Chemical Peel Myths & Truths


There are a lot of chemical peels in today’s market, from at-home exfoliating peels you can purchase at any beauty retailer, to high grade chemical peels that slough off several layers of skin and must be applied by a physician.  Because there is such a vast amount of options, the term “chemical peel” has taken on a very broad range of expectations and misinformation.  In order to help you make the best possible skin care plan with your esthetician, here’s everything you need to know about the peels performed by the estheticians here at Moonstone Skin & Body Care.

Myth #1:  If I don’t peel, it’s not working.

Visible exfoliation doesn’t determine the efficacy of treatment. Generally, healthy skin has less visible exfoliation. Exfoliation often takes place at the cellular level and is not always visible to the naked eye. On the flip side, some patients’ skin is so impacted that it can take a few peels to loosen dead cells enough to allow them to shed. These patients will see little or no peeling at first, but may then see sloughing after a few treatments. Think of peeling as a side effect to a peel, the same way you would think of drowsiness as a side effect of a pain pill.  The effectiveness of the peel is not dependent on what side effects you do or don’t experience.

Myth #2: I’m too sensitive for a chemical peel.

Sensitive skin is defined as a heightened intolerance to topical products or external factors. Sensitive skin often presents itself as red, irritated or scaly. Our peels utilize ingredient blends to combat sensitive skin presentations. Our philosophy follows the low-dose approach; meaning, inducing the least amount of trauma to the skin to achieve optimal results. Peels are actually a great way to manage certain sensitive skin conditions such as rosacea.  By keeping our approach progressive instead of aggressive, we can treat many different skin types and conditions with peels to achieve beautiful results.

Myth #3: All peels have to be neutralized before the end of my appointment.

This one actually can be true – but in our case, it’s not.  Here’s why:  Straight AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) like glycolic and lactic acids require neutralization, or they can over-process and burn your skin.  Ouch! The other side effect of neutralizing peels is that it releases hydrogen, which can increase the sensation of heat on the skin and make it even more uncomfortable to you.  However, peels such as the Jessner’s and trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels do not require neutralization. The water and lipid content in the skin leads to self-neutralization. The PCA Skin peels used at Moonstone combines AHA acids with TCA or Jessner’s peels, along with ingredients like retinol, salicylic acid, antioxidants and calming and soothing agents in bases that provide excellent delivery systems. The synergy of these ingredients allow the peels to self-neutralize, allowing for maximum effectiveness with little or no downtime.

Myth #4:  I can hit the gym or keep up with my running right after a peel.

This is the hardest truth for many of our clients to swallow.  The epidermis is made up of several layers, and when a chemical peel is applied, even if it’s very superficial, it can cause these layers to separate. Any activity that encourages heat and sweating, either from a work out, an athletic activity or sitting in the sauna, can cause water to become trapped between the epidermal layers. This may result in blistering and, depending on the severity of the blistering, lead to an uneven skin tone. Another reason to stay cool following a peel is that internal heat can also lead to uneven skin tone. It’s imperative you remain cool for 48 hours post-peel to avoid any heat-related complications post-treatment.  Netflix and chill?

Myth #5:  This peel should behave exactly like my last peel.

The amount of visible exfoliation depends on skin conditions and atmospheric conditions like humidity, which may cause flakes to adhere to the skin more so than in dry climates. There could be a lot of visible exfoliation after the first treatment and less for the second, but this does not mean the first treatment worked better than the second (see Myth #1). Someone who has previously had peel treatments may not have as much visible exfoliation as someone who has never or rarely gets treatments, as these patients will have more build-up. Everyone has a different tolerance for peels and that tolerance tends to grow with every treatment.

Myth #6: My skin is too dry for a peel.

Peels can be great for drier skin types, and help to rehydrate your skin.  A well-formulated chemical peel minimizes the amount of impacted skin cells lying on the surface of the skin while delivering hydrating, firming, strengthening and brightening ingredients into the skin. Once the skin is free of the dull surface layer, any products applied topically will penetrate better, leaving skin healthy and hydrated.

Myth #7:  I don’t have to do regular peels – one every now and then is fine.

Regular treatments are critical to maintaining optimal skin health. We recommend basing frequency of treatment on the condition. Uneven skin tone may be treated every three weeks and acne (all types) may be treated every two weeks. Sensitive skin may be treated every four weeks, while aging skin may be treated every three weeks. Staying ahead of the issue we are trying to correct will help you achieve the results you desire quickly, whereas you may never see the improvement you want if you peel sporadically.

Myth #8: Daily homecare isn’t a big deal as long as I see my esthetician regularly.

Along with receiving regular treatments, your daily care regimen is just as important to maintaining skin health. You must manage their own skin at least twice a day; that’s 60 times in any given month vs. a single monthly treatment from an esthetician. Therefore, one professional treatment won’t be beneficial if you are not doing your part on a daily basis to maintain the health of the skin. Using a broad spectrum sunscreen is especially important post-peel, as the procedure sensitizes skin to the sun. Remember, peels work at the cellular level and are still working long after you’ve had the treatment. Thus, it’s important to incorporate sun protection into your daily care regimen. Think of it this way: You wouldn’t stop brushing your teeth just because your dental hygienist cleans them once a year, right?

We hope this quick guide has helped to clear up misconceptions you may have had about chemical peels!  We welcome your questions, and would love to hear from you.  If you have questions we haven’t addressed here, or want to know more about how your specific skin type and condition would benefit from a series of peels, please get in touch by calling us at 415-898-0426, emailing us at, or self-book an appointment for a free skin care consultation here.

About moonstoneskincare

This blog is an outlet for me share with you and my clients a place to discuss skin and body care treatments, new products and latest trends as well as insight on running and owning a spa business.
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