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How to Care for Your Skin After a Chemical Peel Treatment

Here are some tips and steps to follow after your medi-spa treatment.

A chemical peel treatment is a great way to target some frequent and persistent skincare concerns. Depending on the strength of treatment chosen and the ingredient formulations, wrinkles, acne marks, uneven skin tone and even scars can be targeted and treated with this in-office treatment. Since skin peeling treatments can range from superficial to deep, the recovery, sensation and post-care treatment can look different. But most procedures done for cosmetic reasons (such as the skincare concerns mentioned above) are mild or medium chemical peel treatments that are typically well tolerated by many people—with the right care following treatment.

But first, what is a chemical peel? As the name suggests, a chemical peel involves exfoliating and resurfacing the skin and removes the outer layer of skin (the epidermis) or cells from the epidermis and the middle layer of skin (the dermis). Best applied by a medical professional, this is done with a chemical solution that usually contains glycolic, alpha-hydroxy, trichloroacetic or salicylic acid (or often a combination of a few of these). The results of a chemical peel can be impressive—improved skin texture and tone, fewer fine lines and softened wrinkles—though multiple face peeling treatments are often needed to really reap the benefits.

But between the dermatologist’s chair and your new glowy visage is the recovery period—and chemical peel aftercare should be taken seriously. Directly following a chemical peel treatment, you can expect red, tight and potentially swollen skin, so you’ll need to be extra cautious about the prospect of infection as it heals. Here’s how to best care for your skin following a chemical peel.

What to Expect After a Chemical Peel TreatmentBefore diving into chemical peel aftercare, here’s what you can expect your skin to look and feel like following a chemical peel treatment.

After a light chemical peel, you can expect mild discomfort and redness. Most recover from a light skin peeling treatment in about a week. You may even be able to venture outside without too much redness and wear makeup the day after your treatment.

A medium chemical peel treatment will offer up a bit more redness, tightness and discomfort. You may be advised to use pain-relieving remedies like cold compresses or ibuprofen if you feel you need some relief. Some people find they need up to two weeks to fully recover, though you should be able to cover any lingering redness with makeup about a week after your treatment.

With any face peeling treatment, it’s normal for some areas to appear darker and even form a bit of crust or dryness, and redness is almost always a given. Always listen to your treatment provider’s advice about expected side effects and post-treatment care.

Chemical Peel Aftercare Steps
Medi-spa skincare treatment aftercare is incredibly important. It will not only ensure that you heal correctly and as quickly as possible after a chemical peel treatment but also help you get the most out of your skincare treatment for enviable results that last.

Proper cleaning: A heightened risk following a chemical peel treatment is infection, since your top layers of skin are in the process of sloughing off and the layer underneath is new and sensitive. Cleansing is key to ensuring that infection is kept at bay. You’ll want to pick a gentle cleanser to complement the in-office procedures—think softening and restorative ingredients. Cleanse with cool water using your fingertips (no cleansing brushes or textured washcloths) for the week following your treatment.

Don’t touch or pick: While it may be tempting to remove some of that skin that’s taking its time to slough off, it’s key to leave your skin alone and let it heal. Picking could lead to new skin irritations or dark spots and, more importantly, result in infection.

Moisturize: Moisturizing after your skin peeling treatment will help with successful recovery. While a moisturizer won’t prevent peeling (that’s a natural part of the chemical peel treatment process), it will help with sensitivity and ensure that your skin is well hydrated. The best moisturizer for after a chemical peel is one that is lightweight and can help restore skin lipids as well as improve tone and texture. Nourishing and calming formulas reign supreme here.

Sun protection: Perhaps the most important step after any in-office treatment is a good-quality sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50. A face peeling treatment will leave your skin sensitized and highly susceptible to sun damage if it is exposed. You’ll likely be advised to avoid the sun completely as you heal and to wear sunscreen regardless to ensure that your skin is well protected. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has been specifically formulated for sensitive or post-procedure skin. Physical filters will help with sensitivity, and formulas that include ingredients to help strengthen the skin’s barrier will make sure you’re protected from UV rays and heat stress.

Support Your Skin After a Chemical Peel Treatment
Once your skin is healed from your skin peeling treatment, using medical-grade and science-backed skincare products is important to ensure that you maintain and support the results of your in-office procedure. While your skin is healing, moisture and gentle cleansing are paramount, but once your skin is done sloughing and has calmed, you’ll want to incorporate well-researched actives to reap the rewards of your refreshed visage. A vitamin C serum with 15% L-ascorbic acid in the morning helps to support environmental protection (along with your SPF) and combats oxidative damage that can cause signs of aging in the skin. At night, a stable retinol will work overtime to reduce blemishes (which can cause dark spots) and continue to minimize fine lines and even out skin texture. As always, a sunscreen is a must year-round to help support all your skincare efforts.

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