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A woman gets a chemical peel.

Building a solid skin care routine that targets your individual concerns and skin type is vital to achieving and maintaining a healthy, glowing complexion. But suppose you've been adapting your products to your age, lifestyle, and climate and you're still not getting the desired results. It might be time to consider adding a professional chemical peel to your regimen.

As a leader in the industry, PCA SKIN has been formulating professional peels for over 30 years. So if you're not sure what to expect during and after a professional peel, you've come to the right place. Here's a closer look at what defines a professional chemical peel and how getting one can benefit your skin.


What Is a Chemical Peel vs. a Professional Peel?

These two terms mean the same thing, so they're often used interchangeably. Unlike your weekly at-home scrub, a chemical or professional peel is an in-office, acid-based resurfacing treatment formulated to exfoliate your skin on a deeper level, revealing a healthier, younger-looking complexion. A skin care professional, such as an Esthetician or Dermatologist, applies a chemical solution to the skin's surface to remove dead skin cells and stimulate cell turnover.


What Do Professional Peels Do?

Professional peels range from mild to medical strength to address various skin concerns, including fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, acne, and mild scarring. They also improve skin texture and stimulate collagen production, resulting in healthier-looking skin.

According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, there are three major tiers of professional peels: superficial (or light), medium-depth, and deep. These categories define how many layers of skin the peel affects.

Young woman during face peeling procedure in salon, closeup



A light peel is an excellent place to start if you've never had a professional peel before. Pros refer to them as "lunchtime peels" since their mild peeling agents only address the epidermis (the top layer of your skin). Consider a light peel once a month.


Alpha-Hydroxy Acid Peels

AHA peels are the gentlest peel you can get—but that doesn't mean they don't produce results. They're best suited for early signs of fine lines, slight pigmentation, mild acne, and dry skin.


Beta-Hydroxy Acid Peels

BHA peels also address early signs of pigmentation and fine lines, but they're known for their ability to help control oil and reduce the appearance of large pores. Salicylic Acid, a BHA, removes dead skin cells to unclog pores while calming the redness and irritation associated with blemishes.


Jessner Peels

The most potent peel in this category is formulated with Resorcinol and Lactic and Salicylic Acids. It penetrates your skin at a deeper level by creating an inflammatory response. Jessner peels are ideal for reducing more prominent fine lines and wrinkles, light scarring, hyperpigmentation, and melasma.



Medium-depth professional peels affect the epidermis and dermis underneath. If you've been getting light peels and the results are starting to plateau, it may be time to graduate to the next level. Consider a medium peel every four to six weeks.


Trichloroacetic Acid Peels

TCA peels typically fall into the medium-depth category. They have numerous benefits, including softening acne scars, smoothing out rough skin, preventing and controlling acne, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and evening out skin color.



The strongest peels available penetrate deep into the layers of the dermis. While they require more recovery time than light and medium-depth peels, they're the best option for achieving long-lasting, noticeable results with just one treatment. People may get deep peels once in a lifetime or under a professional's evaluation (often every 10 years or so).


Phenol Peels

The most transformative peel harnesses the power of Carbolic Acid and other results-driven ingredients like Salicylic Acid or Resorcinol.


What's It Like to Get a Professional Peel?

A professional peel begins similarly to other facial treatments. After pulling back your hair, a skin care professional will clean your face before applying the peel with a saturated cotton ball, sponge, brush, or gauze. Depending on the strength, a specialist may apply a topical numbing cream and give you goggles to protect your eyes from the solution. You may experience tingling or a stinging sensation for 15 to 20 minutes.

Next, your skin care pro will apply a neutralizing solution followed by a hydrating, restoring, and protecting cream. You may experience redness, irritation, and peeling for approximately four to seven days after a medium peel and seven to 21 days after a deep peel.


How Do You Care for Your Skin after a Professional Peel?

Avoid scheduling a professional peel before a special event, especially if it's medium or deep, since you'll experience some downtime. Don't worry—the results are worth the wait! In the meantime, here are some post-care tips to help ensure a smooth healing process.


Don't Pick at Your Skin

Around three days after your peel, you may notice mild to moderate peeling. Shedding is common and allows new, healthy skin to come to the surface. Avoid the temptation to pick at your skin during this process, as this can cause hyperpigmentation. You can trim larger pieces of peeling skin with small, sterile scissors. It's also possible you may not experience peeling.


Avoid Potential Irritants

Avoid putting makeup, ice, and hot or cold water on your skin, and use the post-procedure products your skin care specialist provided. Wait at least 10 days before using any Retinol or Glycolic Acid products and five days for acne treatments like Tretinoin, including Renova and Retin-A.


Lay Off Exfoliating

Don't exfoliate your face with a washcloth or scrub for at least seven to 10 days.


Stay Cool

Skip activities that increase your body temperature for the first 48 hours. This includes exercising, taking hot showers, swimming, visiting the steam room or sauna, drinking alcohol, and spending time in direct sunlight. Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and a wide-brimmed hat if you go outdoors.

Professional peels can be a great addition to your regular skin care routine. Speaking with an expert can help you feel more confident about choosing the best peel for you. If you don't have a licensed skin care provider, find one using the PCA SKIN Certified Professional Locator.


Author Info:

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.