You’re Invited To Get Up Close & Personal With My Post-Chemical Peel Face

aimee simeon
·8-min read

Of all the skin-care topics I've covered in my years reporting on beauty, chemical peels are one of the most polarizing. The word "peel" alone implies a reptilian shedding process that is nothing short of scary as hell. I get it — who wants to walk around with massive patches of croissant-like flakes falling off their face?

Still, there's a reason why the treatment comes highly recommended by experts and dermatologists. Board-certified dermatologist Suneel Chilukuri, MD, says that chemical peels target a wide range of skin concerns, including acne, discolouration, and uneven texture. "If the right peel is used, even those with rosacea and sensitive skin can benefit from the treatment," Dr. Chilukuri says. "Peels also improve the overall barrier function of the skin."

The magic is in the acids used for peels. Dr Chilukuri explains that peels can function as single acids or be mixed with exfoliating agents. "Typical peeling agents are alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids, which work by penetrating the skin and releasing the bonds between cells that hold them together," he says. "This allows the cells to exfoliate more effectively and bring new, fresh cells to the surface."

I'd gotten a gentle chemical peel once before, but decided to get a more intense treatment recently. Aside from wanting to hit a major reset button on my dull, tired pandemic complexion, I also thought now would be the best time for a chemical peel, since no one would see me crusty and dry while I moulted.

This time around, I took selfies detailing my post-treatment process. I invite you to join me on my chemical-peel journey through a series of very up-close, not particularly unflattering selfies, ahead... as long as you promise not to judge me.

Refinery29's selection is purely editorial and independently chosen – we only feature items we love! As part of our business model we do work with affiliates; if you directly purchase something from a link on this article, we may earn a small amount of commission. Transparency is important to us questions please reach out to us.

<h2>Before Chemical Peel</h2><br>Here's a look at my skin before my PCA Peel, which I got at <a href="https://kurskinlab.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:KUR Skin Lab" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">KUR Skin Lab</a> in New York City. Before my treatment, my skin-care routine mainly consisted of a <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/best-skincare-brands-uk-2020" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:cleanser" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">cleanser</a>, adapalene gel, <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/best-investment-skincare-products-lockdown" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Tatcha Dewy Skin Cream Moisturizer" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Tatcha Dewy Skin Cream Moisturizer</a>, and <a href="https://www.sephora.com/product/supergoop-glowscreen-sunscreen-spf-40-P456218" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Supergoop Glow Screen" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Supergoop Glow Screen</a>. With residual hyperpigmentation popping up from maskne breakouts, and feeling lackluster overall, I knew it was time to see a professional.

Before Chemical Peel


Here's a look at my skin before my PCA Peel, which I got at KUR Skin Lab in New York City. Before my treatment, my skin-care routine mainly consisted of a cleanser, adapalene gel, Tatcha Dewy Skin Cream Moisturizer, and Supergoop Glow Screen. With residual hyperpigmentation popping up from maskne breakouts, and feeling lackluster overall, I knew it was time to see a professional.
<h2>During Chemical Peel</h2><br>My esthetician at KUR blended 12% lactic acid, 6% TCA (trichloroacetic acid), kojic acid, and azelaic acid to treat my skin. You won't find it in products for over-the-counter use, but TCA is a popular active used in professional chemical peels. "This removes surface cells in a controlled manner to instigate a healing response and allow new cells to rise to the surface," Dr. Chilukuri explains.<br><br>My aesthetician thoroughly cleansed and exfoliated my face, then brushed on the chemical concoction. I was warned to expect slight tingling or burning but felt neither. She felt confident that my skin could handle four layers of acid — she usually takes her clients up to six layers, depending on their skin type. <br><br>PCA peel administrators work on a "one to ten" pain scale, Dr Chilukuri explains. "This helps us understand the level of sensation they are feeling," he says. "More isn't always better, as over-treatment can make some conditions, like hyperpigmentation, worse."<br><br>Once my aesthetician neutralised my peel, she applied sunscreen, eye cream, and a nourishing lip balm. The entire process took roughly 45 minutes.

During Chemical Peel


My esthetician at KUR blended 12% lactic acid, 6% TCA (trichloroacetic acid), kojic acid, and azelaic acid to treat my skin. You won't find it in products for over-the-counter use, but TCA is a popular active used in professional chemical peels. "This removes surface cells in a controlled manner to instigate a healing response and allow new cells to rise to the surface," Dr. Chilukuri explains.

My aesthetician thoroughly cleansed and exfoliated my face, then brushed on the chemical concoction. I was warned to expect slight tingling or burning but felt neither. She felt confident that my skin could handle four layers of acid — she usually takes her clients up to six layers, depending on their skin type.

PCA peel administrators work on a "one to ten" pain scale, Dr Chilukuri explains. "This helps us understand the level of sensation they are feeling," he says. "More isn't always better, as over-treatment can make some conditions, like hyperpigmentation, worse."

