Published on July 28, 2023
A chemical peel treatment is typically done in an office or an outpatient facility. So the entire procedure usually lasts 30 minutes to two hours, on average. But recovering from a chemical peel may take weeks, or even months.
Also known as acid peels, chemical peels work by removing the top layers of your skin using a combination of acidic substances. In most cases, it can cause redness and scaling, lasting from a few days to a few weeks.
But exactly how long does a chemical peel take?
The short answer is it depends. Chemical peels come in different types and depths. Some types of facials only penetrate up to the topmost layer of your skin. While others can reach into your skin’s deepest layers. Because of this, the peeling and subsequent healing process can vary. In general, however, the entire peel process can take anywhere from a day to 21 days. But it can take up to three months before your skin’s texture and color can return to normal.
If you’re looking to get a chemical peel and trying to gauge how much time you need to devote to it, we prepared this quick guide.
How Long Do You Have to Prepare for a Chemical Peel?
Preparing for your chemical peel treatment will generally start with a consultation with your aesthetician. They will evaluate your skin goals, skin type, as well as your skin tone to determine the best type of chemical peel for you. They may also ask for any allergies, current medications, and previous surgeries or treatments you may have had.
Chemical peel consultations are usually done a day or a few days before your scheduled treatment. Though some prefer to do it within the same day. The overall consultation process should take less than an hour.
How Long Does a Chemical Peel Procedure Take?
How long the actual chemical peel procedure takes can vary depending on the type and depth of the chemical peel and the treatment area. On average, light and medium chemical peels can take an hour or less. While a full facial deep peel can take around 90 minutes, applied in 15-minute intervals.
Your aesthetician will start by cleaning your face and protecting your hair and eyes. If you’re having a medium to deep peel, they may also give you a sedative, painkiller, or something to numb the treatment area. For deep peels, you’ll also be given intravenous fluids to protect your organs.
After this, your aesthetician will apply the peeling agents to your face using a brush, cotton ball, cotton tips, or gauze. Then a neutralizing solution or a cool compress is applied to soothe the treated skin.
If you’re getting a deep peel, a thick coat of ointment will also be applied to your skin to prevent dryness and pain. Your doctor may also cover the area with gauze strips if ointments won’t cut it.
After the peel is applied and the treated skin is soothed, you can go back home and wait for the peeling process to complete.
How Long Does a Chemical Peel Take to Heal?
As mentioned, different types of chemical peels penetrate various layers of your skin. Because of this, the healing time can vary for each person.
Here’s how long the peeling effect lasts for different types of chemical peel facials:
Light Chemical Peel
Light chemical peels only remove the topmost layer of the skin. So it doesn’t require a long healing time.
After a light chemical peel, your skin will become red. After a day or two, scaling may develop. Then the skin will shed after a few days. All in all, it can take up to 7 days for your skin to completely peel off the damaged layer. Your skin should also heal and return to its normal color by then.
Here’s how it usually looks like:
Medium Chemical Peel
If you’ve just had a medium chemical peel, expect around 7 to 14 days of recovery time. In the first 48 hours, the treatment area will be red and swollen. Your eyes may even swell shut as the skin around them tightens and become inflamed. After a week, crusts can form on the skin and will slowly peel off over the next few days.
This video documentation by a beauty blogger should give you a better idea of a medium chemical peel’s day-by-day healing process:
TCA Peel Burn 35%
Deep Chemical Peel
A deep chemical peel breaks down and removes the deepest parts of your skin. As such, it can take a while for your skin to recover.
In general, you can expect a healing time of anywhere from 14 to 21 days. However, you need to totally avoid the sun for the next 3 to 6 months.
Factors Affecting Chemical Peel Recovery Time
Aside from the type and depth of facial, there are also lots of other factors that will determine your recovery time. This includes:
1. Your aesthetician’s skills
Some types of chemical peels involve applying strong acids and exfoliants onto your skin. Meaning, the stakes are too high.
If your aesthetician isn’t skilled or experienced enough, your recovery period can last twice as long at best. At worse, it can lead to you getting disfigured for the rest of your life.
So if you’re planning to get a chemical peel, make sure to only get one from a fully capable and experienced aesthetician.
2. The skin concern you’re trying to address.
Skin concerns like fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage, enlarged pores, acne scars, and hyperpigmentation require different depths and types of chemical peels.
If your skin concern only affects the top layers of your skin (i.e., enlarged pores), you’ll only need a light chemical peel. As I said, this type of peel requires minimal downtime. Your skin will return to normal after a week or so.
While severe skin issues like keloid acne scars require deep peeling. This means, the healing process will take several weeks, and you can only clearly see any results after a few months.
3. Pre-treatment preparation
How much preparation your skin gets before the actual treatment also affects its recovery time.
If proper preparations were undertaken, the damage to your skin will be minimal. So it can recover quickly. But if your skin (and body) isn’t fully prepared, it will have a hard time healing itself.
4. Post-treatment care
After a chemical peel treatment, your skin will be raw and sensitive. So in most cases, you’ll need to follow a strict post-treatment care regimen. If you religiously follow your aesthetician’s post-treatment advice, your skin can heal faster.
5. The treatment area
Though chemical peels are typically used on the face, they can also be performed on other parts of the body. You can get a chemical peel for your arms, back, neck, chest, hands, and legs. Body peels tend to have longer recovery times than facial peels. How long it will take for your skin to recover will also depend on the body part treated. The recovery time, for instance, for a light chemical peel in your back area usually takes an average of 10 to 14 days.
6. Your Skin Tone and Skin Type
Darker skin tones tend to be more prone to scarring and hyperpigmentation, extending the usual recovery time. People with sensitive skin also tend to heal slower than others. Their skin can remain red for several days after all the dead skin is sloughed off.
How Long Do Chemical Peel Results Last?
Since our skin is perpetually getting old and damaged, chemical peel results don’t last forever. If you want to maintain your skin’s youthful glow, you need to repeat the process regularly. Note, however, that you can only have multiple treatment sessions for light and medium chemical peels. Deep peels can only be done once.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio has been writing about health and beauty topics for years. As an experienced writer, she makes sure to only use information from reputable sources and peer-reviewed studies. Her writing has also appeared on various US-based sites.