6 Signs It’s Time for a Face Peel

By Staff 9 Min Read

If you’ve never gotten a face peel, it may not sound like a very ap-peel-ing process.

Puns aside, face peels actually offer a host of benefits for your skin, especially if you have any number of specific conditions.

Still, peels do what they say they do: They peel off the topmost layer of skin, usually with a chemical treatment.

So, how do you know when it’s the right time to get a face peel, and how much is too much?

Read on to learn the personalized peel schedule that’s right for you.

A face peel is a deeply exfoliating treatment that smooths the surface of the skin.

Rather than using gritty face scrubs to slough off dead skin cells, a face peel typically uses a combination of chemicals to treat specific concerns.

In most cases, an acidic solution is applied to your face and left to sit for several minutes while it removes dead skin cells on the top layer of the skin.

Within a few days, that top layer of skin will peel off (hence the name), revealing brighter, smoother, rejuvenated skin underneath.

“Face peels offer effective solutions for patients who wish to address skin problems like hyperpigmentation or acne,” explains plastic surgeon Dr. Osman Bashir Tahir with Halcyon Aesthetics.

“They can be used to offer very light rejuvenation right through to effectively treating acne scarring and pigmentation and are great for superficial irregularities,” he adds.

Bashir Tahir says when combined with laser treatments, face peels can be used to treat:

  • wrinkles
  • fine lines
  • dark spots
  • scars

Here are a few signs that a face peel might be a good choice.

You’ve noticed dark spots or discoloration

Dark spots can include:

While age spots sometimes fade over time, a face peel can accelerate the process.

“Chemical peels can help to remove or improve existing pigmentation, thereby helping to even out the overall skin tone,” says Spirithoula Koukoufikis, senior medical esthetician at Skinfluencer.

Your skin appears dull or dry and feels rough

Is your complexion duller than usual, no matter how many radiance serums you apply? Getting rid of the buildup of dead skin cells may help.

“A peel will resurface the skin and help remove the accumulated layers of excess dead skin cells, dirt, and grime that sometimes can be missed with your everyday skin regime,” says Koukoufikis.

This eliminates underlying congestion and helps rejuvenate the skin.

Your skin appears oily and is prone to breakouts

When you have oily, acne-prone skin, it can be tempting to reach for exfoliating face scrubs in a bid to remove impurities lurking below the skin’s surface.

However, a peel can be more effective.

“Peels go one step further than a regular scrub, cleanser, or acid-based toner when it comes to removing excess sebum and skin cells that can block pores,” Koukoufikis explains. “When the skin is congested, blocked acne bacteria are able to thrive, leading to red, inflamed skin and blemishes.”

Getting a chemical face peel can boost cellular renewal, allowing any acne-fighting active ingredients you are using to penetrate more deeply.

You have acne scarring that won’t go away

When acne clears up, it often leaves behind scarring.

A chemical peel can be more effective than topical scrubs and cleansers at reducing the appearance of these scars.

This is because a chemical peel stimulates the production of collagen, which can help fill in scars.

You want your skin to appear more elastic

“Fine lines and wrinkles start forming when the skin starts to produce less collagen, one of the skin’s structural proteins,” Koukoufikis explains.

She notes that peels are one of the most effective ways to stimulate the skin to produce more collagen.

In turn, this helps active ingredients in skin care products penetrate more deeply and improves the overall tone, firmness, and elasticity of the skin.

You have enlarged pores

While facial peels are commonly used to treat skin concerns like acne and pigmentation, smaller pores can be an added perk to getting a peel.

“As a medium or deep chemical peel is targeted at stimulating collagen growth and tissue regeneration, it can also help to tighten pores,” says Koukoufikis.

Wondering what type of face peel might be right for you?

According to Koukoufikis, there are essentially three levels of peels to choose from. The intensity of the treatment will determine how much peeling you experience.

“Each one utilizes different chemical solutions and levels of acidity to resurface the skin. Which peel is used depends on your skin type, condition and concerns,” she explains.

Superficial (light) face peels

Sometimes referred to as “lunchtime peels” because they have little to no downtime for healing, light chemical peels typically use alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs).

These help:

  • increase cell turnover
  • improve skin renewal rates
  • exfoliate
  • reduce fine lines
  • reduce sun damage
  • diminish dry skin

Light peels “are fantastic for anyone who would like to brighten up their skin and have a smoother complexion,” says Koukoufikis.

Medium face peels

Medium peels are stronger. They can help take care of more stubborn skin concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, and acne scars. They typically use a chemical called trichloroacetic acid (TCA).

“Medium peels affect your skin on a deeper level, and the procedure is not as quick and easy as it is with superficial peels,” explains Koukoufikis.

For starters, this means more downtime post-treatment. Other aftereffects include:

These effects can last from 5 to 14 days depending on your skin type and condition, Koukoufikis says.

Deep peels

Deep peels are the strongest peel of the three. They’re made with high strength TCA.

They’re only used to treat advanced concerns, like:

  • deep wrinkles
  • sun damage
  • scarring

Post-treatment redness can last for months in some cases.

“As with any aesthetic treatment, there are always risks,” says cosmetic doctor Paris Acharya. “Both lasers and chemical peels are designed to stimulate reactions within the skin.”

She notes that treatments can be altered according to each patient to minimize potential irritation, but those efforts can only go so far, and side effects may occur.

Side effects can include:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • burning
  • scarring
  • hyperpigmentation

However, Acharya says you can minimize these risks by doing your research. She recommends choosing a brand of peel you trust and a practitioner with the appropriate training and experience.

Medications and lifestyle factors can also affect treatment.

Lifestyle factors include:

  • sun exposure
  • sauna use
  • strenuous exercise
  • smoking
  • alcohol use

When it comes to medication, your clinician will need to know if you use certain acne treatments, such as isotretinoin (Accutane), or photosensitizing agents.

Chemical peels aren’t as scary as they might sound. They can be a powerful treatment for many skin care concerns, including acne, pigmentation, scarring, and pro-aging support.

If you’ve tried topical treatments with little success or are seeking professional results, a chemical face peel could be a good choice.

Acne breakouts, fine lines, and age spots are a good indication that it’s time to book that appointment.


Victoria Stokes is a writer from the United Kingdom. When she’s not writing about her favorite topics, personal development, and well-being, she usually has her nose stuck in a good book. Victoria lists coffee, cocktails, and the color pink among some of her favorite things. Find her on Instagram.

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