When Does Skin Usually "Peel" After 20% Salicylic Chemical Peel?

I just had a 20% salicylic chemical peel for my acne. its been 3 days now and i have scabs in all the areas treated and the skin feels tight. the doc said it would sting a bit during the procedure. But i felt like my whole face was burning. is it normal?

the doc did not tell me that my face wud look this way..though she said it would peel off in 2-3 days. i have posted a pic of how it looks 2 days after the procedure. is it normal?

Doctor Answers 3

Flake and Peel in 2-3 Days

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It is very normal for any active breakout areas to scab over after a salicylic chemical peel.  It is also typical to feel a burning sensation while the peel is being applied but it should subside after it has been rinsed off.  Flaking and peeling should start within 2-3 days of application and typically stops within a week.  Talk to your provider about a moisturizer to help minimize tightness and soothe the skin.

I usually takes a week to complete a salicylic acid peel

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Expectations management is important when getting a chemical peel.

Salicylic acid peels tend to cause a burning sensation more commonly than other types of peels.  The stinging may occur on the whole face.  It tends to peak and then get better.

I tell my patients to expect to peel in 1-3 days.  Not everyone experiences noticable peeling every time--this does not mean it's not working.  The peeling usually stops in 1 week.  I advise patients to moisturize with a bland lotion or cream at least 2-3 times a day after a peel and wear sunscreen daily.

Based on the above picture you may have had some crusting or just peeling skin that has not yet come off.  Moisturize more frequently in this case and consider applying a topical steroids such as hydrocortisone (check with your doctor--of course). 

This kind of peeling or crusting may occur if you had been using an exfoliating agent such as a retinoids, glycolic acid or salicylic acid product right before the peel or if you had a rash on your face when you got the peel. 

Dina D. Strachan, MD
New York Dermatologist

Deeper peels usually peel in one week

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I think you have a deeper peel. This brown color skin will peel in one week. Then you can decide how deep and if any scarring will occur. Do not pull on the peeling skin, it can cause scars. Let it peel by itself

Samir Shureih, MD
Baltimore Plastic Surgeon

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.