Everything You Wanted to Know about Chemical Peels–Part Two

7 Nov

Read Part One!

So, before I recount my most recent adventure with chemical peels, I wanted to post a short interview I did with my aesthetician, Heather, at Reston Dermatology (in Northern Virginia).

First, here’s a quick bio of Heather that I pulled from her bridal makeup company website.

“This girl is one smart cookie! Not only is she one of the sweetest girls you can ever meet, she’s smart and talented, too. Heather graduated with a B.S. in both Biology and Psychology from George Mason University. She’s worked as a medical assistant in a dermatology office for the past few years and has spent more than ten years doing makeup for friends and family before taking her craft to the next level. She loves all things aesthetics. As she tells it, “I was just born this way!” She’s our resident smokey-eye girl, with a flair for the more glamorous style. Of course, she can give good “natural” face just as well, too.”

So, first off, what exactly is cosmetic dermatology?

Cosmetic dermatology is umm…..my life!  To me, it is the perfect marriage between the medical side of dermatology and aesthetics.

Science meets beauty–sounds like a perfect match!  Okay, so let’s talk about chemical peels.  What are they?

A chemical peel is a supplemental treatment to correct various skin issues including fine lines and wrinkles, age spots, dull, rough skin, pigmentation, and acne. Your physician or skincare specialist will decide which type of chemical solution is most appropriate based on your skin type, area(s) to be treated, and desired results. Following proper wound care is critical to achieve optimum results.

What are the perks of a chemical peel?

Essentially a chemical peel works by applying an acid to the skin.  Doing so disrupts the integrity of the skin, causing a reaction in which the skin wants to heal itself just like it would want to react to any other trauma. So depending on the type of peel, perks include an improvement in the texture and brightness of the skin, evening of the skin, helps to improve acne, post-acne marks, pigmentation, fine lines/wrinkles, etc.

Can anyone benefit from a chemical peel?

It really depends on the type of peel you are intending to use. However, just about everyone is a good candidate, even if you do not have any obvious areas of concern.  Chemical peels are great for the overall health and maintenance of your skin.  Another benefit is that it stimulates cellular turnover and gives you well exfoliated, glowing skin (which we all love).
POOR candidates include/should NOT do peels: 
 Patients with active cold sores should avoid chemical peel treatments.  A course of systemic medication may be prescribed before treatment.   Patients with a history of allergies, rashes or other skin reactions may be sensitive to treatment.  Please notify your health care provider if you have an allergy to salicylates (i.e. aspirin).   Peels are not recommended for patients that have taken Accutane within the past year, or received chemotherapy or radiation therapy.  Patients who may be pregnant or are breastfeeding cannot receive chemical peel treatments. 


One of my biggest apprehensions about getting a peel was horrible, humiliating after effects (like Samantha in SatC).  Is that an accurate expectation?


Again, it depends on the type of peel.  The peel that Samantha did was most likely a TCA peel. It is a very, very deep peel done by highly trained physicians and often done in hospital facilities. That type of peel involves wound care and changing bandages, etc. It is red, oozy and raw.  The majority of peels, and certainly the most popular peels, are not that extreme. The ingredients used in this cosmetic procedure cause chemical exfoliation of the skin.  Mild to moderate peeling or scaling will occur usually 48 hours after the peel has been applied.  It is not uncommon to experience redness, dryness, tightness, flaking, sometimes a little rawness. The severity and duration of peeling will vary depending on the type of peel.   But, most cases are not as extreme as Samantha’s.
How do you determine what the right chemical peel is for you?

Well, there is a lot of information online, but unfortunately there is also a lot of misinformation….


i would suggest first trying to identify exactly what it is you’re looking for or trying to correct. Do you have acne? Are you concerned about fine lines around your mouth?  Do you have sun damage you are starting to notice that maybe you didn’t notice before?  Perhaps you just see dull, lifeless skin.  Realistic expectations are key.  I recommend trying to have a very basic understanding of chemical peels and then working with a professional.  At least have a consult with a professional to learn your options and to get their recommendations (and why!). 


What are some keys to picking a good facility?  Are there deals that are too good to be true?


Well, the price will vary with the facility  But, in this case, it is not wise to bargain hunt. For all those Groupon shoppers, I wouldn’t cut corners on your face. Because after all, its your face 🙂   Understand that it is safer to work with highly trained and highly experienced personnel. And that usually means a better qualified facility like a medical office or somewhere where a physician is overseeing the operation.  Some spas are okay, because they may have a medical director on board.  But, as a savvy consumer, you should read about the facility and its personnel.  Try to find someone you know that has personal experience there or who has had a treatment.

How do you care for your skin after a chemical peel?


Yay! I already created a sheet for that!


