Preparing for Your Chemical Peel: What to Do and What Not to Do Before Treatment

Preparing for a chemical peel: What to do and what not to do

Ready for your chemical peel? There’s a bit to do before you dive in. Getting your skin prepped is key to a smooth experience and stunning results. Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned pro, a quick refresher on the essential dos and don’ts never hurts. Let’s ensure your skin is in prime condition to embrace all the benefits your upcoming chemical peel has to offer.

What to Do Before Your Chemical Peel

Preparing with a Professional Consultation

Before a chemical peel, it’s key to consult with a skincare specialist. They’ll assess your skin type and issues to recommend the ideal peel for you, highlighting the importance of skin priming 2-4 weeks before your treatment.

This preparation phase, known as priming, might include advice on sun protection and using specific products like tretinoin or hydroquinone to ensure your skin is perfectly prepped. Priming is crucial for achieving the best peel outcome, as it helps in reducing recovery time and ensures an even application of the peel.

In your consultation, it’s important to ask questions and discuss your medical history to ensure you’re a suitable candidate for a chemical peel. Certain conditions or factors, such as pregnancy, may mean a peel isn’t recommended for you.

Pre-Peel Skin Care Regimen

Following your consultation, it’s time to adjust your skincare routine based on professional advice. Here’s a quick rundown of key steps to prep your skin for the peel, from sun protection to the use of specific products like tretinoin and hydroquinone:

  • Sun Protection: Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or more every day starting 6-8 weeks before the peel to protect your skin, especially if you have a darker skin tone.
  • Addressing Skin Concerns: Before your peel, it’s crucial to resolve any wounds or skin infections. Healthy, intact skin ensures the peel can be applied safely and effectively, reducing the risk of complications. If you have concerns about your skin’s condition, discuss these with your dermatologist during your pre-peel preparation.
  • Prep Time Based on Skin Color: If you have a deeper skin color, start preparing your skin 12 weeks ahead to avoid dark spots after the peel.
  • Tretinoin: Not everyone needs it, but tretinoin can be a game-changer in prepping your skin. Your dermatologist will advise if and when to use it, usually starting 2-4 weeks before the peel but pausing just before the procedure (3-5 days before).
  • Hydroquinone: Especially useful if you’re concerned about post-peel pigmentation. It’s typically recommended for those prone to dark spots but it needs to be stopped at least 3 days before the treatment.
  • Exfoliating Acids: Adding products with glycolic or salicylic acid into your routine can help smooth and prepare your skin, ensuring the peel works more effectively. However, you should stop using any harsh exfoliators at least a week before your appointment.
  • Apply Everywhere: Make sure to treat your whole face, not missing areas like the hairline or jawline, for even results.

Your dermatologist will guide you on how to adjust if your skin feels irritated, ensuring you’re ready for the peel.

Improve Your Diet & Hydration

Before diving into a chemical peel, it’s not just about what you apply on your skin but also what you fuel your body with. Eating right plays a big role in how quickly and beautifully your skin bounces back.

A mix of proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates lays the groundwork. Topping that with vitamins, particularly Vitamin C for its healing prowess, and Vitamin A for skin repair, ensures your skin has what it needs.

Keeping your body hydrated is also very important. Drinking lots of water helps your skin stay flexible and heal better, making it ready for the peel. Think of water as your skin’s best friend that helps it bounce back faster after the treatment. Together with eating healthy foods full of colors and nutrients, drinking enough water prepares you for great results from your peel.

What to Avoid

Medications and Supplements to Pause

  • Blood Thinners and NSAIDs: Medications like aspirin and ibuprofen can increase bleeding risks. It’s best to avoid these for a week before your peel.
  • Certain Antibiotics and Acne Medications: Drugs like isotretinoin (used for severe acne) can affect skin healing and should be discontinued for at least 6 months prior to your peel. Discuss with your doctor the best timeline for stopping any medications, especially those that might interfere with your peel or recovery.
  • Systemic Glucocorticoids (like prednisone) are anti-inflammatory meds that can delay healing and increase infection risk. If you’re on these, discussing options with your doctor is key.
  • Photosensitizing Medications: Some medications increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, which could complicate the peeling process. These include certain antibiotics (such as minocycline), birth control pills, and some cancer treatments. If you’re on such medications, a detailed discussion with your dermatologist is necessary to adjust your regimen appropriately.

