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Redness After a Chemical Peel

author image Jennifer Blair
Based in New York City, Jennifer Blair has been covering all things home and garden since 2001. Her writing has appeared on BobVila.com, World Lifestyle, and House Logic. Blair holds a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Seminars from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Redness After a Chemical Peel
The chemicals used in a peel remove the first few layers of skin, causing redness. Photo Credit Image Source/Photodisc/Getty Images

A chemical peel can be an effective skin care treatment to help with fine lines, wrinkles, acne, hyperpigmentation and other skin concerns. However, it is a potent treatment, usually done in a dermatologist’s office, so it can leave your skin a little tender afterward. In particular, you will likely suffer from post-peel redness for several days. You can keep the redness under control, though, if you care for your skin in the right way before and after your peel.

Causes of Redness

Along with peeling and dryness, redness is the main side effect of a medical grade chemical peel. In most cases, your face resembles a sunburn after the treatment. That is because the chemical agents used for the peel cause a controlled destruction of several layers of the skin so that new skin beneath is revealed with improved tone and texture. With the controlled injury, the skin’s tissues are left stressed or traumatized, which results in redness. The redness can last anywhere from several days to several weeks, depending on how sensitive or reactive your skin is.

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Pre-Peel Care

To limit redness in your skin following your peel, take precautions beforehand. You should not bleach, wax or use a depilatory to remove facial hair in the week before your peel because these treatments can leave your skin more sensitive. Avoid harsh facial scrubs and masks as well. If you use a retinoid product, discontinue use approximately three days before your peel. Retinoids speed up cell turnover, so using it close to when you are scheduled for a peel can leave your skin tender.

Post-Peel Care

When your skin is red following a peel, use gentle products and keep your skin moist to avoid irritating it further. Wash with a mild soap-free cleanser, gently patting it on the face and rinsing with lukewarm water. When drying off your face, pat your skin with a towel instead of rubbing. The other key is regular application of moisturizer. You should not allow your skin to become dry because dryness can pull on the new skin underneath, causing additional redness and irritation. Apply your moisturizer as often as 10 to 20 times a day. Your doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic ointment to use if any crusting or scabbing occurs.

Sun Safety

In first few days following your chemical peel, avoid sun exposure. A chemical peel thins your skin so you’re more vulnerable to the sun’s rays, which can increase redness. Approximately three days after your peel, you can begin to use sunscreen to protect your skin when you are outside. However, you should use a wide-brimmed hat and avoid the sun between the hours of 10 and 4 when it is at its strongest.

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