Once my aesthetician neutralised my peel, she applied sunscreen, eye cream, and a nourishing lip balm. The entire process took roughly 45 minutes.
<h2>After Chemical Peel</h2><br>The KUR Skin Lab team sent me on my way with specific instructions and a <a href="https://www.dermstore.com/product_The+PostProcedure+Solution+Kit++Trial+Size_12762.htm?utm_egbu=Dermstore-US_Google-Shopping_Dermstore_Multi_CONV_SSC-DTM-tROAS&utm_egb=Multi&utm_ega=CONV&utm_egc=Dermstore%20-%20SSC&gclid=Cj0KCQjwyN-DBhCDARIsAFOELTmgH4dr3uBvCggcxHEif2d-nWcKw69k48rEQ7Tmnl9aI3dezTy1K-8aAq4uEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:PCA Skin Post-Treatment kit" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">PCA Skin Post-Treatment kit</a>, which included a cleanser, balm, cortisone ointment, and sunscreen — all instructed to use for seven days following my treatment. I was sad to kiss my usual lineup goodbye for a week but was committed to healing my skin.<br><br>Immediately after the treatment, my skin felt noticeably greasier than usual, but my aesthetician instructed me not to wash my face for 24 hours following the treatment. She also recommended avoiding direct sunlight and sweating (the perfect excuse to hit snooze on my daily workout).

After Chemical Peel


The KUR Skin Lab team sent me on my way with specific instructions and a PCA Skin Post-Treatment kit, which included a cleanser, balm, cortisone ointment, and sunscreen — all instructed to use for seven days following my treatment. I was sad to kiss my usual lineup goodbye for a week but was committed to healing my skin.

Immediately after the treatment, my skin felt noticeably greasier than usual, but my aesthetician instructed me not to wash my face for 24 hours following the treatment. She also recommended avoiding direct sunlight and sweating (the perfect excuse to hit snooze on my daily workout).
<h2>Night Of Chemical Peel</h2><br>As the evening progressed, I noticed the greasy cast left behind on my skin turn a few shades darker than my complexion, almost like I was wearing the wrong shade of foundation. My skin grew increasingly shiny, which further tempted me to wash my face before the 24 hour mark, but I fought the urge.

Night Of Chemical Peel


As the evening progressed, I noticed the greasy cast left behind on my skin turn a few shades darker than my complexion, almost like I was wearing the wrong shade of foundation. My skin grew increasingly shiny, which further tempted me to wash my face before the 24 hour mark, but I fought the urge.
<h2>First Face Wash (24 Hours Post-Peel)</h2><br>The minute that 24th hour hit, you bet I was in the shower rinsing off my face. The cleanser in my post-treatment kit was a creamy, gel-like formula that didn't create a soapy lather. I was worried that it wouldn't thoroughly remove the greasy residue left on my face, but it did. I was thrilled to have clean skin but knew to expect some peeling in the not too distant future.

First Face Wash (24 Hours Post-Peel)


The minute that 24th hour hit, you bet I was in the shower rinsing off my face. The cleanser in my post-treatment kit was a creamy, gel-like formula that didn't create a soapy lather. I was worried that it wouldn't thoroughly remove the greasy residue left on my face, but it did. I was thrilled to have clean skin but knew to expect some peeling in the not too distant future.
<h2>Day 1: Peeling</h2><br>My skin first started peeling around my mouth area, which wasn't surprising considering that it's usually my face's driest area. I felt more taut than usual but didn't notice any other unexpected irritation post-peel.

Day 1: Peeling


My skin first started peeling around my mouth area, which wasn't surprising considering that it's usually my face's driest area. I felt more taut than usual but didn't notice any other unexpected irritation post-peel.
<h2>Day 2: Peeling (Morning)</h2><br>Okay, this isn't the sexiest photo of myself, but I took it before I could even get out of bed on day two. Peeling was in full swing. The dry patches started to inch up towards my nose and into my cheek zone this time. The areas that peeled also seemed noticeably darker than usual, which made my skin look splotchy. Yikes.

Day 2: Peeling (Morning)


Okay, this isn't the sexiest photo of myself, but I took it before I could even get out of bed on day two. Peeling was in full swing. The dry patches started to inch up towards my nose and into my cheek zone this time. The areas that peeled also seemed noticeably darker than usual, which made my skin look splotchy. Yikes.
<h2>Day 2: Peeling (Evening)</h2> <br>By day two, night two, the peeling along my chin area was super visible and formed a bold demarcation line between my new skin and the shedding skin.

