Chemical peels are really effective treatments for getting your skin into shape, whether you’re looking to fix fine lines, breakouts, hyperpigmentation, or a whole host of other skin troubles. But, it’s important to take care of your face in the healing process to help your skin bounce back to life and to maximise the chemical peel benefits. Here are your chemical peel aftercare dos and don’ts to give your skin some love.
What you should do after a chemical peel
1. Be sun savvy and smother your skin in SPF
Let’s get straight to the point: stay out of the sun and don’t be shy with the SPF. Your face is at its most sensitive post-peel - it’s literally had layers of skin removed! And the new skin that’s revealed after a peel will be particularly vulnerable to harsh sun rays. So, it needs to be looked after more than ever. When you’re not able to stick to the shady spots when out and about, compensate with a sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ to shield your skin from dangerous UV rays. Use it for a minimum of 6 weeks post-peel (though it should be a key step in your daily skincare routine, regardless!).
2. Stick to soap-free cleansers
If your cleanser isn’t soap-free, now’s the time to invest in one. Soap-free facial washes are safe on sensitive skin (and your skin will definitely be feeling sensitive following a chemical peel!) and aren’t too drying. Soap makes the skin feel tight and dry by stripping it of its natural oils - and the skin’s already been stripped enough after a peel!
3. Cleanse with cool water
Your skin might be feeling a bit tender after a chemical peel and hot water could be uncomfortable on your new skin - it can also cause inflammation. Wash your face using cool water for a gentle, soothing alternative for your healing skin. But, remember, always pat your skin dry afterwards - don’t rub!
4. Moisturise to the max
Apply a moisturiser to keep dry skin hydrated and to restore some moisture. Your moisturiser should be free of harsh chemicals and irritants (such as acids and acne treatments) which could upset your already sensitive skin. They should also be water-based as moisturisers with high water content are nice and lightweight on the skin. (Bear in mind that moisturising will prolong the peeling process because softened skin won’t flake off as quickly.)
5. Remember, practitioner knows best
This one is probably the best chemical peel aftercare tip. It’s best practice (as always) to listen to your practitioner and follow their advice after a peel. They’ll be able to give you tailored instructions on how to care for your skin post-peel, suited to your skin and the type of chemical peel you’ve had. They may even provide you with a special moisturiser or gel to help with the road to healing.
What should you avoid after a chemical peel?
1. Don’t break a sweat
This means no spa days with a sauna, no sunbathing and no extreme exercise (I can definitely get behind the last point!). Sweat can irritate the skin, so keep cool until your skin’s showing signs of recovery.
2. Step away from the exfoliator
When your skin starts to get dry and flaky, there’s probably nothing you’ll want to do more than grab the nearest exfoliator and rub it all off. But, drop the facial scrub. Lock it away if you have to. Your skin’s (probably) just had the most extreme exfoliation of its life - it doesn’t need more. Wait at least 3 days after a light chemical peel before you exfoliate to give your skin a break. For medium or deep chemical peels, the wait can be weeks - listen to the fifth ‘do’ above and follow your practitioner’s instructions!
3. No peeling, picking or prodding, please
Just like you should ditch your facial scrub, you should also refrain from picking or peeling any loose skin (I know, it’s not easy!). This will perhaps be even harder than the no exfoliator rule. But, interfering with the skin’s natural shedding process can lead to bleeding and scarring, and that’s definitely worse than any temporary flaking.
4. Resist the retinol
Retinols are great skincare products for encouraging new cell growth and turnover - but your skin is already working on this once it’s had a chemical peel. Don’t send your skin into cell turnover overload - wait until it has healed before resuming your retinols. It’s also recommended that you stop using your retinol products a week before your peel.
5. Give your skin some space
Good chemical peel aftercare is all about the healing. Give your skin some time to repair itself before rushing into another skincare treatment - wait a minimum of 1-2 weeks. But, as always, follow your practitioner’s advice on this.
So, there we are! 10 dos and don’ts to keep in mind after a chemical peel treatment. Want to know more about this treatment? Find out how they work, how much they cost, as well as the chemical peel recovery time in our handy superficial peel and medium peel guides. And, if you’re thinking about a chemical peel for acne or acne scars, this article has got you covered.