This question constantly pops up in online beauty forums. ”I did a chemical peel three days ago, and my skin never peeled! What do I do now?“
The happy truth is that even though the treatment is called a chemical peel, lizard-like skin peeling may not actually occur.
Fortunately, scientific developments have provided doctors and estheticians with the tools (acids!) to conduct chemical peel treatments with the same results, but without the sunburn-like feeling and strange peeling consequences.
Is your skin not peeling after a chemical peel? There is no need to worry. We’re going to explain everything you need to know.
- 1 What is a Chemical Peel?
- 2 Why Is Skin Not Peeling After a Chemical Peel?
- 3 Look for signs of tightness, itchiness, or dryness
- 4 Conclusion
What is a Chemical Peel?
Let’s start with the basics. A chemical peel is a cosmetic skin treatment that is applied to the face and sometimes to the neck and hands. The therapy aims to improve the appearance of the affected skin.
What Do Chemical Peels Do?
Chemical peels essentially intentionally damage the skin with acid in order to exfoliate it. By applying just the right amount of a specific type of acid to the skin, the skin is triggered to rejuvenate itself.
Eventually, the skin will peel off, leaving new skin behind. The new skin underneath will be smoother and have less damage.
What happens during the treatment?
There are many at-home chemical peels, though many people prefer to go to a medispa.
For the treatment, an acidic chemical solution is applied to the skin. Depending on the type of acid, the power of the peel, and intended skin penetration, you may feel a burning or tingling sensation.
This feeling usually passes fairly quickly.
Types of Chemical Peels
There are three different kinds of treatments, which vary based on the depth of penetration.
Light, or “Superficial” Chemical Peels
During superficial peels, which are generally done using mild acids like alpha-hydroxy, the aim is to penetrate the outer level of the skin. They are used for gentle exfoliation in mild acne cases or to gradually build up to deeper peels.
These are almost always at-home treatments and are typically not very expensive. Some at-home products like Natura Bissé Diamond Glyco Extreme Peel, 1 fl. oz. (which we discussed here) are pretty pricey, but most are in the under $30 range for at-home peels.
Medium and Deep Chemical Peels
Medium and deep peels, on the other hand, are a different beast. They are done using more acidic solutions. Typically acids like glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid (TCA), and phenol are used. Penetration can reach the middle layers of the skin, making those treatments more effective in removing damaged skin cells.
These are done at medispas or doctor’s offices.
The complexity comes from the fact that some at-home chemical peels advertise themselves as “deep” peels. The truth is that they’re in a different league than what you might get at a doctor’s office, no matter what it says on the packaging.
How Long Does it Take For Skin to Peel After a Chemical Peel?
Peeling will generally start two to three days after the treatment. It can last up to five days.
It is crucial not to pick off the skin during that time, even though it may become pretty dry.
The actual peeling will likely be minimal. The general advice is to apply moisturizer after the treatment; that should be enough.
Please wait for the peeling to happen on its own. Premature peeling of the skin can result in dryness and cracks in the new skin, which may develop into hyperpigmentation.
Why Is Skin Not Peeling After a Chemical Peel?
If your skin is not peeling after a chemical peel, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. It is important to remember that while you might not see any peeling with the naked eye, it does not mean that the treatment is not working.
You will still get the results you are hoping for, and you are fortunate enough that you are not visibly peeling! The peeling process will still work, even if you’re not actively peeling. It’s counter-intuitive, but your skin won’t always peel after a chemical peel!
During this process, the acidic solution is penetrating the skin and dead cells are exfoliated. The particles are so small (we can have thousand of cells shedding at the same time even right now) that they are practically invisible to our eyes.
In older-style peels, there was always visible peeling to complete the process. But that’s no longer the case with modern chemical peels.
Newer versions are more fine-tuned so that we can attain the same results without the cosmetic side effects. After all, undergoing treatment for cosmetic reasons and going through a whole host of aesthetically displeasing side effects was quite counter-intuitive for most people!
Even though you can have reasons to question the therapy since you are witnessing no effects taking place, the consequence of administering acids to the skin is a scientifically-established process.
Stay the course.
Sit tight and wait as your new skin is coming up to the surface.
In addition to the exfoliating effects, new techniques have the added benefit of creating new collagen and hyaluronic acid, which increase the overall health of your skin. The old ”no pain no gain” motto certainly does not apply here, since there are many gains with no pain, thanks to modern science.
Look for signs of tightness, itchiness, or dryness
As the chemicals make their way through your skin, it is natural for your skin to start to dry up. You might feel itchy, and the skin will possibly feel and look quite dry and tight.
That is a good sign.
Even if you are witness no visual peeling, you can tell the treatment is working and progress is being made.
If the dryness and itchiness are bothering you, try to regularly control the situation by applying moisturizer and waiting. Something simple like Cetaphil Face Moisturizer should suffice.
That said, it’s is important not to over hydrate. The whole point of a chemical peel is to let the damaged skin flake and peel away.
To get the full benefits of the process, you need to let it happen in its own time. Instead of over-hydrating, continue to moisturize as normal.
Avoid Touching Your Skin Excessively
No matter what, do not pick, pull or scratch your skin. Not even to test if you are peeling or to clean any loose skin.
You have to resist since anything you do will interrupt your skin’s natural healing cycle. You will most likely interfere with the process, spoil the results, and may even encourage hyperpigmentation.
Chemical peels have evolved a lot over the last several. From at-home treatments to medical deep peels, the process has changed and improved.
Do not worry if you do not see any actual peeling after the treatment. It is totally fine if your skin is not peeling in sheets after a chemical peel.
The magic is happening under the surface! Keep your patience for a few days, follow your doctor’s (or your treatment’s) guidelines.
The results will be totally worth it.