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Professional peels, also known as chemical peels, are one of the best ways to treat various skin concerns, from acne and discoloration to fine lines and wrinkles. While you still need to stick to a solid skin care routine, get enough sleep, and adopt healthy lifestyle habits to maintain a glowing complexion, professional peels can take your skin to the next level. PCA SKIN should know—they've been formulating professional peels for over 30 years.

Whether you're new to peels or consider yourself a veteran, professional peel aftercare and prep are vital to ensure your treatment is as effective as possible. Not sure what's involved? Here's everything you need to know about pre-treatment practices and skin care after a professional peel so you can put your best face forward.


The Basics of Professional Peels

A professional peel is an acid-based resurfacing treatment formulated to exfoliate your skin and reveal new, healthy skin cells by stimulating skin cell turnover. The result? A fresh, healthier-looking complexion. While skin aging is inevitable, peels can also help promote a more youthful appearance.

There are three types of professional peels: light, medium-depth, and deep. These types are characterized by how many layers of the skin the peel solution affects. Within these major categories, you can choose from professional peels that pinpoint specific skin care conditions and concerns, such as hyperpigmentation or acne.


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Professional Chemical Peel Prep

The success of a professional peel begins with some prep work. Here's what to do before you go into the office to help ensure you get the most out of your treatment.




Address Broken Skin

If you've ever gotten lemon juice into a cut, you know it's not a pleasant experience. Hold off on getting a peel until any cuts or other skin woes have healed.


Prevent Sunburn

Similarly, you don't want to apply a peel to compromised, sunburned skin. To prep for a peel and for general skin health, wear a broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or higher every day to protect your skin from the sun's damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays, and reapply at least every two hours. A formula like PCA SKIN Hydrator Plus Broad Spectrum SPF 30 safeguards against harmful UVA and UVB rays while hydrating and providing dry and dehydrated skin with antioxidants.


Moisturize Your Skin

If your skin is dry, tight, and flaky, you might experience discomfort during and after your peel. Keep your skin hydrated during the days leading up to treatment with a gentle moisturizer such as PCA SKIN ReBalance, which soothes, hydrates, and protects all skin types. Opt for a thicker moisturizer like HydraLuxe Intensive Hydration if your skin is extra thirsty.




Use Exfoliants

Even if you're just getting a light, superficial peel, temporarily discontinue using any products containing Retinol, acids like Salicylic Acid or Glycolic Acid, or scrub exfoliants for a minimum of 48 hours before your peel to prevent over-exfoliation.


Wax Your Skin

Skip that lip, brow, or face wax for at least 24 hours before your peel. The same rule applies to the dermaplaning hair removal technique, as both are a form of exfoliation.



Along with wearing SPF and avoiding prolonged sun exposure, skip the tanning bed. Tanning bed lamps can generate 12 times more UVA light than natural sunlight, so they put you at risk of sun damage. Also, don't bother using a self-tanner. A professional peel will strip away the color—and perhaps not entirely evenly.


Apply Makeup or Skin Care Products

Arrive at your professional peel appointment bare-faced. This means no makeup or skin care products.


Professional Chemical Peel Aftercare

Skin care after a professional peel is key to achieving optimal results. Your skin care professional will explain how to care for your skin post-treatment, but here are some general tips to help you understand what to expect.




Use Gentle Skin Care Products

When it comes to skin care after a professional peel, stick to gentle formulas that won't irritate or dry your freshly peeled skin. When receiving a PCA SKIN Professional Peel, for example, you should receive a post-procedure kit that contains a complete regimen of travel sized products that are strategically selected to ensure that the skin stays calm, soothed, and hydrated following your treatment. Included in the kit are the following products: 

PCA SKIN Facial Wash, a gentle cleanser that hydrates and exfoliates the skin while cleansing.
CliniCalm 1%, a soothing treatment with maximum strength 1% hydrocortisone. 

Hydrator Plus Broad Spectrum SPF 30, the hydrating sunscreen we mentioned earlier.

ReBalance, the same gentle moisturizer we mentioned earlier as well.

Collagen Hydrator, a rich moisturizer that hydrates and firms skin.


Cleanse Your Skin with Tepid Water

Your skin may be sensitive post-peel, so wash your face with lukewarm water to prevent additional sensitivity.


Commit to Daily Sunscreen Use

Your skin is more sun-sensitive post-peel, so wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn and sun damage.




Pick at Your Skin

It may be tempting to pick at your skin as it begins to peel—but hands off! Picking can cause scarring, bleeding, or an infection. Instead, allow your skin to shed on its own. You can trim large pieces of skin with small, blunt, sterile scissors if needed.


Complicate Your Skin Care Routine

Keep your skin care routine simple after a professional peel. The goal post-peel is to keep your skin hydrated and protected. So, stick to a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and broad-spectrum sunscreen.

As a general rule of thumb, you can resume your usual skin care routine about one week after a medium-depth peel and slightly longer for a deep peel. This varies based on your unique needs and the products you normally use, so consult your skin care professional for tailored advice.


Expose Yourself to Heat

Avoid heat sources or activities that crank up your body temperature. This includes hot showers, saunas, hot tubs, intense workouts, and sun exposure. Heat—especially when accompanied by sweating—can hinder recovery.


Seek Additional Cosmetic Procedures

Wait until your skin fully recovers before getting additional treatments like laser resurfacing, microdermabrasion, waxing, or injectables.


Supporting Your Best Complexion

When you book a professional peel, you're backed by a skin care pro. Your Dermatologist or Esthetician can help answer any questions and make sure you understand how to care for your skin before and after your treatment if you have any lingering concerns. After all, healthy skin is a partnership built on helping you achieve your best complexion.


Rebecca Taras
A Chicagoland native, Rebecca began her career catering to celebrity clientele as a licensed esthetician at the Peninsula Chicago Hotel. Her passion for skin care ingredients, formulations, and skin histology led her to create custom in-room skin, bath, and body amenities for the Sofitel Hotel Chicago. The Chicago Fashion Foundation recognized her efforts with the Style Maker, Rule Breaker award in the Beauty category. She later went on to co-found Terminal Getaway airport spas. Rebecca’s experience also includes serving as an editor for digital outlets such as Refinery29, PopSugar, Forbes Travel Guides, and Bustle. She continues to refine her skin care knowledge while spending time traveling the world with her husband.