’s top layer. Whether you choose a gentle, soap-free cleanser or prefer to wash with cold water, you still should have your skin properly cleansed before chemical peels.
Do a patch test
No matter what chemical exfoliant you use, there’s always a chance your skin will have e negative reaction to it. Performing a patch test before chemical peels keeps you on the safe side. It’s also good to see how your skin responds to chemical peels and estimate how long to leave the peel on your skin before it cause irritations.
Apply the chemical peel only on a small part of your skin and let it on for about one minute. Depending on how your skin reacts, you can leave the peel longer but not more than 10 minutes. Although light redness and burning feelings are normal, immediately wash away the chemical peel and apply a moisturizer if anything becomes too uncomfortable. Now, wait between 24 – 48 hours to observe how your skin reacts. If you experience no severe redness, itchiness, or intense dryness, you are good to go.
Start slowly to build your skin tolerance
Starting with superficial peels, aka lower concentrations of acids (below 10%), it’s a good practice to train your skin and build its tolerance towards chemical peels. You can also start by using an exfoliating cleanser or mask containing AHAs or BHAs to teach your skin to be less sensitive to acids.
What not to do prior to a chemical peel
First of all, avoid chemical peels if your skin is irritated or you had a laser treatment or microneedling session in the last 2-4 days. Don’t use any retinol products for at least 48 hours before a chemical peel, and don’t use other exfoliants for at least one week ahead. If you could let your skin detox and not wearing makeup a few days before would be a great idea, but it’s not imperiously necessarily. And also, stay away from tanning at least two weeks prior to a chemical peel.
How to care for your skin after a chemical peel
Just as important as the peel itself is how you take care of your skin post-peeling. A wrong approach could lead to delayed healing, hyperpigmentation, or even scarring.
After a chemical peel, skin becomes dry, feels tingling, and tight, the process of peeling taking about one week. However, you can help speed up the skin repairing process with the proper care after a chemical peel. Here are the best tips to care for your skin post chemical peels.
Use a gentle cleanser
The skin is super sensitive after a chemical peel, and it can stay like that for days. Everything that gets in touch with your skin during that period may cause irritations, even something as banal as a cleanser. The first thing you have to do to care for your skin after a chemical peel is to make sure you use a gentle cleanser. Although you don’t have to use the cleanser immediately after the chemical peel, you should still consider something gentle, soap-free, and with as little alcohol and fragrance as possible. Also, always wash your face with cold water while your skin is peeling.
Apply a targeted serum
One of the best benefits of chemical peels is the increased absorption that takes place after the exfoliation process. Enhancing the absorption of topical treatments means that what you apply after a chemical peel works more effectively. You can’t apply any serum post chemical peel. You need one that replenishes your skin with hydration, gives antioxidant protection and lacks potential drying or irritating ingredients. Avoid serums containing other exfoliating agents, vitamin C, or retinoids. If your skin can handle it, you can use a targeted serum for your concerns.
Probably the most crucial step after having a chemical peel is to keep your skin moisturized. As chemical peels tend to dry out the skin, which in turn causes irritations, the use of a rich moisturizer is mandatory to reduce the side effects. Ideal would be to use a moisturizer containing skin regenerating ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, ceramide, and peptide, that’ll accelerate the recovery process.
We recommend any of these best moisturizers after a chemical peel. If your skin flakes too much, it’s OK to layer moisturizer a few times throughout the day. The more you moisturize, the faster your skin will heal. Last but not least, avoid heavy moisturizers, preferably without alcohol, fragrance, or other drying ingredients.
Applying sunscreen every day is one of the best things you can do for your skin. But this gets even more important after chemical peels since they increase the skin’s sensitivity to UV.
What to avoid after a chemical peel
- Sun exposure: First and most important, avoid sun exposure after a chemical peel. Your skin is delicate post peeling, so it is more susceptible to damage from the sun’s rays, even if you slather it in sunscreen.
- Intense exercise or sweating: Skip the gym and sauna. When the blood flow boosts, it increases skin warming and tingling or redness. Plus, the salt in sweat may cause irritations that could lead to an uncomfortable feeling or even an infection.
- Other exfoliants: Don’t use any other exfoliants or retinoids for the next 3-4 days, or even more if you have had performed a deep chemical peel. This can lead to over-exfoliation, a broken skin barrier, and make your skin more susceptible to irritations.
- Hot water: Also, it would help if you swap the hot water for cool water as it can help alleviate post-peel sensations.
- Touching your face: After a chemical peel, avoid touching your face at all costs and let it peel. If you force sloughing off the damaged skin cells and don’t let them shed naturally could cause scarring.
Best products to use after a chemical peel
Since peels can temporarily compromise your skin’s protective barrier, it’s crucial to reinforce that barrier with a hydrating serum and a medium-to-thick moisturizer. These are the best products to use after a chemical peel that’ll calm your skin and keep it protected.
This serum was created with sensitive, sunburned, and post-procedure skin in mind. For this reason, it’s filled with the right ingredients to accelerate healing, soothe and improve skin’s moisture. Hyaluronic acid, glycolipids, vitamin E, amino acids are just a few of the ingredients that’ll support your skin to revive faster after a chemical peel.
If you are looking for the best product to use after chemical peels that works while you sleep, this is it! It’s a repairing serum working night and day to help skin recover and consolidate its protective barrier. As it contains skin-loving ingredients such as peptides, hyaluronic acid, plus antioxidants like chamomile, it does a great job at fighting wrinkles and locking in moisture.
A few days after my chemical peel, I use this serum. It’s a hydrating and nourishing formula that’s also clean and lacks alcohol or fragrances. The Ordinary Hydrating Serum delivers instant hydration thanks to hyaluronic acid crosspolymer, vitamin B5, and glycerin addition. More than that, the formula includes red marine algae extract, known to protect the skin and boost hyaluronic acid absorption into the skin.
You can’t possibly go wrong if you use SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore after a chemical peel. The reason all derms tout it lies in the ingredients list. It contains 2% pure ceramides, 4% natural cholesterol, and 2% fatty acid, all needed to recover and strengthen the skin’s barrier, as well as improve skin texture and firmness. Whether you have dry, sensitive, normal, or oily skin, this one will do the job just perfect!
Tatcha made a serum-in-moisturizer treatment, gentle enough to use after a chemical peel. It has what it takes to balance skin’s microbiome, reinforce the protective barrier, and calm irritations. It’s infused with Japanese indigo extract, hyaluronic, ceramides, plus a mix of natural extracts to speed up healing and fortify the skin’s protective barrier.
This is another best product to use after a chemical peel since it mitigates dryness and accelerates the skin restoring process. To do this, this moisturizer uses squalane, shea butter, ceramide, omega fatty acids, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E — basically, all your weakened skin barrier needs to repair asap.