You have talked to a qualified esthetician and have decided to go ahead with a chemical peel. What can you expect?

Your esthetician should go over what will happen during the procedure, how to care for your skin before and after the peel and answer any questions you have. Often, and especially with deeper peels, they will give you handouts or written instructions on pre and post care.

Let’s take a look at some of the instructions you might encounter when getting a peel. Keep in mind, you will want to follow your estheticians guidelines closely to ensure you get the best possible result.

Before a Chemical Peel

You will want to prep your skin before the procedure. Preparation will vary by peel type, but some general instructions include:

  • Avoid direct sun exposure and tanning for two weeks prior to treatment
  • Do not use any type of retinol for at least 48 hours, up to two weeks, prior to treatment
  • Make sure peel area is free of open sores, skin infections or lesions
  • Stop using exfoliants a week before the peel
  • Stop waxing or using hair removal products a week before the peel
  • Apply topical prep products (such as hydroquinone, glycolic acid, etc.) as directed by your esthetician
  • Not have been on Accutane for at least six months
  • Start taking any prescribed antibiotics or antiviral medication at least 24 hours before the procedure

What will happen to my skin after a peel?

Everyone wants to know what their skin will look like after a peel. The old adage “It will get worse before it gets better” certainly applies to chemical peels. But, don’t worry! Your skin really will look much better after the healing process!

Here’s a general idea of what you can expect from your skin after a peel:

  • Superficial Peel: After a light peel, you can expect a skin reaction similar to a sunburn. There will be redness followed by scaling that may last three days to a week.
  • Medium Peel: With this deeper peel, you can expect redness, swelling, flaking of skin and possible stinging. The swelling typically can last or worsen in the first 48 hours before tapering off. There can be blisters that will break open. The skin will crust and peel off over a seven to fourteen day period before revealing new skin.
  • Deep Peel: Bandages will be applied to the treatment area. These are typically removed in a few days. There will be significant swelling and redness, along with burning and throbbing sensations. Your eyelids may swell to the point of obscuring your vision for a few days.

The average time for new skin to develop is two weeks. It’s common for white spots and cysts to appear. These may take several weeks to clear. It’s also common for residual redness to last for several months.

Post Peel Care

Every peel has a different post peel care regimen. Your esthetician will give you instructions on how to care for your skin. And, you will want to follow those instructions to the letter!

Here’s what you can expect for some post peel instructions:

  • Superficial Peel: Your esthetician will likely give you a lotion or cream to apply to your skin. They may also recommend additional products to aid in healing. Apply as directed until your skin heals. Avoid direct sunlight until your skin is healed.
  • Medium Peel: This deeper peel will likely require daily soaks. A specified ointment may also be given to you. You will want to apply the ointment after each soak. It’s common to have other lotions and creams directed to be applied daily until the skin heals. Avoid sunlight until your skin is completely healed. You will also want to avoid wearing makeup of any kind for at least five days, if not more.
  • Deep Peel: You will need to perform daily soaks, followed by application of an ointment after each soak. Your doctor or esthetician may prescribe topical antibiotics or other products to aid in healing. Actual moisturizers aren’t typically applied until after two weeks post peel.

If you were prescribed oral antibiotics or antivirals, they will need to be taken for 10-14 days. Ice packs and fans can be used to cool the skin and ease discomfort. You will want to avoid sunlight until your skin is healed and avoid makeup until your doctor gives you the go ahead.    

Do’s and Don’ts after a Chemical Peel

This is where you really take your results into your own hands! To get the best results from any type of peel, keep in mind these tips:


  • Don’t touch, pick or scratch off the dead skin! - It can lead to infections and scarring.
  • Don’t exfoliate! – A peel is an exfoliant. Give your skin the time to heal.
  • Don’t overheat your skin! – Avoid exposure to the sun, tanning beds, hot tubs, saunas and even strenuous physical exercise. Heat and sweat can cause infection and extend recovery time.
  • Don’t over moisturize! – You don’t want to suffocate your skin. Apply thin layers as directed.
  • Don’t submerge your face in water! – Unless it is a prescribed soak, you want to avoid submerging your face in water. This includes activities like swimming. Also, avoid using hot water on your face.


  • Sunscreen! Sunscreen! Sunscreen! – It can’t be emphasized enough the importance of applying sunscreen once you have healed from a peel. After a peel, your skin will be more sensitive to the sun’s rays for a while. Protect your skin by regularly applying sunscreen when your esthetician says it is safe to do so.
  • Keep your skin moisturized! – Too little moisturizer can almost be worse than too much. You want to keep your skin hydrated after a peel.
  • Use cool water to cleanse! – Cool to lukewarm water is best after a peel, but don’t shock your skin with cold water. Find a temperature that is on the cooler side to avoid irritating your skin more.
  • Keep hair away from your face! – Hair brushing against your skin can cause itching and irritation.
  • Avoid Retinol and your normal skin routine! – Wait until your esthetician gives you the go ahead to begin using retinol products and/or resuming your regular skin care regimen.

You may still have questions and concerns about what chemical peel might be right for you. Don’t hesitate to contact us! We can answer your questions and set up a consultation to help you find the right choice for you!

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