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Chemical Peel Recovery Time

I am a professional, very busy. Cannot afford to be out of work for long recovering from a  chemical peel. How much downtime can I expect from chemical peels of different depths?

Doctor Answers 34

Chemical peel downtime

Moderate or medium depth chemical peels with 35% TCA will get great results, but snake skin peeling starts 3 days after the peel and lasts 1 week.

Superficial peels do not achieve the same results but can be done with little to no downtime. You may consider a series of fractionated erbium yag laser peels, as these can be done on Friday, and by Monday there is no real evidence of the treatment.

However, remember this may require several treatments for optimal results, and the more aggressive the treatment, the more days added on to the recovery.

In general, if you were given the option for a medium depth chemical peel than a fractionated erbium yag will get similar results in 1-2 treatments without the loss of 1 week of work.


Boulder Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

Chemical Peel downtime

It all depends on the depth of the peel and your skin. I have seen patients not have any redness at all after light peels, and only have a pleasant "glow", while others have had redness that lasted for about a week or two. Deep peels can result in redness that lasts for a few weeks.

Chemical peels and downtime

IMHO, you simply cannot have your cake and eat it too.  I am certain that others will disagree with me but the peels or the fractionated lasers that brag about being lunchtime or no downtime, are, in my opinion, not particularly effective either.  On the other hand, a light-medium depth peel on a Friday might have you back to work on a Monday and still achieve a reasonable effect.

Lawrence Kass, MD
Saint Petersburg Oculoplastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 68 reviews

Downtime after chemical peels

The amount of downtime after a chemical peel depends on the strength of the peel.  Depending upon your goals, and the condition of your skin, there are a number of chemical peels that are what I call 'low to no downtime."  There include glycolic acid, salicylic acid, Jessner's and Vi Peel.  The peeling process is usually over in a week.  The peeling usually starts 1-3 days after treatment and is most noticable for about 24 hours after it starts.  I usually advise patients that are concerned about downtime (and who don't mind peeling on the weekend)  to get the peel on a Thursday.  The peeling will likely not start sooner than Friday night and will mostly be over by Monday.

Dina D. Strachan, MD
New York Dermatologist
3.5 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Chemical Peel downtime

The amount of downtime you have from a chemical peel really depends on the type (strength) of the peel. Superficial peels which include glycolic acid, salicylic acid and TCA 15% do not cause much downtime at all. Patients undergoing superficial chemical peeling can expect to have mild redness and peeling, both of which can be easily covered up. More aggressive peeling (medium strength and higher) can cause a lot more swelling, redness, crusting and peeling and therefore have greater downtime.

The tradeoff is that you get much better results with more aggressive peeling. Your doctor will be able to discuss your goals and your work restrictions and come up with the best peel for you.

Chemical peel for busy professional

First you need to identify what you what to correct with the peel. Or could it be just "maintenance"? The type of peel that will meet your goals can then be selected. The recovery time depends on the peel. So, for example, if you have significant facial wrinkles, this will require a peel such as a TCA. You will be "out of commission" for about a week. If you have some areas of pigmentation, skin is dull, etc. you could do a series of glycolic peels with no downtime. So it depends on what your goals are.

Hope this helps.

Tracy M. Pfeifer, MD, MS

Tracy Pfeifer, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

No downtime with chemical peels if you use a lot of makeup

Light chemical peels have no down time and are usually done every 2 weeks for 5-6 times @ $175-250 each. Medium TCA peels flake and peel for a week but can be covered up with a lot of makeup so you may not have any down time with them at $500-1000 each, and usually 1-2 are needed.

David Hansen, MD
Beverly Hills Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Different depths of peels & downtime

Chemical peels can be done light, medium, or deep—depending on your desired results. The breakthrough is that now we have non-invasive gentle peels that result in little to no downtime, but still give patients extraordinary results. My patients are able to come in during their lunch break and return to work with no redness or flakiness, just beautiful, glowing skin.

Dennis Gross, MD
New York Dermatologist
4.5 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Recovery time after a chemical peel

Hi there,

Recovery time is dependent on the strength of the chemical peel. With "stronger" superficial depth peels and "lighter" medium depth peels, you can often expect 5-7 days of peeling time. The peeling typically begins about 24-48 hours after the peel is applied. Prior to the start of peeling, your skin will begin to feel "tight" and wrinkled. Never forcefully pull any skin off after a chemical peel. You must allow the skin to peel off on its own. Use gentle cleansers and moisturizers for several weeks after the peel. Lastly, make sure to use sunscreen and practice sun avoidance after your peel.

Hope this helps!

Downtime Varies With Depth of Peel

The recovery/downtime time associated with a chemical peel will vary based on the aggressiveness of the peel.  Superficial to medium depth peels can take anywhere from 5-10 days to resolve. And of course, the type of peel best suited to address your concerns will need to be determined after a thorough consultation with your physician or licensed clinical aesthetician. Without knowing what your primary concerns are, it is difficult to say what kind of downtime you should expect, because I am not certain what improvements you would like to see in your skin. The depth of the peel will determine how many subsequent treatments you will need to see a change in your skin. Typically, with superficial peels you can expect to see good results after a series of 3 and optimal results after a series of 6 peels.  Medium depth peels allow for significant improvement after a single treatment. Also, a home care regimen to support the treatment series is an integral part of achieving and maintaining your desired result. 

For my busy professionals who cannot withstand the downtime associated with chemical peels, I offer the alternative - the micropeel.  This two step procedure incorporates two forms of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical.  It allows the busy professional to attain the
benefits of a chemical peel without the redness, downtime and discomfort. It is great for all skin types and makeup can be worn immediately following the treatment. 

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.