What Does a Chemical Peel Feel Like?

What Does a Chemical Peel Feel Like?

Chemical peels are a popular solution for women and men who want to refresh their skin and rid themselves of imperfections, like fine lines, wrinkles, scars, and “age spots.” In fact, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons says chemical peels are “one of the most cost-effective ways” to help your skin look its best at just about any age. 

Still, if you’ve never had a chemical peel, you might wonder what to expect: Will your treatment be uncomfortable? How will you feel after your peel? 

At Sanctuary Cosmetic Center in McLean and Dulles, Virginia, Soheila Rostami, MD, FAAO, FAACS, and Joseph K. Davidson, MD, FACS, help their patients understand the chemical peel procedure, as well as the results they can expect. If you’ve been considering a chemical peel, here’s what they want you to know about this popular aesthetic treatment.

How chemical peels work

Most people think chemical peels work by “peeling off” the upper layers of your skin. But the action of a chemical peel is actually more subtle and gentle than that. 

Peels use a combination of acids and other solutions designed to gently loosen the upper layers of skin so those layers slough off naturally over several days. This sloughing process works with your skin’s natural “turnover” process, revealing the underlying layers of healthy tissue without damaging your skin.

Chemical peels can be an ideal solution for issues like:

  • Facial lines and wrinkles
  • Scars, including acne scars
  • Enlarged pores
  • Age spots and other areas of uneven pigmentation
  • Rough skin texture
  • Sun-damaged skin
  • Over-oily skin

Depending on the issues you want to treat, peels have varying strengths. 

What to expect during — and after — your peel

That’s what a peel does — but how does a peel feel? That depends partly on the type of peel you’re having — or, more correctly, its strength.

Stronger peels reach the deeper layers of your skin to treat more moderate types of damage, like deeper facial lines or etched wrinkles. Milder peels are great for a quick rejuvenation of your skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and helping your skin look and feel brighter and fresher.

Most peels cause some stinging sensations while they’re on, and stronger peels may produce a mild hot sensation in your skin. These reactions are part of the chemical process that helps lift away the layers of damaged tissue. Stronger peels tend to produce stronger sensations compared with lighter or milder peels.

The sloughing phase

After your peel, you can expect your skin to look a little red and to feel dry at first. We’ll provide you with instructions on how to care for your skin, including whether or not it’s OK to use moisturizer. If you still have some stinging, applying ice or taking over-the-counter pain relievers can help.

After a couple of days, you’ll start to see peeling. Again, the amount of peeling you have depends on the strength of your peel. Very mild peels may cause minor flaking, while deeper peels result in significant sloughing. 

You’ll also have some redness. Deeper peels may cause some minor swelling — again, ice can help. During this time, it’s very important to protect your skin from sun exposure and to follow your care instructions closely.

Most people see the results of their peel within a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the strength of the solution. Peels can also be repeated, making them a great treatment for anyone who wants to manage the effects of age-related changes in their skin.

Reveal more beautiful skin with a custom peel

One major benefit of chemical peels: They can be customized and adjusted based on each patient’s goals, skin type, and other factors — just one more reason why our peels are so popular.

To learn more about the chemical peel options we offer, book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Sanctuary Cosmetic Center today.


Are you ready to explore your cosmetic treatment options? Schedule a consultation with us at our McLean, Virginia location. Our expert team is here to discuss your aesthetic goals and create a personalized treatment plan tailored just for you. Contact us today to take the first step towards your rejuvenation journey at Rostami OPC.

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