Chemical peel treatments

What to Expect During a Chemical Skin Peeling Treatment

When your skin is being treated with acid, knowledge is power.


In our quest for youthful, radiant skin, chemical peels have become the norm.

With the lure of smoother texture, improved skin tone, and reduced fine lines.

But delving into the world of chemical skin peeling can be daunting.

From understanding contraindications to navigating the different concentrations and types.

In this article, we sit down with our founder, Samantha Miller, and we discuss all things skin peeling.

To help you to uncover the secrets to glowing skin.

What you need to consider

It’s often said that knowledge is power, especially when considering a chemical peel; regardless of depth, using acid on your skin can disrupt its protective barrier.

As the founder of the Naked Chemist, these are the things that I recommend evaluating before performing skin peeling treatments:

Pre-Existing Inflammation: Assess the presence and degree of any pre-existing inflammation in your skin.

Skin Sensitivity: Consider the sensitivity of your skin and the level of inflammation present.

Sun Damage and Photo Ageing: Evaluate the extent of sun damage and photo-ageing in your skin, if applicable.

Acne-Related Hyperpigmentation: Determine whether you have acne-related post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Sebaceous Activity: Assess the level of sebaceous activity in excessively oily skin.

Keloid or Hypertrophic Scars: Identyour skin’s any keloid or hypertrophic sskin.

Infections or Contraindications: Be aware of any infections or contraindications that could affect or prevent your treatment.

If you seek treatment from a professional skin care specialist, they will thoroughly discuss these considerat you.

However, it’s important to note that many “at-home” treatments are available, which may have side effects such as swelling, flaking, sensitivity, redness, or, in extreme cases, scarring.

This I discuss in greater detail in the article Chemical Peel Burns: The Ugly Side of Beauty.

The consultation process

The consultation process is integral to the chemical peel procedure, ensuring optimal outcomes and client safety. A thorough examination, including a general physical and cutaneous assessment, guides key decisions such as:

  • Selecting the appropriate peel type and acid penetration depth.
  • Determining pre-treatment skincare products.
  • Assessing the practitioner’s experience.
  • Identifying skin type and any contraindications.
  • Evaluating whether the peel is needed for a specific area or the entire face.
  • Addressing particular skin concerns such as acne scarring or photo ageing.

During this process, contraindications are carefully considered, such as keloid scarring, open wounds, active infections, or other medical conditions that may pose risks.

Skin colour, especially Fitzpatrick skin types IV to VI, merits attention due to increased pigmentation and scarring risks.

A competent skin care specialist or dermatologist will comprehensively discuss these aspects during the consultation, considering the client’s medical history.

Conditions like systemic diseases or factors that thin the skin, such as diabetes, are crucial considerations, with client safety taking precedence.

Pre-procedure (Priming)

We recommend priming your skin with mild peeling agents for at least 2-4 weeks before your skin peeling procedure.

This will help reduce wound healing time and facilitate uniform skin penetration of the peeling agents.

It’s also an opportunity for us as estheticians to detect if you are intolerant to any ingredients, which will also reduce the risk of complications.

More information can be found in the “Chemical Peels 101” article.

Safety First: Skin Peeling Preparation

Preparation is key for a successful chemical skin peel, and the process must be approached with seriousness and caution; this is why I strongly advise against attempting at-home peels.

Skincare Products

The products you use before, during, and after treatment significantly impact the outcome. Opt for gentle, hydrating, and skin-strengthening formulas like DNA Age-Delay Complex before your treatment to enhance skin resilience.

Afterwards, switch to ceramide-rich formulas to replenish and protect the skin barrier.

Discontinue the Following

Four weeks before your treatment, discontinue Retin A, Retinol, Vitamin A creams, AHAs, BHAs, and other topical medications, as they can thin the skin.

Additionally, consider introducing supplements such as Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin C into your daily routine to strengthen the skin.

Use a Broad-Spectrum SPF

Before your treatment, regularly apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and avoid sun exposure for at least four weeks beforehand. Do not undergo any treatments if you have sunburn or inflammation.

Avoid These Treatments

Refrain from waxing, using depilatory creams, or electrolysis in the treatment area for at least two weeks before your peel.

Additionally, avoid IPL, laser, chemical peels, or microdermabrasion treatments for at least four weeks beforehand, as they can compromise skin integrity.

Avoid Certain Medications

Stop taking medications that may thin your blood for two weeks following your procedure.

These medications interfere with the skin’s natural inflammatory process, which is crucial for rejuvenation and may increase the risk of bruising.

If you are taking these medications for serious health issues, your treatment should be contraindicated.

Aftercare: The maintenance phase

As with any skin treatment, looking after your skin following a peel is essential. For best results, I always recommend my clients follow these aftercare instructions:

