Chemical Peels: How Often is Best?
Chemical peels are skin resurfacing procedures that are typically used on the face to treat wrinkles, scars, and dark spots on the skin. Although they can have great results, you need to be careful not to overdo them as they may cause permanent skin damage. So, how often should you get a chemical peel?
How often you should get a chemical peel depends on the intensity of your peel. Light chemical peels can be safely redone once every two weeks. Medium chemical peels require a downtime of three to nine months between treatments. Deep chemical peels should only be repeated every two to three years.
This article will explain the different types of chemical peels, the risks of getting them, recovery times, and how often you should get treatments. Read on to learn more about chemical peels!
Types of Chemical Peels
The type of chemical peel you choose will depend on the skin issues you want to address. There are three different types of chemical peels you can choose from. Each procedure comes with a different host of risks, so you should always choose carefully to pick the best type of peel for your needs.
- Light Chemical Peel. Also known as a superficial chemical peel, this treatment targets fine wrinkles, dark spots, dry skin, and light acne scars. Again, multiple light procedures can be done as close together as two weeks.
- Medium Chemical Peel. This peel removes skin from more than one layer: the epidermis and the dermis. It also treats wrinkles, dark spots, and moderate acne scars. Because this procedure tackles scars and wrinkles that go deeper, you may need to have it multiple times to achieve the desired results.
- Deep Chemical Peel. These types of peels, as their name suggests, remove scars and wrinkles at an even deeper level than the other two procedures. A deep chemical peel is so effective that it generally does not require repeat treatments.
Risks of Chemical Peels
Chemical peels are generally safe procedures, but they do come with some potential risks. Unfortunately, chemical peels are not safe for everyone, so people with certain conditions should avoid them completely. A doctor might caution you against the procedure if the following applies to you:
- You are pregnant.
- You have cold sores.
- You have ingested isotretinoin (oral acne medication) in the last six months.
- Your family has a history of developing keloids.
Even if you do not meet any of these criteria, chemical peels may still cause some side effects.
Possible Side Effects of Chemical Peels
- Skin Color Changing. A chemical peel can cause the color of your skin to change. Your skin may become darker after a superficial skin peel or lighter with deep peels. The issue is more common with people with more melanin in their skin and could even be permanent. If you have dark skin, talk to your provider before getting a chemical peel.
- Infection. People with cold sores can become subject to a flare-up, as chemical peels can lead to bacterial, viral, or fungal infections.
- Scarring. Though rare, scarring is a possible side effect of chemical peels. This is why a person with a history of developing keloids probably shouldn’t get a chemical peel since a keloid is just a buildup of scar tissue.
- Scabbing, Redness, and Swelling. It’s normal for skin to become red and swollen after a medium or deep chemical peel. Plan carefully. You don’t want to have a blaring red face in the family Christmas photo!
Is a Chemical Peel Safe for Sensitive Skin?
Chemical peels are entirely safe for people with sensitive skin! If done correctly, a chemical peel can safely lessen wrinkles, fade scars, and even out facial discoloration. However, people with sensitive skin should consult with a dermatologist before scheduling a chemical peel.
If you have sensitive skin, you should also keep in mind the frequency of your treatments. Your dermatologist should give you recommendations after examining your sensitive skin. People with sensitive skin may benefit from getting light treatments only once or twice a year.
✅ Microneedling is another treatment that is effective for reducing wrinkles and fading acne scars. Check out my article comparing microneedling with chemical peels here if you want to decide which one is best for you.
Preparing for a Chemical Peel
If you’ve decided to get a chemical peel, you will need to know how to prepare for the procedure. First, you will want to choose a good dermatologist or aesthetician.
Before the procedure, a good provider will:
- Discuss your skin. Your provider will need to review your skin to decide if the chemical peel you’ve chosen is right for you. They will know which chemical peel will benefit you the most based on the current condition of your skin.
- Talk about your expectations. A good provider will tell you everything you can expect from a chemical peel. They should be able to tell you about the good, the bad, and the ugly of chemical peels. They will also tell you how long your recovery time is likely to be.
- Discuss your medical history. To make sure you are compatible with the procedure, your provider will ask about any medication you have taken or are currently taking. They will also need to know if you’ve had chemical peels before and what other cosmetic procedures you may have had.
Before the procedure, your provider might also have you do the following:
- Stay out of the sun. You will need to hide like a vampire, unfortunately. Too much sun exposure can lead to permanent dark spots and pigmentation issues in any areas of skin you treat. Sun exposure before the peel could cause complications during the procedure.
- Use retinoids. Retinoids are chemical compounds derived from vitamin A that can help improve the appearance of skin by increasing the cell turnover rate. Your doctor may recommend the use of a retinoid to help with healing. Retinoids come in creams, oils, gels, and acids.
- Postpone cosmetic treatments. Treatments such as hair removal, microdermabrasion, microneedling, and facial scrubs should all be avoided two weeks before your chemical peel. You don’t want to overload your skin.
Recovery Time For Chemical Peels
No matter the level of intensity, your skin will be swollen, red, tight, and irritated after you’ve received a chemical peel. Your provider will help you with cleansing, moisturizing, ointments, and sun protection. Resist the temptation to pick and scratch your irritated skin!
Recovery times for each chemical peel are as follows:
- Light Chemical Peels. The recovery time for light chemical peels is about four days to one week. Your skin may become lighter or darker for a few days, but if you’re a person with more melanin (someone with darker skin), this change in skin color could be permanent.
- Medium Chemical Peels. Recovery time for medium chemical peels can take anywhere from five to seven days. Your skin may remain red and irritable for several months after the procedure. You may also experience swelling and crusty brown blotches as you heal (gross!).
- Deep Chemical Peels. Deep chemical peels can cause severe redness, dry spots, and swelling after the procedure, accompanied by throbbing and burning. Your eyelids may swell shut. Unfortunately, these symptoms are common during the recovery period.
Your provider will give you specific instructions to make the ordeal as fast and painless as possible as you recover. You will be told how to wash your face and how often, how to moisturize, and which products are safe to use on your skin. Follow all instructions closely to avoid further complications!
Also, try to stay out of the sun until your skin has fully healed. And unless your doctor approves, avoid using makeup and cosmetics in general.
✅ Microdermabrasion is an exfoliation technique that used suction to remove the dead skin cells on the top layer of the skin. Check out my article here to help you decide which would be better for you: microdermabrasion or a chemical peel.
Final Thoughts on How Often You Should Get a Chemical Peel
If you want to reduce wrinkles, reverse sun damage and age spots, and achieve healthy, glowing skin, chemical peels are a great option. They have been used for years and have a track record of strong results. I hope this article helped you decide if one is right for you and let you know how often you can plan on having one done.