Day 2: Peeling (Evening)


By day two, night two, the peeling along my chin area was super visible and formed a bold demarcation line between my new skin and the shedding skin.
<h2>Day 3: Peeling </h2><br>On day three, my skin took on a scalier look. My forehead, nose, and chin had a flaky white cast not even a face mask could hide when I stepped outside. I also experienced moderate itching in some areas, but nothing a slight tap with my finger didn't fix. At this point, I remained consistent with the post-care product regimen and found that reapplying the <a href="https://www.dermstore.com/product_Silkcoat+Balm_4643.htm" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:PCA Skin Silkcoat Balm" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">PCA Skin Silkcoat Balm</a> in the kit throughout the day helped my skin feel more hydrated.

Day 3: Peeling


On day three, my skin took on a scalier look. My forehead, nose, and chin had a flaky white cast not even a face mask could hide when I stepped outside. I also experienced moderate itching in some areas, but nothing a slight tap with my finger didn't fix. At this point, I remained consistent with the post-care product regimen and found that reapplying the PCA Skin Silkcoat Balm in the kit throughout the day helped my skin feel more hydrated.
<h2>Day 4: Peeling</h2><br>Finally, day four came around, and I didn't feel like a cracked marble statue. The shedding was focused around my forehead and hairline area, but the rest of my skin started to look and feel smoother. Alas, I was sort of normal again.

Day 4: Peeling


Finally, day four came around, and I didn't feel like a cracked marble statue. The shedding was focused around my forehead and hairline area, but the rest of my skin started to look and feel smoother. Alas, I was sort of normal again.
<h2>Day 5: Peeling</h2><br>By day five, I felt like myself but <em>much </em>drier. My shedding had almost wholly subsided, but there was nothing I wanted more than to layer on a hydrating sheet mask. While my skin did feel parched, I was relieved not to wake up to large patches of skin flaking off my face. I continued with the PCA post-care regimen and layered on some of my go-to Supergoop sunscreen before heading outdoors for extra hydration and protection. <br><br>If you haven't been <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/best-spf-winter" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:diligent with sun care" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">diligent with sun care</a> before a chemical peel, don't plan on slacking after one: It's the single most crucial step to protecting your skin, especially while it's vulnerable. "Sunscreen is an absolute non-negotiable," Dr Chilukuri says. Skipping out on sunscreen could lead to burning or worsening discoloration, which you can easily avoid by shielding your skin from the sun.

Day 5: Peeling


By day five, I felt like myself but much drier. My shedding had almost wholly subsided, but there was nothing I wanted more than to layer on a hydrating sheet mask. While my skin did feel parched, I was relieved not to wake up to large patches of skin flaking off my face. I continued with the PCA post-care regimen and layered on some of my go-to Supergoop sunscreen before heading outdoors for extra hydration and protection.

If you haven't been diligent with sun care before a chemical peel, don't plan on slacking after one: It's the single most crucial step to protecting your skin, especially while it's vulnerable. "Sunscreen is an absolute non-negotiable," Dr Chilukuri says. Skipping out on sunscreen could lead to burning or worsening discoloration, which you can easily avoid by shielding your skin from the sun.
<h2>Day 6 </h2><br>On the sixth day post-peel, I was greeted by a smoother, more radiant face. If you're considering a chemical peel, bear in mind that the process is different for everyone, and in some cases, you may not even visibly peel. "Visible exfoliation is not an indication of the success of a peel treatment," Dr Chilukuri says. "Some exfoliation is at the cellular level and not as noticeable, while other peeling is more dramatic." <br><br>The main thing to remember is that your peel ingredients are the most important component and are meant to treat your specific concerns, not solely to remove layers of your skin. As you can see in this photo, my skin isn't perfect. I still have some discoloration and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation in areas. It's a reminder to myself and everyone inclined to invest in chemical peels that the treatment isn't a magic wand made to solve your skin-care concerns instantly.<br><br>My aesthetician encouraged me to make regular peels part of my routine, and space them out six to eight weeks apart. Talk to your expert candidly about a peel frequency that works for your lifestyle and budget (and plan around major events and vacations). Consider it a slow yet effective burn with results well worth having flaky-biscuit skin for a week.

Day 6


On the sixth day post-peel, I was greeted by a smoother, more radiant face. If you're considering a chemical peel, bear in mind that the process is different for everyone, and in some cases, you may not even visibly peel. "Visible exfoliation is not an indication of the success of a peel treatment," Dr Chilukuri says. "Some exfoliation is at the cellular level and not as noticeable, while other peeling is more dramatic."

The main thing to remember is that your peel ingredients are the most important component and are meant to treat your specific concerns, not solely to remove layers of your skin. As you can see in this photo, my skin isn't perfect. I still have some discoloration and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation in areas. It's a reminder to myself and everyone inclined to invest in chemical peels that the treatment isn't a magic wand made to solve your skin-care concerns instantly.

My aesthetician encouraged me to make regular peels part of my routine, and space them out six to eight weeks apart. Talk to your expert candidly about a peel frequency that works for your lifestyle and budget (and plan around major events and vacations). Consider it a slow yet effective burn with results well worth having flaky-biscuit skin for a week.

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?