Help! My Skin Looks Worse After Chemical Peel

By Emily M.| Last updated on August 9, 2023
skin looks worse after chemical peel
⏱️ 5 min read

The most frequent concern people have is that their skin looks worse in the days following a chemical peel. But does that mean their skin is ruined? No.

As your skin goes through the exfoliation and regeneration process it will be a peeling mess until you’re able to see the improvement.

So we’re not gonna lie – this treatment is beneficial, but it’s not exactly a pretty process. Let’s see what you can expect after this procedure and why skin looks worse after chemical peel.

Quick Recap of Chemical Peel Treatment

Chemical peels are resurfacing procedures that gently remove the top layer of skin by applying a suitable acid to the skin in controlled doses.

When performed correctly, chemical peels are quick, efficient, and safe face rejuvenation treatments that help balance out skin tone and minimize all kinds of blemishes.

If you’re thinking about getting a chemical peel, you should know that this procedure has some temporary side effects that usually go away within a week. Nonetheless, they make skin look a bit… weird during the recovery.

Learn more about this procedure in our Ultimate Guide to Chemical Peels.

Can Chemical Peels Make Skin Worse?

While chemical peels are considered to be safe treatments, they do carry some risks.

The depth to which a chemical penetrates the skin during a chemical peel will determine how it affects the skin and if any issues may arise.

Based on when they first manifest, complications can be divided into immediate and delayed skin reactions.

Immediate reactions happen within the first 24-48 hours and they include:

  • Pain, burning, itching sensations
  • Redness and changes in skin color
  • Swelling and blisters
  • Infection
  • Adverse reactions (usually an allergic reaction, contact dermatitis, or the form of persistent irritation)

After these calm down, there may also be some delayed skin reactions. These are often what make people worried about the state of their skin’s health.

can skin looks worse after chemical peel
Image source: Instagram @shelbys_serenity

So, How Can Skin Look Worse After Chemical Peel?

Following chemical peeling treatment, there may be some delayed side effects such as skin discoloration and patchiness, a feeling of dryness and tightness – the skin may even look more wrinkled.

These are all common. But where does normal skin reaction cross over into damaged skin?

Let’s see what conditions may be impacted by this treatment and to which severity is normal.

Can Chemical Peels Make Hyperpigmentation Worse?

A chemical peel may result in the treated skin becoming either lighter (hypopigmentation) or darker (hyperpigmentation) than usual.

Usually, hyperpigmentation is more likely to happen after more superficial peels, while hypopigmentation is more common after deeper peels.

Discoloration occurs due to the body’s natural response to an injury. The body works to defend itself by increasing the production of melanin, a protein that is also responsible for the pigments in our skin.

You can learn more about the relationship between post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and chemical peels here.

Can Chemical Peels Make Melasma Worse?

Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation. Melasma appears due to hormone imbalance (which is why it’s often associated with pregnancy) or due to overexposure to harmful UV rays.

This is why it’s crucial you don’t skip using SPF after a chemical peel as that can further worsen the condition.

Can Chemical Peels Make Melasma Worse?
Image source: Instagram @zenamedical

Can Chemical Peels Make Acne Worse?

Some people experience what is called a post-peel purge. The purge happens because your body pushes out toxins – it brings all the dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil from beneath your skin to the surface, before getting rid of them.

This leads to breakouts in tiny, red bumps that may be painful when touched. Often, there may be whiteheads and blackheads that appear along with the bumps – can be the reason why your skin looks worse after chemical peel.

It’s very important you don’t pick at these blemishes. By leaving your skin alone the purging process moves along more quickly.

Can Chemical Peels Make Acne Scars Worse?

Chemical peels help skin resurface, removing skin layers until the acne scars are gone. Light or medium-strength peels don’t reach deep into the skin, but it’s important to note that they can, in certain cases, lead to scarring.

Your body’s response to the healing process determines how susceptible to scarring you will be. And both the kind and the prominence of your scars are influenced by your skin type and tone.

Darker skin tones typically produce more melanin in the epidermis, meaning the scars will be more noticeable in those with darker skin types.

Although this scarring isn’t related to acne scars per se, usually people who’ve been on Isotretinoin in the past 6 months tend to be more prone to scarring.


It’s crucial you go over any potential contraindications with your technician before the procedure. This will help eliminate side effects and delayed skin reactions.

Can Chemical Peels Make Wrinkles Worse?

While chemical peels aid in fighting fine lines and wrinkles, it’s important not to expect one treatment to completely erase any signs of aging. However, it’s obviously not supposed to make the symptoms worse.

But during the healing process, your skin will be dry and lines may appear more visible. This is more noticeable on darker skin tones – especially if they’ve undergone medium-depth peel.

How Long Does It Take for Skin to Start Looking Better?

Immediately after the peel, your skin won’t be looking great. It’s going to be red, irritated, and even swollen. You might also feel tightness which can make the lines appear deeper and pores enlarged.

Soon, usually 48 hours after the procedure, the peeling process starts. It’s important not to interrupt it. Let your skin heal naturally and don’t pick on the flakes that aren’t ready to shed yet. Your skin will be dry and flaky – so not exactly at its best.

After a couple of days, most of the peeling should be complete. But it may take anywhere from 5-7 days for fresh, new skin to develop. Once your skin is completely healed (within 7-14 days depending on the intensity of the peel) you will be able to see the final results.

Your skin will look more radiant and rejuvenated.

Until then, the skin just has to look worse before it can start looking better – that’s just the normal process for this procedure.

Can a Chemical Peel Make Skin Worse Permanently?

When discussing can chemical peels make skin worse, it’s important not to disregard the possibility that something can go wrong during the procedure. Some complications can cause more permanent damage to the skin.

Some of the things that can go wrong are attributed to improperly done treatments, so you need to go to an experienced and trustworthy practitioner to avoid that from happening.

You can learn more about what risks and side effects of a peel gone wrong here.

How to Prevent My Skin Looks Worse After Chemical Peel Situations

To get the most from this procedure’s results you need to understand the importance of aftercare and adhere to the instructions!

Not following a proper aftercare routine will not only reverse the effect of the treatment, but it can also increase the likelihood or severity of complications.

Fresh skin is sensitive, so it’s important to keep its damaged protective barrier as protected as possible. You can read about what proper aftercare entails here, but the instructions will also be provided by your technician.

In Conclusion

If you’re worried that your skin looks worse after chemical peel, keep in mind it’s a normal part of the healing process. As long as you’re not in any pain and the skin reaction isn’t persistent there’s nothing to worry about.

Depending on which intensity of a peel you’re doing, you’ll probably have a regular check-in/up anyway. But if you’re unsure if your symptoms are normal reactions, contact your technician. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Cover image source: Freepik



Exclusive insights into the PMU industry right in your inbox.

FREE newsletter. 100% good stuff.