  1. Apply a cold compress to the treated area for any burning or irritation associated with your treatment.
  2. For at least four weeks after your treatment, avoid excessive heat and direct sun exposure on your treated area, including tanning beds and self-tanners.
  3. Avoid strenuous exercise 3 days after your treatment. It may exacerbate inflammation and cause your skin to become inflamed.
  4. Sweating excessively after treatment can irritate your skin and even cause blistering, as the sweat cannot escape through the top layer of dead skin. So, avoid sweaty situations.
  5. Skin can peel after using a retinoid or tretinoin, and acne medication can occur, so please stop using them. This includes the following: Retin-AⓇ, AtralinⓇ, RenovaⓇ, ZianaⓇ, VeltinⓇ, TazoracⓇ, DifferinⓇ, or antibiotics such as Doxycycline.
  6. Do not be tempted to use actives on your skin, such as AHAs (lactic, glycolic, mandelic) or BHAs (salicylic) for at least four weeks.
  7. Avoid lightening agents. These medications and products will increase your photosensitivity, significantly increasing the likelihood of complications.
  8. To reduce the risk of scarring, refrain from tweezing, picking, waxing, rubbing, using a depilatory, or undergoing electrolysis. When considering treatment for peeling skin, do not remove the dry, rough, dead skin faster than your body naturally wants to shed it.
  9. Do not schedule a facial or cosmetic service such as laser resurfacing or IPL on a treated area(s) for at least four weeks after your treatment; even then, be cautious.
  10. Avoid having your hair dyed until a week after you have finished peeling if your treatment was performed on your face or neck. For most, week three post-peel is the best time to have your hair colour-treated.
  11. Avoid anti-inflammatory medication for several days, which could interfere with your body’s natural healing process.

Other points to consider 

Understand that dryness, scaling, redness, and swelling may last for several days, depending on the penetration depth of the skin peeling agent used on your skin.

Your barrier function has been impaired, so post-procedure, you may experience conditions like mild erythema, bruising, and some mild oedema, all of which should subside within 48 hours.

Remember, no matter what you have done to prepare your skin or how many times you have had a peel – things can still go wrong, especially when the correct protocol is not followed.

Risks can include infection, pigment changes, and scarring, so always use peels on your skin with caution.

Skin healing: The recovery stage

The skin peeling process can take 7-10 days on average, or I have seen it even longer with some clients; it will all depend on internal and external factors such as skin type, age, weather, lifestyle, and hormones.

However, as a rule of thumb, with a low percentage of acid, you should only experience mild erythema that should subside in at least 24 hours.

Slight redness, skin sensitivity, and flaking may occur as your treatment eliminates dead surface skin cells; each treatment varies.

Your skin can become rough, patchy, and darkened for a few days after a peel—don’t panic, as this is typical and expected and should resolve naturally; it is also important to remember that it is possible not to peel.

You will still benefit from the treatment if this occurs because your skin has exfoliated microscopically.

With a higher percentage of acid, your face will initially appear inflamed; however, within a few days, the stratum corneum (your outermost layer of skin) will turn dark and start to peel.

This flaking is usually complete in four to seven days but may continue longer, in line with your natural cellular turnover. Any post-procedural “flushed” appearance will fade slowly over several weeks.

Contraindications to watch out for

When your skincare specialist performs your facial analysis, they will be able to identify any contraindications, which include the following:

  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • infectious disease
  • active herpes simplex
  • severe acne or rosacea
  • open wounds or sores
  • high blood pressure
  • pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • deficient immune system
  • sunburn or irritated, inflamed skin
  • bacterial, viral, bacterial, fungal infection
  • facial cancers, especially facial melanoma
  • history of drugs that have a photosensitising potential
  • if you easily scar or if you have hyper-pigmentation tendencies
  • pre-existing inflammatory dermatoses, including psoriasis and eczema
  • any use of Accutane®, Retin-A®, or other medications within the last six months that could exfoliate or thin your skin
  • If you have had cosmetic surgery, such as laser resurfacing, deep or medium-depth chemical skin peels, or dermabrasion within the last six months

How to treat your skin

Cleanse Gently

The skin may remain fragile for at least 5-7 days after the peel. Cleanse with cool water, as hot water can induce inflammation. Use only fingertips to avoid harsh rubbing with washcloths, loofahs, buff puffs, sponges, or ClarisonicⓇ devices.

I recommend using Miracle Cleanse, which protects as it polishes and is gentle on even the most sensitive skin types.


Allowing the skin to dry out after skin peeling may lead to discomfort. To aid in your skin’s recovery, I recommend using Xcell Complex and Fortify barrier repair cream as part of the barrier repair duo. These products are part of our Barrier Repair Kit, which contains skin-identical ingredients that promote healing and restore skin health promptly.


For more intense peels, consider using the H₂O Hydrating Complex during the initial days or as needed on peeling sensitive areas; this can be layered with Quench for additional hydration.

Skin Protection

To prevent inflammation, avoid exposing the treated area to excessive heat, direct sunlight, tanning beds, or self-tanners for four weeks following the treatment. If outdoor exposure is necessary, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and apply a physical sunblock.


Once your skin has peeled, you can resume using makeup. However, opt for mineral makeup and ensure your makeup brushes are thoroughly cleaned and sterilised. If you notice any sensitivity to a product, it’s advisable to discontinue its use.

These adjustments help refine the clarity and coherence of the instructions while maintaining their informative nature.

To conclude. The naked truth

In conclusion, if you are considering performing skin peeling, it really does necessitate thorough consideration and preparation.

Understanding the intricacies of the skin’s condition and its potential reactions is paramount.

The pre-treatment phase, including priming your skin and discontinuing certain products and treatments, I believe lays the foundation for a successful outcome.

Safety precautions, such as avoiding medications that may thin the blood and protecting the skin from excessive sun exposure, are crucial elements of the process.

Post-treatment care is equally important, with guidelines to follow for cleansing, moisturising, and protecting the skin from environmental factors.

Understanding the potential side effects and risks associated with chemical peels underscores the importance of adhering to recommended protocols.

Ultimately, prioritising your skin health and following a comprehensive aftercare routine will optimise the results of a chemical peel, promoting smoother, rejuvenated skin while minimising adverse effects.

By approaching chemical peels with diligence and caution, as the founder, I truly believe that you can achieve the desired skincare goals safely and effectively.

But always treat chemical skin peeling with respect.

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