Chemical Peels – Part 2 – Side Effects and Warnings

I am completely honest with my clients not just in explaining the great results that chemical peels treatments can do, but also what can go wrong and what we can do to reduce the risk or repair the damage. Chemical peel side effects range from slight redness and irritation to permanent skin discoloration. The deeper the peel that you have, the greater the rewards but also the greater the risk. So before getting into the different types of chemical peel treatments available in this blog, we will look at the different negatives and how to reduce the risks of having a peel treatment.

  1. Redness:
    Redness and irritation are the most common side effects of chemical peels. Light peels will leave your skin red for a day, while deeper peels will leave your skin red for two or more days. Super deep peels, where your skin physically peels, might give your skin a pinkish tone for several weeks after you finish peeling.

What to do: These side effects will usually go away on it’s own and won’t hinder everyday activities but if you wish to reduce the redness time, the best ways is to have one to several Blue LED phototherapy sessions

  1. Irritation

Irritation from chemical peels includes dry, itchy, or flaky skin. Again this is something that will go away on it own.

What not to do: Big Warning – do not pick or scratch at the skin as this can lead to permanent scaring.

Avoid using harsh products especially ones with AHA, and Retinoid, as they will only make your skin more sensitive and redder. Avoid exfoliating and rubbing your skin.

What to do: Moisturizer Moisturize Moisturize, – I can not stress enough how important it is to keep the skin moisturized as it will reduce dryness, irritation, and allows the skin to softly peel without scaring. If you are have LED phototherapy also have a hydrating mask treatment it will give you a fantastic result.

  1. Sun sensitivity:
    After having a chemical peel treatment, you will need to reduce your sun exposure. Your skin will be very sun sensititve and react to burning far more quickly than you normally do. This extra sensitivity can last up to 6 months depending on the peel and number of treatments

What to do: I always recommend for medium and heavy peels the first 24 hour to avoid the sun if at all possible – stay in doors read a book watch a few movies. . If you’re going outside use a very good sunscreen, Zinc base sunscreen will not only provide you with superior protection but has the added healing benefits that zinc offers

  1. Swelling and/or peeling skin:
    Mild or light peels usually do not cause your skin to swell or peel. Medium-strength peels, such as TCA peels and Gesner’s, may cause swelling and peeling. Both swelling and peeling skin will subside over a week. However, if you get a deeper peel, that time may take longer. Just like with irritation above

What not to do: Big Warning – do not force the peeling as this can lead to permanent scaring. Avoid using harsh products, exfoliating and rubbing your skin.

What to do: For the swelling you can use Ice compacts and you can also have a Lmyphic Massage to help drain the extra fluid that is causing the swelling. For the peeling, keep the Moisturizer up 24/7 as it allows the skin to softly peel without scaring. If you are having LED phototherapy also have a hydrating mask treatment it will give you a fantastic result.

  1. Infection and/or scarring:
    With deep peels like phenol peels that can only be administered by a medical practitioner, infection and scaring is a high risk. But for all other chemical peels, infection and scarring is very un-common. By taking proper care of your skin post-peel will drastically reduce the chances of infection and scarring.

What to do: Have a pre-peel appointment. In a pre-peel appointment your skin specialist will assess your risk for scarring and will discussed with you the treatment options and risk. If you have skin prone to scarring, you should avoid getting deep peels.

  1. Pigmentation changes:
    For some people, chemical peels can cause skin to pigmentation changes. The most common for darker skin types is the lost of pigmentation, the skin will have patches of very lighter skin. The opposite, or browning of the skin, can also happen which happens when clients expose their newly peeled skin to the sun without protection. Pigmentation changes can also happen if a too strong of a peel is used right away without the correct pre- peel preparation skincare and treatments are not carried out correctly this can lead to permanently damage to the skin.

If you are getting treatment to fade dark spots and red marks then they may appear darker right after the peel. These spots will look temporarily darker because the chemical peel is bringing the pigmentation closer to the surface of your skin. This is usually temporary and will fade with time or with more peels.

What to do: Have a pre-peel appointment to see if pre peel preparation is required and do it. Follow and do all the post-peel care instructions to reduce the risk of pigmentation changes.

Contraindications to getting a chemical peels:

Chemical peels are not suitable for everyone, especially high concentration peels or medium-strength peels like TCA peels. People who are immune impaired, pregnant, lactating, on Roaccutane or other high Vitamin A (Retinol) creams and tablets. For clients with active infections, skin diseases, or overall poor health should wait until their health has return before having the treatment. IF you are prone to keloids scarring or scar easily, Rosaceas, sensitive skin should be full assessed to see if they are suitable for these types of treatments.

There are many “DIY Home Peels” for sale (especially on the net) but because of the numerous side effects, I strongly recommended that you have you chemical peel treatments done in a professional setting. Your skin specialist will be able to correctly assess your risk and recommend the correct pre and post actions and skincare that will reduce adverse affects and ensure that you get the results that you want to achieve. They will also be there when you have questions and concerns during your healing time as it does take around 2 weeks to a one month, to see the full effects of the peel.

Chemical peels can help fix and repair many unwanted skin conditions, and in next blog I will discuss the various peels and what they treat. If you have any adverse side affect from having a peel or had great results tell us about it below. Would love for you to share.



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debra spence
Debra Spence is a Qualified Medical Aesthetician, Cosmetic Scientist, Lecture and Author. Owned of an Australian National Award Winning Medi Spa. Now is concerntrating on Education of Skin and Skincare plus provideing advance treatments to her private patients. Plus developing Zen Dejour a Result Based Cosmeceutical Skincare Range and Dermal Solution Private Lable Professional Skincare.

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