If the term “face peel” makes you want to back slowly out of the room, we have news for you. Sure, we’ve all heard horror stories and seen the Sex and the City episode where a blotchy-faced Samantha dons a black veil after a treatment goes awry. But when done right, face peels can work wonders on some of the most frustrating complexion issues, from acne to uneven skin tone.
“The biggest misconception [about face peels] is that the skin will be burned and bright,” says Dr. Debra Jaliman, author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. We asked Dr. Jaliman for the real story on this not-so-scary treatment.
How They Work and What They Do
Face peels remove top layers of skin to exfoliate and expedite cell turnover, Dr. Jaliman says. When new cells are formed, this creates a new layer of skin—one that is fresh and smooth. Face peels can improve skin’s texture, even skin tone, minimize fine lines, and clear up acne by unclogging pores. One problem they can’t fix, contrary to popular belief: scarring (only lasers can do that). Another misconception? Face peels cause skin to overproduce oil and become more acne-prone. Not true, according to Dr. Jaliman. The key, she says, is choosing the right peel for your skin problem.
How to Choose a Peel
Problem: Acne-Prone and Oily Skin
If you have acne, a salicylic acid peel can help unclog pores. Since it’s drying, this type of peel best for skin that tends toward the oily side.
Problem: Uneven Skin Tone and Fine Lines
Pomegranate, pumpkin, antioxidant, and glycolic peels hydrate skin and smooth wrinkles. Pomegranate, pumpkin, and antioxidant are especially popular during winter because they’re mild and can be done repetitively without dryness or irritation, Dr. Jaliman says.
Note: If you have rosacea or eczema, you should steer clear of peels. Because these conditions cause skin inflammation, peels only increase irritation and redness, says Dr. Jaliman.
When to Peel
Although different skin types require different face-peel regimens, Dr. Jaliman says that in general, a series of three to six peels two to four weeks apart should result in a noticeable difference in skin quality. For some patients, she recommends peel pads with low concentrations of acid, which allow patients to continue treatment at home daily or weekly.
Don’t use retinols, which can irritate skin post-peel. Do use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Redness should last only a few minutes after your peel. If dryness, irritation, and redness persist longer than that, try using products with hyaluronic acid for added moisture and green tea for soothing properties.
Post-Peel Power Players
For healthy hydration, we can’t get enough of Juice Beauty products, which contain juice-based formulas and organic ingredients with nourishing properties.
For extra fine line-smoothing power, try Marula Oil, which reduces existing wrinkles by plumping skin, and My Skincare Skin Recovery Formula, which brightens skin and can further help zap fine lines and wrinkles.
For persistent redness and irritation, Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner can help soothe normal to oily skin, while Fresh Lotus Gel Moisturizer can help hydrate skin, which may also be prone to dryness post-peel.
—By Melinda Carstensen
This article originally appeared on Birchbox.com