Why is my skin red and irritated (after a peel)?

For first-timers applying a chemical peel to their skin, they commonly mention they experience some redness. While this can be concerning the first time, it can actually be a good sign that the peel is working. Before we get ahead of ourselves let's learn why the skin attracts a red hue after applying a peel solution. Dr. B, founder of Dermatologist's Choice explains more on this popular skin question.

A chemical peel consist of a variety of acids, you've probably heard of alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid and beta hydroxy acids such as lactic acid. An acid is a naturally derived substance from plants and fruits. Citric acid for example is present in lemons or other sour fruits.

If the skin turns red initially after applying a chemical peel acid, it is likely that the skin has not yet grown a tolerance to the acid or the strength of the acid is too strong for the skin. Both are common side effects of chemical peels. The pH of the acid is low which reacts with the skin to activate the cell removal process. What this means is the acid loosens the glue that holds the skin cells together. Don't worry this is a superficial processes that mainly activated the topical layer of skin. When this process happens the skin can appear red. 

Think of it this way, when you eat hot sauce and your mouth feels like it's on fire, are you concerned? You may be at first, then quickly grab the closest glass of cold water, but it's unlikely that the hot sauce will burn you. This concept is similar when it comes to chemical peel acids. The acid feels hot on the skin and cause some redness, you may feel the Trustworthy Tingle, but it can't hurt you. 

Anytime acid solutions are added to the skin, you will get some irritation and redness. The deeper and stronger the acid peel is, the more redness and irritation you will get. With the strengths we use at DermChoice, I have never seen a scare in 40 years of treating patients. It may take one, two, or up to three weeks for redness and flaking to disappear. I've never seen it not disappear. 

To help speed up the healing process, moisturizing the skin is the best process for treatment. If you're interested in getting a deeper peel, you could reapply the acid solution the next day. This will cause deeper penetration into the dermis where you want to stimulate the collagen production to rejuvenate the skin. Using our moisturizing lotion such our Hand and Body Lotion or Pre-Bath Oil are beneficial for this rejuvenation process, plus using the Pre Bath Oil will help to sooth the skin of irritation. 


Hand and Body Lotion, $26

Pre-Bath Oil, $26

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