Chemical peel treatments

Your Complete Chemical Peel Before and After Treatment Guide

Are you searching for instant gratification in the form of luminous, healthy skin?

Then chemical peels could answer your prayers.

They can treat various skin conditions that boost that ‘lit from within’ glow.

And if the Google gods are to be believed, there is minimal risk for big payoffs.

A safely performed peel administered by a professional can make your complexion look fabulous.

But when dispensed in the wrong hands, beware, complications can arise.

Especially when you are putting something as corrosive as lye on your face.

Even when performed correctly, chemical peels aren’t quick and easy makeovers.

Many experience burn spots after chemical peel treatment.

If you’ve had a chemical peel and are worried about burns or scarring, this article is for you.

You can connect the dots and arm yourself with the knowledge to repair your skin.

Chemical Peels 

Chemical peels before and after treatment must be taken seriously because they essentially cause an inflammatory response with acid, which can lead to problems.

Not only that, but after the treatment, you often apply active products to your skin that can penetrate at a depth where they should not go—certainly not on compromised skin, which can lead to infections and irreparable damage.

Not everyone’s skin is ideal for peels. It all depends on your skin’s characteristics, as seen in the testimonials below.

The bottom line is that if your skin is impaired, it requires a super-healthy skin response.


Lately, we have received many emails from readers who have experienced chemical peel burns or damaged skin due to poorly-performed peels.

Little do consumers know that professional-grade chemical peels can sometimes do more harm than good.

Mid to high-strength chemical peel treatments should only be carried out in a medical setting by an appropriately trained professional, such as a qualified aesthetician, nurse, or doctor.

Peter from Canada wrote: I purchased a chemical peel online; I’d had a few facials in the past and was pretty confident it was something I could perform on myself at home. I wanted to treat some marks left behind by hormonal spots which wouldn’t fade. Upon application, the product started to sting almost immediately. My skin was burning; the pain was so unbearable I started panicking, and I quickly rinsed it off, but my skin remained red and blotchy for days afterwards. The area around my eyes was also super sensitive, and I couldn’t apply anything to my skin. It really hurt.


Di from Malta wrote: I had a VI PEEL chemical six months ago, and it has completely ruined my skin. A week after the peel, my skin texture started deteriorating rapidly. I am 35 years old, and my skin now resembles someone who looks more like 60. My whole face is filled with lines, and my inner cheeks have pores that have stretched, and I had no pores before this chemical peel; My skin now has a very shiny texture, but not in a good way. It’s raised and bumpy in some areas and almost looks like tiny pimples in between my pores. My face texture is thick and leathery and resembles someone with severe sun damage. I have lost my youthful skin and am at wit’s end; please help.


Jasmine from New Zealand wrote: Samantha, I want my experience to be a warning to all of those considering having a chemical peel. I had a facial with chemical peel at 12% TCA performed on me around two months ago to remove some minor scarring. But now, my skin has been destroyed. It’s constantly inflamed, very red crepe with small red spots all over it and lots of thin horizontal lines and the scars are worse. It has completely affected my mental health, and I am constantly reduced to tears. I did everything by the book and am at a loss. Can you help? I hope this is a lesson to anyone considering having a chemical peel.


Suzy from Australia wrote: Pre peel, my skin was generally smooth with a few shallow soft rolling scars on my cheek because I suffered from acne breakouts as a child. Post peel, I now have massive pores, Horrible orange peel texture, and it made my existing scars DEEPER?

Everything looks so uneven now and my skin is destroyed. The peel gave me broken capillaries all over my cheeks, I can’t go outside for 5 minutes without my whole face turning red, and it’s as though everything irritates it. Before a pimple would heal with a red mark, yet it now ‘heals with a dent or shallow indentation left behind, regardless of how tiny the pimple is. So not only am I suffering the scars from the peel itself, any small breakouts I get since continues to make matters worse. In your experience, has anyone ever had this after a peel and later recovered? I wouldn’t be so devastated if I thought this was permanent.


Elizabeth from Australia wrote: I had a deep peel, and when I came around, I was groggy from the pain and medication. After 48 hours, the tape came off, and I had a thick scab over my entire face; this was normal but hadn’t been clearly explained to me, so understandably, I was extremely alarmed, and by this time, I realised I hadn’t thought this procedure through very clearly beforehand. My face was burned, red, and so swollen that I could hardly open my eyes, and I couldn’t open my mouth to talk, my skin formed a thick crust, and when the dressing came off, I could not recognise myself. Finally, after three months, the swelling has gone down, but I am experiencing terrible skin, which has scared me. I have included the chemical peel before and after photos. its really disturbing.

These frightening side effects are not unusual; in a survey of 588 plastic surgeons, 21% reported that phenol scarred significantly, especially around the mouth and chin.

