Chemical peels and laser treatments both work by removing the top layers of skin—exfoliating dead cells (along with surface pigmentation) to help clear the complexion, even skin tone and smooth texture. “Chemical peels use different concentrations and types of acids, such as glycolic, salicylic, and trichloracetic acid to dissolve and eventually peel off those surface layers,” says Andrea Hui Austin MD, a dermatologist at Bay Area Cosmetic Dermatology in San Francisco, California, and Director of Cosmetics at SUNY Downstate Department of Dermatology, Brooklyn, New York.
Laser treatments, such as fractionated laser resurfacing, use different wavelengths of controlled laser energy, which convert into heat in (or on) the skin in order to target various issues, whether that’s decimating brown spots, minimizing broken capillaries, or resurfacing the skin.
The common side effects of a chemical peel or laser treatment are pretty similar (depending on the strength of the treatment): Your skin will be red and feel sunburned for a few days. After that, it typically feels itchy and dry, and then peels and flakes over the next four to seven days. “This process allows your skin to regenerate, resulting in a smoother, more even complexion,” says Austin. (If you have a pigment-specific laser treatment to zap brown spots on your face or body, those spots will become much darker, and then that surface skin flakes off over the next week or so.) “For lighter chemical peels and laser treatments, the downtime will usually be 3 to 5 days,” says Austin. “Medium depth treatments are up to 7 days, while deeper, stronger ones can take up to 14 days.”
Peels and laser treatments create a controlled wound, so you need to treat the area as if it’s been injured. That means keeping the area moist. Yes, proper wound healing is contrary to the age-old advice you heard from your mom or grandma as a kid, which was to “air out” a scrape or cut and let it scab over. The exact opposite is true! “It’s vital to prevent the skin from drying out or cracking during the healing process. A hydrating, emollient ointment will keep the skin moist and provide a protective barrier against outside irritants and infections,” says Austin. This also allows you to heal faster, and creates an environment in which skin cells can replicate and connect to each other properly in order to prevent scabbing and scarring. “It’s equally important to use products that are free of preservatives, fragrance, lanolin—anything that could be potentially irritating.”
During the shedding stage, do not pick at peeling skin! This could damage what’s underneath and leave a scar or discoloration from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
You can use a soft, soapy washcloth to gently massage the flakes off.
Stay out of the sun for a few days after your treatment, and be diligent about applying a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect that fresh skin from UV exposure. Sun protection will also go a long way toward preventing future damage!
Our multi-tasking, healing ointment is clinically proven to protect chapped, dry, irritated skin and to improve barrier function. This active pharmaceutical ointment contains concentrated natural ingredients to soothe, moisturize, and protect: Cold-pressed cupuaçu butter, coconut and jojoba oils, antimicrobial bisabolol, and skin-healing and calming allantoin. “This is my number one recommendation to patients post-peel or laser, and they love it,” says Austin.
Our hydrating daily face wash uses coconut-derived cleansers that won’t irritate the skin. In fact, this super gentle, pH balanced, fragrance-free cleanser is clinically proven to help increase hydration and reduce redness an inflammation. It’s enriched with humectants (glycerin, sodium hyaluronate) and emollients such as jojoba oil and squalene that moisturize and protect that all-important barrier.
Our soothing, concentrated face balm comes to the rescue for a multitude of skin issues (eczema, dry patches) including post-procedure redness, chapping, irritation, and flaking. It’s formulated with two active pharmaceutical ingredients: A whopping 5% colloidal oatmeal and 7% sweet almond oil will help calm skin and relieve itching. It’s free from steroids, preservatives, parabens, antibiotics, fragrance and other skin irritating ingredients on our No List. It’s lightweight and super sheer (no goopy, thick, icky-ness!) and it’s also non comedogenic so it won’t clog pores or cause breakouts.