Chemical peels are designed to remove the top layer of skin, revealing fresh, young skin underneath. Trichloracetic acid (TCA), is used in different concentrations ranging from mild peels you can do at home to deeper ones that require a doctor's care. Because the TCA actually peels away some skin, you must be very careful when exfoliating after peels. Post-peel exfoliating that is too harsh, or done too soon, can damage your skin. If you have a medium or deep peel, it is crucial that you consult your doctor before exfoliating peeled skin.
Exfoliating After an At-Home or Light TCA Peel
Wait at least two weeks after using an at-home peel, or having a light TCA peel, before you exfoliate your skin. Once all signs of peeling skin are gone, wet your face thoroughly with warm water.
Put a dime-sized dollop of mild exfoliating scrub onto your palm and add a splash of water to dilute it. Apply this very gently to your face with your fingertips. Do not scrub, and do not use any kind of abrasive pad or brush.
Rinse your face thoroughly and pat it dry with a clean towel. Apply a non-allergenic moisturizer. Do not do this more than once a week for the first month after your peel.
Exfoliating After a Medium TCA Peel
Wait four to six weeks after all of the old skin has finished flaking off from a medium peel before you attempt to exfoliate.
Consult your doctor for the best brand of exfoliating scrub for you to use. TCA peels come in many different formulations and strengths, so what kind of peel you had will dictate what kind of exfoliant you should use.
Dilute the exfoliating scrub with a little water and thoroughly wet your face before using it. Apply the scrub to your face with the very tips of your fingers and do not work it in too harshly. Rinse your face thoroughly and pat it dry.
Apply the moisturizer your doctor recommended.
Exfoliating after a Deep TCA Peel
Consult your doctor as to when you can resume exfoliating after a deep peel. Deep peels are usually done with phenol rather than TCA, but some skin care specialists are using a combination of Jessner's solution -- lactic acid, salicylic acid, resorcinol and ethanol -- and TCA for a deeper peel that has slightly less recovery time than phenol peels.
Use only the products that your doctor recommends after a deep TCA peel. Do not use harsh scrubbing pads or brushes, unless your doctor has approved them.
Apply your moisturizer immediately after exfoliating your face, to keep your new skin moist and supple.
Always remember your sunscreen, as TCA-peeled skin requires extra protections.
Never try to speed the flaking caused by a TCA peel by exfoliating, as this can cause serious damage to your skin.
Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.