Snob Essentials

What’s the Deal with Chemical Peels? Skin Advice from Renée Rouleau

reneerouleaucecomplex.jpgGuest Blog by Renee Rouleau

What is a chemical peel?

A chemical peel involves applying a chemical solution (acid) to skin of the face to remove and exfoliate the outer layers of skin so that a clearer, more evenly pigmented, glowing layer of skin can appear. The new, regenerated skin is usually smoother, smaller-pored and less wrinkled than the old skin. Depending on the type of peel, they are often repeated every 2-8 weeks to achieve the desired results.

What are the different types of peels?

Light peels:

Often called “lunch-time peels,” Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA’s such as glycolic), Beta Hydroxy acids (BHA’s such as lactic) in 10%-30% formulas, enzymes and Vitamin C peels provide smoother, brighter-looking skin for people who can’t spare the time to recover from deeper peels. They are commonly used in conjunction with a facial.

Medium peels:

Often called “weekend peels,” TCA (trichloroacetic acid), 30%-70% glycolic peels and Vitamin A peels provide a deeper and more aggressive peeling. Some people will take a few days off from life/work to let the skin heal.

Deep peels:

Phenol peels are the strongest of the chemical solutions and can cause a second-degree burn of the skin giving the skin long-lasting and a dramatic result in the reduction of facial wrinkles and acne scarring. Recovery may be slow and complete healing of the skin may take 1-2 months. (Jump for more!)


How do I care for my skin after a chemical peel?
So you’ve just had a chemical peel and now you’re left with dry, irritated, peeling skin–all side effects which are perfectly common post-peel.

Now what?
-Treat your skin gently. Instead of using a washcloth on your facial, switch to a gentler option like a baby washcloth. The rough texture of a wash cloth can be too aggravating for skin that is already irritated.
-Wear SPF. You’re exposing vulnerable immature cells so you must make sure they don’t get damaged from UV rays. Apply sunscreen daily on the face and neck.
-Limit your time outdoors to reduce sun exposure.
-Use soothing products with Chamomile, Azulene and Sea Whip to comfort the skin and reduce redness.
-Use antioxidants. Since the skin has been traumatized, free radical production is high. Suppress the free radical activity with an antioxidant moisturizer.
-Use a skin lightener. Since chemical peels can stimulate melanin activity, you don’t want to end up with post-inflammatory hyper pigmentation, a condition where you can develop brown spots post-peel (common in skin that already struggles with discoloration/brown spots).  Renée Rouleau Vitamin C & E Complex works beautifully for preventing and lightening discoloration.

-Pick at the skin! The whole purpose of a chemical peel is to “burn” off the surface dry, damaged cell layers and reveal younger-looking, healthy new cells. But to do this, the skin has to shed and that’s part that people dislike the most. But picking off dry, flakey skin when it may not be ready to come off can result in scarring and unnecessary redness.
-Over-moisturize to compensate for post-peeling dryness. When the skin is peeling and flakey, it’s normal to want to apply heavier moisturizer to alleviate dryness and comfort the irritated skin. The whole purpose of a chemical peel is to peel. So to hydrate peeling skin when it wants to shed off, will not give you the best benefit and prolongs the down-time of the peel. Just use your regular moisturizer and let the skin do what it wants to do.
-Exfoliate. It is so important to not remove the dry skin before its time and to let the skin shed naturally. Facial scrubs and acids will only irritate the irritation further and could result in scarring the skin. Bottom line: Chemical peels are very beneficial, but a thorough consultation with your skin professional is a must so you know what to expect. Once you’ve had it done, hands off, protect your skin with SPF, use calming ingredients and let it run its course.


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  1. Yikes, that’s not a good experience! But all peels aren’t equal so if you ever want to get one again, have them do a patch test and wait 24 hours to make sure you don’t have a reaction. -Renee Rouleau

  2. Thanks for the post. My sister’s dermatologist has recommended chemical peals similar to the ones you describe to remove or literally burn off her brown spots. And it seemed as though there were no other options until she began to do her own research about the ingredients in these peels and her own goals for healthy skin and a healthy body. That said, there are indeed other options that seem to be gaining momentum – products and ingredients that are good for us and our bodies. She has used products rich in EFAs, minerals and antioxidants that you point out on you “Do” list that has made her skin look better and has made her body feel better knowing she is feeding it well – without chemicals. So thanks for the information and hope alternatives continue to enter the conversation so we all can begin to think differently and wisely about what we are feeding our bodies. Has any one else had a similar story about their skin?

  3. Hi Carey!

    Thanks for your comment! Let me clarify what a chemical peel is since it sounds like you’re relating the word ‘chemical’ as not being natural. ‘Chemical’ simply means that when applied to the skin, the acids chemically dissolve the dead skin cells (because of the low pH balance and how it reacts with the skin) whereas a physical exfoliant is one that physically (a facial scrub) removes dry skin cells. So a chemical peel could be like a Glycolic Acid peel which is a skin peel that comes from sugar cane…which is “natural”. But it is my belief that everything needs to be done in moderation and everyone needs to decide what is right for them and their skin. There are many ways to achieve healthy, glowing skin and having occasional peels is one way, but at the end of the day, it’s about how you care for your skin and body (making healthy choices) on a day to day basis that really makes the biggest difference.

  4. Can I use Hydroquinone as the Post Peel skin lightener? I currently use it any ways (as I have alot of brown spots) and have an appointment next week to get the Vitalize peel (by skin medica).