Skin peels come in many different strengths and formulations with the goal of soughing off a few outer layers of skin and improving the tone and appearance. I love saying skin peels are like "dry cleaning your skin" because after, the new skin is softer and brighter with less spots, freckles and fine lines. Skin peels are also used to improve the appearance of acne causing skin discoloration and scars. Peels are most commonly performed on the face, neck and decolletage, but is also done on the back, buttocks, back of the arms, hand, elbows and knees. Some lighter peels are sold over the counter, but the stronger ones are applied by a medical professional in a medical office. Like with lasers, the best candidates are patient with lighter skin tones. The darker the skin tones, the more caution needs to be used as those patients are prone to hyperpigmentation and an uneven result. Read our previous blog Why Your Fitzpatrick Skin Type Matters to learn more about Fitzpatrick Skin types.
How to prepare for a skin peel?
1. Stop taking your retinol at least 5 days before getting the peel.
2. If you are a person of color (Fitzpatrick Scale of 4 to 6), then you will need to pretreat your skin with hydroquinone or another skin lightener for two weeks to prevent rebound hyperpigmentation from the peel.
3. If this is your first peel, then make sure it is only a medium-grade peel or lighter to see how your skin responds.
What you need to know after the peel is applied:
1. Once the peel is applied, it is very important to listen to your body if you feel something is wrong. There may be a little stinging feeling at first, but it should resolve within an hour of application and not be unbearable.
2. Until you start to peel, avoid vigorous exercise, jacuzzis and anything the will increase body temperature as this will trap heat under the skin and cause the skin to blister.
3. Any itchiness can be treated with over the counter diphenhydramine or Benadryl; do not scratch your skin as this can lead to hyperpigmentation.
4. It is very important to stay out of the sun while the peel is on and wear sunscreen following the peel due to increased sensitivity.
What happens when you start to peel?
1. Do not peel or pull your old skin off while it is peeling. This will cause the deeper layers of the skin to come off with it and will lead to pain, hyperpigmentation and scarring. I recommend for my patients to clean small nail scissors with alcohol and use it to cut off the peeling skin close to the face.
2. On the fresh new skin place an anti-inflammatory cream with hydrocortisone to soothe the skin and decrease inflammation.
3. Once the peeling is complete, those with darker skin tones will need to restart the hydroquinone daily or another melanocyte suppressor to prevent hyperpigmentation. We recommend YovinoMD Beauty Vitamin C cream, which contains 5 different Vitamin C molecules to penetrate the skin at all layers. We also have a Vitamin C and E with Ferulic Acid if you prefer serums.
How long does it take to peel?
Medical-grade skin peels on the face usually take 5 - 6 days to complete, with the last 4 - 6 days being the days of peeling. On other areas of the body, peeling will take longer to start and will be more subtle.
A skin peel is a great treatment for you if you want fresh, new skin and if you want to address age spots, uneven skin tone, acne scarring, hyperpigmentation, and active blemishes.