Discontinuing Certain Products

When preparing for a chemical peel, it’s essential to adjust your skincare routine to avoid products that may increase skin sensitivity or irritation.

Here’s a list of items to avoid and the reasons behind it:

  • Retinol and Tretinoin: These vitamin A derivatives are renowned for their skin-renewing benefits but can heighten skin sensitivity. While they might be part of your priming process on a dermatologist’s advice (depending on the type of the peel), generally, you should stop using them about a week before your peel to avoid increased irritation​​.
  • Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid: These acne-fighting ingredients are great for keeping breakouts at bay but can over-dry and irritate the skin in the lead-up to a peel. Pause them at least 48 hours prior the peel.
  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs): Like glycolic acid and salicylic acid, these chemical exfoliants remove dead skin cells, making the skin more susceptible to irritation from the peel. A break is advised to keep the skin’s barrier intact.
  • Other Exfoliants (Physical and Chemical): Any product that sloughs away dead skin cells, be it through physical beads or chemical formulations, should be avoided to prevent over-exfoliation.
  • Highly Fragranced Products: Fragrance can irritate sensitized skin, which is more likely as you prepare for a peel. Opt for fragrance-free options to minimize the risk.
  • Essential Oils: These make your skin more sensitive to the sun, raising the chance of unwanted effects after your peel. Common ones like bergamot, lemon, and orange are often in skincare products, so it’s wise to check the labels and maybe skip these for a bit before your peel.
  • Avoid Makeup: Some experts recommend avoiding makeup starting a few days before the peel to let your skin detox.

For a personalized approach, consulting with your dermatologist is key—they’ll guide you on what to avoid based on your skin and the peel you’re planning.

Extra Essential Steps

  • Smoke Break? More Like a Smoke Stop. If you’re a smoker, pausing one week before and keeping it paused for 6 months after your peel is highly advised. This includes tobacco, marijuana and electronic cigarettes. This will help your skin heal better and faster.
  • Stop Alcohol. Drinking alcohol is another factor that can affect healing so avoid it pre-treatments and afterwards for a while.
  • Put a Pause on Waxing and Similar Treatments. Waxing, tweezing, electrolysis, and dermabrasion are no-gos for at least 1 week before your peel. These can irritate your skin, which isn’t what we want before a peel.
  • Herpes Simplex Precautions. Got a history of cold sores? Let your doctor know. You might need antiviral treatment before going in for medium-depth or deep peels to prevent outbreaks.
  • Shade and Sunscreen are Your BFFs: In the weeks leading up to your peel, avoiding sunbathing sessions and tanning beds is a must. UV exposure can mess with your results and increase risks. Doubling down on a broad-spectrum sunscreen can help protect your soon-to-be-peeled skin from uneven pigmentation​​.

Keeping these points in mind and tailoring your pre-peel routine with professional guidance ensures you’re walking into your peel appointment with your skin in its best possible state—ready to glow.

Day-of-Procedure Recommendations

Final Cleansing

On the day before and on the day of your chemical peel, it’s important to wash your skin with a gentle cleanser that doesn’t leave behind any residue. This prepares your skin for an even application of the peel.

Skip the Extras

Avoid moisturizers, makeup, or any skin products that could hinder the peel’s effectiveness. Also, remove jewelry and contact lenses to keep your skin clear and ready.

Professional Degreasing

Using a Degreasing Agent: A professional might apply a degreasing agent like acetone right before the peel. The need for acetone depends on your skin type and the specific peel protocol advised by your skincare professional. It’s all about creating a clean, uniform surface for the peel to work its magic evenly across your face.


Following the guidelines we’ve discussed ensures you’re set up for a great chemical peel experience. Each step, from initial consultation to day-of preparation, is designed to prepare your skin for the best possible outcome. For a plan that’s perfectly tailored to you, nothing beats talking directly with your dermatologist.

Ready to get your skin in top shape for a peel? Schedule a consultation with your skincare professional today, and don’t forget to subscribe for more expert beauty tips and insights.


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