10 Things You Should Never Do After a Chemical Peel (And 10 You Should!)

The goal is “glowing,” not Harvey Dent.
BY Sarah Lim
| February, 2022
chemical peel care

Getting chemical peel care can help reduce visible damage to the skin and encourage healthy new skin cells to grow. Sounds great, right? Sign us up!

However, like many cosmetic treatments, there’s a catch: your skin will go through a healing period after the peel. You’ll need to recover from your post-chemical peel care for at least a few days, if not a few weeks.

Chemical peels can range from superficial (which only affects the top layer of your skin) to deep, which removes your epidermis as well as a portion of the layer beneath the dermis. Depending on which chemical peel you get and your skin type, it could be up to three weeks before your skin is fully healed. 

Although chemical peels can give some pretty fabulous results, including reducing wrinkles, scars, and even sun damage, it’s critical that you follow proper chemical peel aftercare to maximize the effect of the peel and enjoy rejuvenated skin upon healing. Following are 10 things you should never do after a chemical peel, as well as 10 things you should do!

Don’ts

It doesn’t matter what type of chemical peel you choose: avoid these 10 things while your skin is still healing.

1. Exfoliate

Never exfoliate your skin while it’s healing from a chemical peel. It doesn’t matter if it’s a chemical or physical exfoliant or if it’s gentle or not—don’t do it! Exfoliating can cause flaking skin to come off prematurely and cause scarring.

2. Apply Too Much Moisturizer

It’s vital to keep your skin moisturized after a chemical peel. However, you don’t want to suffocate your skin by applying thick layers of moisturizer. Apply a thin but protective layer to keep skin hydrated, reapplying as necessary.

3. Pick at Your Skin

Your skin will peel after a chemical peel (there’s a reason it’s called a peel!). With the top layer of your skin peeling off—sometimes in larger flakes—it can be super tempting to pick at these flakes to remove them. Don’t! Picking at your skin, even if it’s just to remove flakes, can cause more damage, including scarring.

4. Exercise (Or Get Too Sweaty in General)

Although you may be able to do some light exercise, depending on the level of chemical peel you got, you should avoid strenuous exercise until your skin is fully healed. Sweating after a chemical peel can cause blistering and additional skin damage.

5. Go Out in the Sun

When it comes to post-chemical peel care, the sun is your worst enemy. Your skin is super sensitive after getting a peel. Although you can use sunscreen, it’s still best to stay out of the direct sun exposure entirely for as long as you are able until your skin heals.

6. Get Additional Treatments Right Away

Regardless of what type of peel you received, wait at least four weeks, or until your skin is completely healed, before getting your next chemical peel treatment if you plan on getting follow-up treatments. 

7. Follow Your Normal Skincare Routine

Don’t follow your regular skincare routine for your chemical peel aftercare. Using too many products can irritate the skin. Follow your practitioner’s instructions and use the products they say are safe. Especially avoid acids, enzymes, and retinol.

8. Swimming

While showering is ok after a chemical peel (always follow your practitioner’s instructions for when it’s ok to shower), swimming or submerging your face in the water isn’t. Additionally, you should avoid using hot water on your face, even while showering.

 9. Wear Makeup

Unfortunately, makeup won’t make your skin look better right after getting a chemical peel and may even harm your skin. Ideally, you should avoid makeup for up to 10 days and potentially even longer.

10. Use a Tanning Bed

Just as you can’t go out in the sun while recovering from a chemical peel, so you can’t use a tanning bed. Sorry, not sorry!

Dos

After you’ve learned what not to do for post-chemical peel care, here are 10 things you should do.

1. Keep Skin Moisturized

Letting skin dry out after a chemical peel can exacerbate any side effects you may experience, including swelling, burning, itching, and discomfort. Keep skin moisturized!

2. Book a Staycation

If you can, stay home while you’re healing. Not only will staying home help prevent sun damage, but you also won’t have to go out in the cold or hot air, both of which may cause further discomfort and irritation when recovering from a chemical peel. 

3. Use Sunscreen

If you have to go out after getting a chemical peel, use sunscreen (and ideally, wear a hat to keep the sun completely off your face). The best sunscreens to use are broad-spectrum and SPF 30.

4. Reach for a Gentle Cleanser

You can and should still wash your face as part of your chemical peel aftercare; however, it’s essential to use the gentlest cleanser possible. Good cleansers to consider include soap-free, fragrance-free and exfoliant-free cleansers

5. Use Cool Water to Cleanse

Never use hot water on your face after a chemical peel. However, cold water can also be a shock! Use water that’s just past lukewarm on the cooler side to avoid irritation.

6. Follow Your Esthetician‘s Instructions for Healing

Always follow your esthetician‘s instructions for healing for your post-chemical peel care. Don’t be hesitant to seek them about anything you don’t understand.

7. Consider a Cold Compress 

You can use a cold compress gently on your face to help reduce swelling and irritation after treatment.

8. Keep Hair Away From Your Face

If you have longer hair, keeping your hair off of your face while your skin is healing can help minimize itching and irritation. You can thank us later!

9. Avoid Retinol

Although retinol packs some pretty powerful skincare benefits, it’s not your go-to bestie for chemical peel aftercare. Avoid retinol until your esthetician says it’s ok to start using it again.

10. Follow Up With Your Practitioner

While light chemical peels may not necessitate a follow-up visit, medium and deep peels will, so keep your follow-up appointments and consult with your esthetician as needed.

What Type of Skin Do You Have?

Knowing your skin type can assist you in selecting the best skincare products and chemical peels for you. Take our free quiz to find out!

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