Furthermore, it was found that trichloroacetic acid in substantial concentrations is even more likely to leave scars than a phenol peel.

Chemical Peel Treatments

Chemical peel treatments are administered using acid-based solutions with a much lower pH than your skin’s natural pH, usually around pH 5.0 (4.5 – 5.5).

When applied to the skin, they dissolve “desmosome connections”—the adhesive cell junctions that hold the build-up of dead skin cells to the surface.

Depending on the depth of the peel, within 2-5 days of having a chemical peel, these dead skin cells dry and begin peeling.

Chemical peels release cytokines and inflammatory mediators, resulting in the thickening of the epidermis, the outer layer of skin. This boosts collagen deposition and reorganises structural elements in the skin, giving it that volume and bounce.

The result is an improved appearance of your skin, with fewer lines, decreased pigmentary dyschromia, reduced scarring, and a brighter, more youthful appearance.

Peel Depth

You can use alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic, mandelic, and lactic if you have mild hyperpigmentation.

However, if you have deeper dermal melasma, we recommend using a multi-layered peel, combined with other melanin inhibitors, to reach the depths where the pigmentation lies.

Our C+ complex is an excellent example of a multitasking melanin inhibitor.

For stubborn pigmentation problems, medium-depth chemical peels, including TCA at 13%, 20%, and 30% in multiple layers, are best.

Deep peels often contain TCA 50% or higher, and there are also intense phenol peels, which we discuss in depth here.

Chemical Peel Treatment Complications

In our clinic, we have seen several troubling conditions due to poorly performed chemical peels, including:

Allergic reactions and recurrent inflammation

Inflammation is a big concern because pigmentation often runs very deep into the dermis; it is tempting to apply a high-strength chemical peel treatment to shift the pigmentation.

This is why it is essential to go to a very experienced skin specialist or dermatologist. They will instantly recognise where your skin conditions are sitting within your skin layers and the appropriate strength of peel and treatment to help treat them.

Our article “Chemical Peels” provides further information on how to treat pigmentation effectively without compromising your skin’s protective barrier.

Permanent textural changes

This is a common problem in our client’s skin, including lines of demarcation.


Persistent erythema that continues for more than four weeks after a peel indicates early scarring. You should see a dermatologist and ensure you are treated with potent topical corticosteroids to prevent scarring and infection.

Follow the link to find out how to treat scars and chemical peel burns.

Pigmentary changes

Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation and even hyperpigmentation can be persistent, and once in the skin, they are very difficult to traverse.

Bacterial infections

These include staphylococcus, streptococcus, and Pseudomonas. If you suspect this is a concern, we recommend seeing your healthcare specialist.

Viral infections

These include herpes simplex and fungal infections like candida.


Although rare, these reactions can occur with resorcinol, salicylic acid, and phenol peels.

This is an interesting article on complications of medium depth and deep peels.

Professional Versus at Home

When skincare specialists perform chemical peels, they will carry out a pre and post-consultation to ensure you don’t have any contraindications that will prevent you from receiving the treatment.

During treatment, your skin will be constantly monitored for unusual rashes, swelling, erythema, frosting, and other tell-tale signs that indicate the acid may need to be neutralised or that the peel is progressing too deeply.

They will also provide you with the correct home care. A product like our H₂O hydrating complex, which contains high molecular weight hyaluronic acid, is the perfect post-treatment to seal the protective barrier and keep inflammation out of your skin.

Having a chemical peel of good quality at home is usually buffered with slightly higher pH levels to give you extra time and safety.

However, a word of caution: This does not necessarily mean that “buffered peels” with slightly higher pH levels are not decisive; remember that chemical peels are based on unnatural pH levels and can harm your skin if you are not careful.

To conclude. The naked truth

As you can see, chemical peel before and after treatment should not be taken lightly.

Whilst they are used to treat many skin conditions, including pigmentation, photoaging, superficial scarring, premature ageing, and more, you do need to do your research well because there are many reasons why they can go so wrong, including Infections, inflammation, redness, scarring, and pigmentation.

Chemical peels come in various depths, including superficial, medium and deep, such as phenol peels and your dermatologist or skin care specialist will recommend the most suitable peel for you, which will all depend on your skin type and the depth of pigmentation in your skin, according to the pathology of your condition.

Your skin care specialist will perform a thorough consultation  pre-treatment to ensure you are not suffering from any conditions that will prevent you from having the treatment,

They should also offer supportive medical therapy and complete postoperative home care during and after treatment.

All these factors must be built into your treatment to guarantee a safe and satisfactory outcome and keep your skin healthy.

Hopefully, you can also see why we, as medical estheticians, don’t recommend performing chemical peels at home; there is just too much that can go wrong with your skin that can cause irreversible damage.

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