Should You Be Using A Chemical Peel?

Janell M. Hickman


Thanks to chilly, snow-filled days, we are no strangers to dull, lackluster skin. Often misunderstood, chemical peels promise a dewy, luminous complexion after just one use.  But is it just us, or does the word “chemical” scare you a little bit? There’s no need to fret, our experts shed light on the do’s and don’ts of at-home chemical peels. You can get glowing sooner than you think!

Know What You’re Getting Into
“A chemical peel removes the top layers of the skin,” explains board-certified dermatologist and author Dr. Debra Jaliman. “The advantages of a chemical peel is that it can remove uneven color, brown discoloration, fine lines and roughness. Plus, it can give the skin glow and improve the overall texture of the skin. However, if not applied correctly you can experience burning, scarring or discoloration.”

Keep Your Skin Type in Mind
“Those with acne or those with signs of aging (such as fine lines and wrinkles or discoloration) should consider [adding] chemical peels to their regimen,” shares Peter Thomas Roth, founder of his namesake skincare line. “More resilient skin types can explore higher levels of active ingredients while those with sensitive skin can opt for peels with lactic acid. [As a preventative measure] you should always do a patch test first.”

MORE: What You Need to Know About Sensitive Skin

Choose Your Ingredients Wisely
“If you are oilier and/or acne prone you look for peels containing salicylic acid,” advised Dr. Jaliman. “If you are looking for an anti-aging chemical peel, opt for a retinol-based version or ones containing glycolic acid.”

Find The Right Peel
“In comparison to an in-office peel, an at-home peel should contain user friendly dosage and usage directions for error proof application,” explains Roth. “Chemical peels are often only available in professional settings, making peels at higher levels not so easily accessible. This is why I came out with 40% Triple Acid Peel from my Professional Strength line, formulated with a complex of three high-potency acids (mandelic, glycolic and salicylic).”

Less Is More
“The biggest mistake people make when doing at home chemical peels is the concept of more is better,” says Dr. Jaliman. “They often buy an at-home chemical peel kit and they use it every single day—instead of following the directions on the package recommending to use it once a week.”

Proceed With Caution
“If you have an adverse reaction to any product, immediately discontinue use and seek the advice of a professional,” explains Roth. “When removing the product, rinse the entire area, making sure not to miss the hairline. [Before use] consider if there are any lifestyle factors such as medications that could have contributed to the reaction.”

MORE: How the pH Level of Your Beauty Products Affects Your Skin

Pigmentation Damage is Reversible
“If you use too strong of a peel for your skin type, you can have permanent skin discoloration,” warns Dr. Jaliman. “Sometimes this can be treated with bleaching agents containing hydroquinone or Niacinamide—if this doesn’t work, you may require a series of laser treatments to reverse discoloration. Always wear SPF 30 (or higher) so current and/or future pigmentation doesn’t increase.”

Pamper Your Skin Post-Treatment
“[Before starting] if you are using any prescription medication, consult your physician before incorporating a peel,” warns Roth. “Following a peel, skin appreciates added moisture, so make sure to moisturize. I also suggest applying a mask (like the Cucumber Gel Mask) afterward. AND, you must, absolutely must use a sunscreen daily after applying moisturizer.”

Peels Aren’t For Everyone
“Skin experiencing eczema, rosacea or inflammation should avoid chemical peels.” warns Dr. Jaliman. “Those with darker skin tones who experience hyper-pigmentation may want to opt for in-office procedures—sometimes their skin types can be tricky even for the professionals.”