Tips for Better Results After a Chemical Peel 

1.)    Do not scratch or rub the treated skin. While the skin may burn, itch, or swell, scratching and rubbing tend to diminish results. To alleviate the discomfort, apply a cold compress. 
2.)    Treat the affected skin gently.  Wash with a gentle cleanser and lukewarm water.  Suggestions include Obagi Gentle Cleanser, Obagi Foaming Gel or Cetaphil. 
3.)    Do not pick at scabs. After a deep peel, the face tends to scab, but picking at scabs can increase the risk of an infection, skin discoloration, and scarring. 
4.)    Avoid direct sun exposure as your skin will be more vulnerable. Wear sunscreen daily once your skin heals. Applying sunscreen before your makeup will help maintain the results.
5.)    Once all active peeling has ceased, apply a hydrating but gentle moisturizer.  Suggestions include Skinceuticals Retexturizing Activator, Avene Trixera Emollient Cream or Obagi Therapeutic Moisturizer. 
6.)    Do not exfoliate the treated area until after all peeling and sensitivity has resolved. 
7.)    Do not use treating products such as RetinA, RetinA-equivalents, hydroquinone, etc. until after all peeling and sensitivity has resolved. For further instruction, discuss your regimen with your skincare specialist. 
8.)    Avoid depilatory creams, electrolysis, laser hair removal, waxing and shaving until after all peeling and sensitivity has resolved.  (Two weeks is a safe approximation)


Thanks, Heather!  Again, I get my peels at Reston Dermatology, and if you mention you learned about them on my blog, you can have a discount on your service!  I also get my regular skin cancer check ups there, as well as get help with any serious skin issues.  (Plus, it’s right by Reston Town Center, so you can hit J.Crew, Anthropologie, and Sephora when you’re done!)


Also, feel free to send Heather an email with any skincare concerns you might have.  Something I love about her is that she knows about every major product on the market, and in addition, she can explain the science behind what works (and what doesn’t.)
Okay, now to recap my second chemical peel.  I don’t have any epic pictures because…I didn’t have the same startling after effects.
So, with my last peel, my skin peeled off in giant chunks.  It was extremely noticeable and mostly pain free.  After about three or four days, my peeling was done, and I felt awesome.
The next peel I had?  I did not have the same wonderful experience.  In fact, it was so bad at one point, I was googling “DO I HAVE A CHEMICAL BURN” in the late hours of the night.
The initial peel was the same as before–it stung a little as it was being applied, but it wasn’t anything too bad.  I had tickets to Disney on Ice (YAY!) that night, so I covered up the shine with a little mineral foundation.
The next thirty hours or so, nothing happened.  My skin was extremely tight–like it was three sizes too small, and it was uncomfortable.  I hoped that meant my skin would start coming off soon!
But, it never did.  In fact, my skin started to hurt.  It felt like I had a bad sunburn.  Not only was I pink, but it hurt to apply any kind of cream.  At one point, I even ran out to the store to find some kind of  “soothing” moisturizer  but even that hurt.
At that point, I started to panic that I had gotten burned.  After hours of freaking out and Googling all the worst case scenarios, I finally did what I should have done to begin with.  I emailed Miss Heather.
So, apparently, what I was experiencing was normal.  Many times, after your initial chemical peel, you might have a different result with your second peel.  Because your skin is more exfoliated than before, there isn’t as much dead skin to deal with.
So, instead of sheets of skin falling off, I had large scaly patches.  I’m serious.  My skin felt like a lizard’s back.  And this went on for about a week.
 (In case you’re reading this post because you are in a similar boat, here’s exactly what I experienced.  My skin was very sensitive and tender–almost like a sunburn.  I was also swollen in several places.  This wasn’t really noticeable to anyone but me, but I could tell especially under my eyes and around my lips.  I had large patches of dry skin that were rough and flaky.  No amount of moisturizer seemed to help.)
 Right when I started panicking again, everything seemed to slough off (but in very small flakes), and my skin was glowing again.
The means might have been a little terrifying, but the end result was exactly what I was expecting–gorgeous skin, and my scars were even more minuscule.
What did I learn from this?  Don’t go into your peel with expectations.  What happened to your friend might not happen to you.  And, what happened during your first peel might not happen during your second (or fifth) peel.  Not everyone sheds skin the same way every time.  It seems that initial peels will usually have that dramatic loss, but the more exfoliated your skin becomes, the less you actually need to shed old, dull skin.  Instead, it becomes more of a refining process to the progress you’ve already made.
Overall, I’ve really noticed a drastic difference in my skin.  I used to have bad hormonal breakouts, and those are rare now.  (It also might have to do with my Retin-A regimen as well…)
Questions?  Comments?  Concerns?  Let me know!

One Response to “Everything You Wanted to Know about Chemical Peels–Part Two”


  1. SkinMedica’s Rejuvenize Chemical Peel, Days One-Two « The Preppy Leopard - February 14, 2013

    […] out my posts here and here if you want to start from the very beginning of my chemical peel […]

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