Chemical Peel Aftercare - The Ultimate Guide
Proper chemical peel aftercare is crucial to safe and proper healing of the treated skin. Here’s a general guide, along with extra tips.
Chemical peels are skin resurfacing treatments that function on the principle of destroying a layer of skin and allowing new skin to emerge underneath, free from imperfections targeted. As such, they entail a healing process which requires strict chemical peel aftercare to ensure the skin grows back healthy and without complications.
So let’s go through the general post chemical peel care. Bear in mind that the aftercare routine may vary depending on the type and intensity of the peel, as well as the general state of your skin and the rest of your skincare regimen.
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Why Is Chemical Peel After Care So Important?
Post chemical peel care is very important for ensuring your skin heals safely and without complications. It also minimizes the discomfort that the recovery process entails and thus prevents the client from touching the area too much.
As the outermost layer of skin peels off, the skin becomes extremely sensitive to sunlight, so it needs protection to prevent sun damage, especially burns. The skin is stripped of its protective barrier and its naturally produced oils, so it can’t retain moisture. Hydration has to be supplemented through the use of an appropriate moisturizer.
The chemical peel post care routine has to be adhered to strictly, otherwise there might be temporary or permanent damage to the skin, and the results of the treatment won’t be what you’d expected.
Image source: Freepik
Rules of Chemical Peel Aftercare
The key points of chemical peel aftercare are protecting the skin from sunlight, cleaning it regularly and in a particular way, and moisturizing it generously. For certain types of chemical peels, the chemicals are left on the skin for a prolonged time and the client is supposed to remove them at a certain time.
Some peels include additional chemical agents that are applied by the client, at home.
Let’s explain all the rules:
What to Do
The most important points are to wash the skin gently, keep it moisturized, and wear SPF. If your peel is a multistep one and requires additional products, use them exactly how your practitioner prescribed.
1. Wash the Skin Gently
Freshly treated skin needs to be washed very gently, with cool to lukewarm water, without any rubbing, especially in the days of its peeling. For the first 2 days, wash the skin with water only, and include a cleanser after that.
You should only use cleansers prescribed or approved by the practitioner. It should be a gentle one, ideally with natural ingredients, without any harsh chemicals – exfoliants are to be avoided at all costs. It should also be soap-free, as this can dry out the already dried out skin further.
Some chemical peels require the peeling agent to sit on the skin for multiple hours. You will leave the appointment with the solution still on your face, and your practitioner will tell you when and how to wash it off. Follow the instructions as closely as possible.
2. Avoid sunlight and wear your SPF
The skin can be extremely sensitive to sunlight in the weeks following a chemical peel, so it needs special care. Apply SPF 50 after each time you wash your skin.
In the first 7 days after the treatment, keep your skin away from sunlight as much as possible (standing next to a window or driving in a car also counts as sunlight exposure), and reapply SPF every 3 to 4 hours. If you have to go outside, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses in addition to your sunscreen.
After your skin stops peeling, you can consider it healed, more or less, but you should keep up with wearing your SPF for about 6 weeks after the treatment.
Image source: Freepik
3. Moisturize it frequently and generously
As the skin is stripped of its outermost layer, there’s nothing to lock in the moisture and water evaporates from it very fast. This creates uncomfortable sensations of dryness and tightness.
To relieve these, and to keep the skin from cracking more than it has to, keep the skin coated with a layer of moisturizer at all times. This will also aid the healing process, as moisture is necessary for proper healing after any type of skin damage.
As you’re essentially moisturizing dead skin which is going to flake off, there’s no need to spend a lot of money on a chemical peel aftercare moisturizer. A cheap one with quality ingredients will work just fine, but make sure it doesn’t include any exfoliating ingredients or fragrance.
What to Avoid in the First 24 Hours
In the first 24 hours after your chemical peel, avoid swimming in chlorinated or salt water and wearing makeup. These activities might affect the chemical process that goes on in the skin.
What to Avoid for 10 Days, or Until Peeling Ends
As part of chemical peel aftercare, you also need to avoid exposing the treated skin to sunlight, heat, additional chemicals, and above all else, you mustn’t pick at the flakes once your skin starts peeling.
1. Picking your skin
This is absolutely forbidden, and we’re not even exaggerating. The skin needs to peel off on its own, naturally, and the flakes need to slough off naturally.
We know it’s tempting to just rip off all those flakes, especially the big ones that are barely holding on. But if you rip off even the tiniest piece, you risk scars or hyperpigmentation developing as a response to the trauma.
One thing you can do is cut off the bigger hanging flakes with sterile scissors, without pulling.
Image source: Instagram @nursemontana.aesthetics
2. Sunlight exposure
Avoid exposing your skin to sunlight for at least 1 week, and wear SPF if you think there’s even a remote possibility of this happening. Your skin is highly susceptible to sun radiation and there’s a high chance of burns.
This applies to tanning beds, too.
Exposing the treated skin to any form of heat, including steam, will increase blood flow into the area, which can increase the sensations of tingling or stinging. So, no saunas, no steam baths, no excessive sweating which will raise your body temperature. Don’t even wash your face with hot water – cool to lukewarm is the way to go.
4. Additional chemicals
Skin freshly treated with chemicals can react in unpredictable ways if additional chemicals are introduced.
This applies to:
- Any exfoliating ingredients (AHAs, BHAs, Retinol…) unless specifically instructed by your artist
- Any anti-aging ingredients – these are exfoliants more often than not
- Fragrance-scented skincare often has high contents of alcohol, which is drying and can be very irritating to compromised skin
- Self-tanner – not only can it be irritating, but it’ll also grab onto any flakes and look a mess
5. Other facials
Give your skin time to heal and recover naturally. Refrain from any other facial for about 2 weeks, including at-home treatments.
If there’s anything unclear about the chemical peel aftercare routine prescribed, don’t hesitate to ask your practitioner for clarification. There’s no room for timidity here and there are no dumb or redundant questions – providing your skin with the right conditions for proper healing is the priority.
The Importance of SPF
After your chemical peel, you need to wear SPF consistently, even if you’re not exposing your face to sunlight. It’s crucial you wear SPF 40+ in the first week after the appointment (along with protective clothes and accessories), and it’s strongly advisable you keep wearing it for an additional 5 weeks or so.
Your skin is stripped of its outermost layer, so its photosensitivity is increased and sunlight can cause severe irritation and burns.
Ideally, you should incorporate SPF into your normal routine in the future, to keep the results of your chemical peel, prevent new imperfections from emerging, and slow down the aging process as much as possible.
To learn more about the effects of a chemical peel, check out our Chemical Peel Guide!
Image source: Freepik
Chemical Peel Aftercare – Main Takeaways
After chemical peel care is crucial to safe healing of the skin and achieving the best possible results. It’s relatively simple, but you have to take it seriously. It comes down to avoiding sunlight and heat for about 10 days, keeping the skin moisturized and covered with SPF, and resisting the urge to pick at the peeling skin.